Planning For Independence

 Human Sexuality


Learning to understand oneself as a sexual human being begins with a concept of self. In infancy, the initial social contacts on which the later acceptance of one's sexuality are based are positive interactions with parents and other caregivers. Values concerning sexuality are also communicated to the young child in the home.

The elementary school builds on these early experiences in a number of ways. In physical education classes, students become aware of their bodies and of the physical changes that their bodies undergo. Environmental science provides students with opportunities to learn about the reproductive processes of various kinds of living things. At the same time, relating positively to friends of both sexes, exploring roles in the family, and examining various lifestyles all help young children to understand their own sexuality.

Adolescents explore more deeply both the physical and the psychological changes of puberty. Information about reproduction and about sexually transmitted diseases is part of the regular physical education curriculum. A broader treatment of relationships, dating, parenting, Iffestyles, and values may take place in such curriculum areas as family studies and personal life management.

All students should be involved in programs designed to make them aware of and comfortable with their sexuality. In order to live as independently in the community as possible, they need to be able to attend to their basic personal and hygienic needs and to relate to persons of both sexes appropriately.

Students' individual needs will determine the content of the curriculum. Some students may require specific and individualized training to deal with the hygienic needs of menstruation or nocturnal emissions or the need for deodorant. For others, a discussion of appropriate social behaviour in the school and the community may be necessary. Behaviours such as public masturbation and inappropriate touching may have to be addressed. As well, because these students may be more at risk for being sexually abused or exploited, strategies for selfprotection in the community may have to be discussed.

A program in human sexuality may be offered in the context of a broader program of human relationships. The value systems of students' families and cultures should be considered, but dating, marriage, pregnancy, and parenting can all be discussed.

Where possible, social interaction with non-disabled peers should form part of the program. Such interaction might involve attendance at regular school functions, such as dances or football games. Role playing or peer tutoring may be used to teach dating skills, but the sensitivity of the content may dictate that certain aspects of the program be taught individually or in a small group.

The Planning Cycle

Assessment and Development

In the first two phases of the planning cycle, educators need to:

  • develop policies at the school board or school level;
  • identify students' social, emotional, and cognitive needs;
  • identify parental concerns, expectations, and values;
  • identify specific behavioural concerns in school, at home, or in the community;
  • plan for the involvement of non-disabled peers if appropriate;
  • identify community-based resources (e.g., public health offices, counselling services);
  • provide information for staff about the content area and about students' needs;
  • design realistic goals for students based on their individual capabilities and projected lifestyles as adults.

Implementation and Evaluation

In the last two phases of the planning cycle, educators need to:

  • begin human sexuality education early, in the context of social-living skills;
  • provide individualized instruction, if necessary, as well as classroom experiences;
  • use a variety of teaching aids (e.g., films, videos, slides, pictures);
  • have students role play a variety of situations that might arise in the school and the community;
  • develop games to teach social skills;
  • make use of community resources, such as doctors and public health nurses and displays (e.g., at facilities such as the Ontario Science Centre);
  • review concepts in a variety of ways;
  • discuss the program with parents regularly and involve them in monitoring the behaviour of their children and in designing new goals to increase students, independence;
  • offer in-school and community-based experiences for students with peers.


Ontario. Ministry of Education. Family Studies, Intermediate and Senior Divisions and OAC. Curriculum Guideline. Toronto: Ministry of Education, Ontario, 1987.

_____. Personal Life Management, Intermediate and Senior Divisions. Curriculum Guideline. Toronto: Ministry of Education, Ontario, 1985.

_____. Physical and Health Education, Intermediate Division. Curriculum Guideline. Toronto: Ministry of Education, Ontario, 1978.

Case Study - Elementary Level

Student Profile Twelve-year-old Terry is large for his age and very good looking. He is friendly, outgoing, and talkative. Although he has limited reading and writing skills, he is very aware of the environment and notices everything that is going on around him. Recently, Terry has been making inappropriate sexual advances to some of the girls in the Grade 6 class.

Learning Environment Terry attends a special class in a local elementary school and is integrated with a Grade 6 class for physical education. Because individual counselling may be necessary in order to eliminate his inappropriate sexual behaviour, close co-operation between the school and Terry's home is essential.

Expected Learnng Outcomes Terry is expected to:

  • demonstrate appropriate sexual behaviour in school and in the community;
  • increase his social awareness through participation in the Grade 6 health program and a socializing group in his classroom.

Student Program Terry is being provided with opportunities to: - - - -

  • learn appropriate vocabulary related to puberty and sexuality through the use of audio-visual materials, including films, slides, and pictures;
  • talk about his feelings and sexual urges and appropriate ways of dealing with them;
  • learn and practise ways of interacting appropriately with peers through modelling and role playing;
  • learn proper hygienic procedures, such as showering, shaving, using deodorant, and caring for the genital area.

Case Study - Secondary Level

Student Profile Twenty-year-old Sheila is able to read simply written materials and to travel in the community by public transit. She is attractive, friendly, and outgoing. She is dating a twenty three-year-old man and says that they plan to marry as soon as she graduates. She is also overly friendly to men whom she meets in the community. Her mother feels that Sheila does not have the interpersonal skills she needs to have a long-lasting relationship and fears that Sheila will become pregnant.

Learning Environment Sheila attends a special class in a secondary school.

Expected Learning Outcomes Sheila is expected to:

  • learn to make responsible decisions concerning her sexuality, at school, at home, and in the community;
  • take part in a peer counselling program that emphasizes social skills.

Student Program Sheila is being provided with opportunities to:

  • review information on human reproduction and sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS (this review may be done by the school nurse);
  • increase her understanding of such concepts as sexual abuse, rape, and pregnancy through discussions and audio-visual presentations;
  • discuss the social, cognitive, and vocational skills necessary for successful marriage and parenting (she participates with Grade 12 students in role playing community situations - e.g., going somewhere with a stranger - and marriage and family relationships - e.g., arguments over money, discussions of the roles of husbands and wives);
  • participate in school and community activities to develop a variety of leisure skills (e.g., attending movies, using community recreational centres, going to dances);
  • read simply written, well-illustrated materials or scripts on topics related to human sexuality;
  • discuss methods of birth control that are consistent with her family's values, health care during pregnancy, gynecological examinations, and childbirth.

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