Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality
Volume 5, Oct. 23, 2002


An Evaluation of a Community-Based Sexuality Education Program
for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities


Overview of the Responsible Choices for Sexuality Program
for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities

The Responsible Choices Program reflects a socio-culturally based orientation to sexuality education. This orientation regards sexuality as a constant positive process of physical, emotional, and social growth spanning from birth to death (Maddock, 1989). Sexuality does not thrive on its own but relies on other dynamics: (a) beliefs of family and peers, (b) mutual satisfaction, (c) education, (d) developmental readiness, (e) social network (f) contraceptive usage, (g) religious belief, and (h) quality of the relationship (DeLamater & MacCorquodale, 1979).


Therefore, the Responsible Choices Program believes that persons with developmental disabilities are sexual beings deserving of empowerment through accurate knowledge and skills to assist them in their natural sexual development and to avoid sexual victimization and perpetration. Along with educating the consumers, the Responsible Choices Program also assists family and other support persons in gaining sexuality development knowledge and skills so that they are able to support the consumer as well as guide them in the development and maintenance of healthy and stable relationships.

Program Goal and Geographical Areas Served

The goal of the program is to promote responsible sexuality by preparing individuals with developmental disabilities to make healthy sexual choices based on respect for themselves, respect for sexual partners, and consideration of the consequences of various sexual behaviors. The main office for the Responsible Choices Program is located in Tulsa,Oklahoma. However, services are provided throughout Oklahoma as the need dictates. 

Preprogram Assessment

Potential applicants are required to (a) participate in a pre-program assessment which consists of a one-on-one interview with a trained Responsible Choices Progra educator, and (b) submit the records that are used in determining the applicant's appropriateness for the program. Specifically, the following are utilized in determining the applicant's appropriateness for the program: (a) application, (b) individual's and/or family's request and specific need for the training, (c) reason for referral, (d) adaptive functioning, (e) intellectual functioning, (f) behavior support plan / behavior strategy, (g) sexual history, (h) knowledge base pre-test, (i) participation and confidentiality agreement, and (j) informed consent and information release agreement.

The information obtained in the 3-hour, pre-program assessment is used to (a) assess the knowledge of consumers at the pre-test so the program educator can customize the training sessions to the needs of the consumers, and (b) make individual placements into the appropriate instructional groups (based on sexual knowledge, sexual experience, and developmental level of the consumer).

Orientation for Support Person


Consumers may not begin their educational sessions until at least one residential staff or family caregiver per consumer attends a 4-hour orientation which addresses the following: (a) program requirements, (b) overview of curriculum, (c) appropriate expectations of consumers, and (d) appropriate expectations of support persons in regards to their role as a significant other in the promotion of positive sexual development of his/her consumer.

Educational Group Sessions for Consumers

Consumers are on a training track which is most appropriate for their needs. The suitable track is selected with the assistance of program administrators, consumers, and their support persons. Each track is offered in a co-gender, group setting with 6-8 participants and their accompanying support person(s).

Training Track 1 sessions are divided into eight sessions. Each session is 2 hours, totaling 16 hours of human sexuality education. The sessions consist of the following areas: (a) parts of the body, (b) personal care, (c) social etiquette, (d) relationships and expressing feelings (self, family, friends, and acquaintances), and (e) safety awareness.

Training Track 2 is available to those consumers who successfully complete the first training track. The sessions are divided into eight parts. Each session is two hours, totaling 16 hours of human sexuality education. The sessions consist of the following areas: (a) individual sexual expression, (b) dating, (c) sexual expression in a relationship, (d) inappropriate sexual expression, and (e) pregnancy and sexual diseases.

Program Instruction and Supporting Materials

To insure complete comprehension of the subject matter, a variety of teaching techniques are incorporated into the program. Slides, large laminated teaching pictures, role-playing, problem solving activities, group discussions, and concrete items are utilized.

Absentee and Make-up Policy

Due to the structure of the curriculum (i.e., each session builds upon the knowledge-base gained from previous sessions), consumers are required to make up any missed sessions. Specifically, if a consumer misses a session, then he/she is required to come to the following session an hour early for one-on-one instruction on the missed material. Two consecutive absences, or three total absences, from their group sessions constitute a dismissal from their group. Participants may join the next scheduled group that is appropriate for their needs. However, dismissal from two groups demands reapplication to the program.

Individual Follow-Up Sessions

Each participant receives up to three, 1-hour, individual follow-up sessions that address the following: (a) learning reinforcement, (b) incorporation and consolidation of learned subject matter into the home environment, (c) post-test assessments of consumer knowledge and behavior, and (d) provision of the appropriate referrals to support groups and/or treatment if needed.


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