Expert event - sex and relationships: This topic is... - Mencap

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Expert event - sex and relationships

Sarah_Mencap
Sarah_MencapAdministrator

This topic is now closed, but please do read Claire's amazing posts for advice and information about sex and relationships.

Claire Lightley is a relationships and sex education (RSE) trainer and consultant working with people with learning disabilities and the professionals who work with them.

Many thanks

Sarah

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47 Replies
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Hi Sarah, I'd love to get in touch with you via email. I am a mental health advocate in Israel and my colleague and I are starting a non-profit to provide support to people with a mental disability or learning disability to develop romantic and sexual relationships - which will be the first of its kind here in our country. We are in the early stages and trying to gain a greater understanding of the needs and resources currently out there. I'd love to be put in touch with Claire Lightley directly, if she is willing or someone from the MenCap staff who could help.

Hi mentalhealthadvocate

Please email me on clairewithwings@gmail.com, I will be able to put you in touch with people.

Claire

Hi everyone,

As Sarah has already said, I have lots of experience of working with people with learning disabilities (and the professionals who work with them) in all areas of sex and relationships education. I worked for many years for FPA (the sexual health charity) until it very sadly went into administration last year. During that time I helped many organisations write their sex and relationships policies, trained lots of staff, opened sexual health clinics for people with learning disabilities and worked with hundreds of young people and adults teaching them about sex and relationships. I also wrote two books while I was working for FPA, one about working with adults about this subject and one about the law, sexual offences and people with learning disabilities.

Since being freelance - my new company is called Lightley Consulting - I have been working on lots of different projects including the Mencap 'Me and my body' project in Southend where I have been helping to support parents (who have children with learning disabilities) with some strategies to promote happy, healthy sexuality for their children.

I am a member of several National organisations that work in this field so it would be really helpful when you post a question on here if you could let me know where you are from because I might be able to direct you to local people who can help you face to face.

I welcome questions about anything to do with sex and relationships and I will try and answer them all honestly and openly with useful practical suggestions.

I look forward to talking to you all next week.

Claire

Hi Claire.

My question is how much should I be involved/control/keep safe my son when it comes to relationships and sex? With this question you need some context – so here goes…..

My son is 21 and has Autism/ADHD/Mild learning difficulties and is very vulnerable as he does like social contact and his vulnerability is easily identified and can be exploited. He has wanted to experience sex for a couple of years. He has limited social interaction with people of his own age as social interactions tend to be with our friends. I have tried to look for social groups for him to attend but here in Cumbria opportunities are limited/non-existent.

My son is very black and white, all or nothing and often has short term obsessions which interfere with his life as he can become over-focussed until another obsession takes over. Also, this all or nothing applies to his feelings and mood. Things are either brilliant or rubbish. He also has a lot of sensory issues. He has had sex education lessons and understands about contraception, consent and sex. Anything where things are concrete “if this happens… then…” he does quite well. As soon as it requires reading a social situation then he really struggles.

A couple of years ago he started at a specialist college where there was a mix of males and females. He got himself a girlfriend and both immediately wanted sex. Her difficulties are more complex though neither of them has a physical disability and she lives in independent assisted living with two other young adults with more profound difficulties. Her carers and I were in touch regarding their relationship and felt that getting to know each other first was a good thing to do.

He kept telling me they wanted sex I told him that it was good to get to know his girlfriend, take her for coffee, meet her at her house, go for walks etc but this wasn’t a concrete amount of time so I told him that it was good to date for 12 months before having sex.

The relationship lasted 8 months and then he ended it as when they were in college, she would follow him and he found this too intense. He then began a search on on-line dating apps, again becoming obsessed with finding a new girlfriend (for sex).

He made contact with a girl who had mild learning difficulties from the North East and wanted to meet up with her. These feelings of wanting to meet her were all consuming and after texting then video calling, I agreed to take him to meet her In Carlisle half way between. We all met – the girl was accompanied by her brother and foster mum. The relationship came to an end as it was too long distance and they could not meet regularly enough.

My son then went back with the girl from college – again wanting sex. The girl and her carers had taken steps for her to protect herself with the contraceptive implant and it was deemed by the powers that be that she could make her own decision regarding relationships and sex. They have been given time alone at both her house and our house.

The relationship is not organic or discreet as my son tells me everything and the girl’s carers have to make decisions taking into consideration the other members of the house. Once they had had time alone my son wanted distance from her in college and it was she who was driving meeting each other outside of college. He began to feel overwhelmed by her attention and again finished her.

And so the cycle began of him finding another girl for a relationship (sex). He found a girl on a dating app again and so the story continued as above – except after about a week the new girl asked him not to contact her again. He was frustrated/upset/angry and very down on himself talking about drinking and not waking up. All extreme emotions. He then contacted the girl from his college to ask her to go out with him again. At this point I went mad at him because I said it was cruel for him to treat the girl like this.

Although I can kind of predict how he is going to behave and his obsessing for a girlfriend/sex it is exhausting for him and ME! I am not sure he feels love in the way I understand it and he relies on me as his social conscience.

Have you ever dealt with anything similar and do you have any ideas/advice to offer?

Thanks

He does seem keen on this young lady but he wants sex !! You could talk to him and ask him why not date her start from scratch. very slowly and see how it goes !

Dear Blueberry Yellow,

Thank you so much for your question. The really positive aspects of your description is that your son wants what a lot of 21 year old people do – social interaction, a girlfriend and sex. It also sounds as though you have encountered some really sex positive family members and staff for your son and also for the women he has been interested in which makes me optimistic. It’s totally ok to want sex and be open about that when you are over 16.

It seems from your comments as though he needs some help with understanding the stages of a relationship and respect within a relationship as well as some help with strategies for when he feels his girlfriend’s actions are a bit too much for him. Many non-disabled people are not good at talking about their feelings and many people would not be able to have an open and honest conversation with someone who they felt was smothering them (or following them everywhere) so it must be more difficult when someone already struggles socially.

It sounds as though your son talks a lot to you so he might respond to some of the activities that are in a publication called ‘Talking Together about Sex and Relationships’ – this follows the story of a couple who meet at college (so similar to your son) and have a relationship and eventually sex. There are a number of activities you can do with your son to perhaps help him understand some of the concepts more widely such as discussing the stages of a relationship and what happens before sex and what an intimate relationship means. This book has been written by the brilliant ‘Image in Action’ organisation who have years of experience in this field of work and you can buy it from fpa.org.uk

If it is just sex he wants (and not the relationship) you might want to consider sex workers as an option. I know there will be many different opinions and points of view about sex work but it is not illegal in England and Wales (although there are many offences around it). To do it legally your son would need to have a sex worker visit his home, or he could go to their house (as long as it was only that person working there, any more means it would be classed as a brothel, which is illegal) and he needs to know that they are a sex worker of their own free will. Now this could be tricky for someone who does not read social situations well to ascertain but there is a website tlc-trust.org.uk where sex workers who work with disabled people will put their information so they can be contacted by potential clients. This would be a safe way of contacting someone and if their details are on this website you know that they want to be a sex worker.

The website is under maintenance at the moment but will be back up and running soon.

The obsessive parts of his behaviour are very common and many parents speak to me about similar ways of behaving. The black and white aspects of his personality are also very common and how difficult for you when he is feeling very low and tells you. One publication which looks at breaking up for couples and talks about these intense emotions is ‘Talkabout Sex and Relationships 1: A programme to develop intimate relationship skills’. You can buy this from Amazon.

Lastly I would keep looking for dating agencies around where you live as more keep popping up all the time and also The Outsiders is a club that promotes sexual activity for all people with disabilities – you might want to have a look at their website – outsiders.org.uk

They also have a helpline and you can call them for more information.

Hope this helps a bit.

Claire

Evening Claire

Thank you for your thoughts. Because my son is open with me we do talk a lot and I do try to answer honestly and also get him to think about how he would like to treated and how his "girlfriends" want to be treated.

I will look at the publications you recommended to see if this helps.

I have thought about the use of sex workers prior to your suggestion and being fairly naïve imagined a trip to Amsterdam!! So the information you have given is useful. (I never thought I would be discussing sex workers for my son when I held him as a babe in arms!) However, I do want my son to be safe and happy and would walk over coals to achieve this.

Thank you

Hi,

It's so reassuring to hear that you have considered lots of options for your son. I know its not something we ever think we will have to discuss or consider when we have a child but I am really glad (for your son) that you are!

If you want some more support when you have looked at tlc-trust.org.uk then you can have a look at The Outsiders website too - there is lots of information on there about sex work outsiders.org.uk - they run a sex and disability helpline - 07872 681982 - they are very friendly and have lots of good advice.

Also, Supported loving, a fantastic organisation, have a toolkit on their website and one of the sections in there looks at sex work - you can find this here - choicesupport.org.uk/about-...

Claire

Hi Claire, my daughter has Down’s syndrome and has just started her periods. She’s 11. We had done lots of prep work on not being scared of the blood, how to use a pad etc and she has period pants but the problem is that her concept of time is a bit woolly. So she keeps getting anxious and going to the toilet to check if her period has started and it’s hard to tell her when the next one will be because they’re very irregular when they first start. Any advice? Thank you.

Claire_Lightley
Claire_LightleyExpert
in reply to Salah11

Hi Salah 11,

Thank you very much for your message, sorry it's taken me all day to answer.

It sounds like you have done lots of great preparation in terms of her periods and she has everything she needs.

It also sounds like the checking whether it has started might be more of a behaviour issue than a sex and relationships issue so I may not be able to advise too much on that. What I would say is that it is great that you have introduced period pants (what a great invention for people with learning disabilities!!) and perhaps just reassure her that if she is wearing these it won't matter when her period comes. Most period pants are designed to last a minimum of 8 hours (obviously depending on how heavy your period is this might be different) so when girls first start it should be ok if they go a whole school day and don't realise.

For anyone who hasn't discovered period pants yet they are very normal looking pants that you can wear when on your period and there is no need for sanitary protection, they will soak up the blood and you can just change the pants. They are designed to be washed and reworn. They can be quite expensive online but I have just discovered that Sainsbury's sell them from £10 each.

tuclothing.sainsburys.co.uk...

Whilst getting that link it seems there is a 25% discount on TU clothes this weekend so they are £7.50 right now.

Sometimes we make timetables for girls to think about when they should change their pants/pads/tampons so perhaps you could make a timetable for your daughter about when she can check. If she is wearing her period pants you could make the checks 4 hours apart so she might only need to check once at school and then the other checks can be at home. If she is confident that the pants will support her then she might be happier to not check so much.

Hope this helps

Claire

Hi Claire, this is really helpful, thank you - I think the timetable in particular is a great idea. And the period pants I bought were much more expensive so the next ones I buy, will try Sainsbury's! Thank you so much.

Hello Claire

My son has just hit puberty and I'm struggling a bit.

I don't think his school have done a great deal on the subject. I also struggle to know exactly what he understands as he has limited communication.

His behaviour has changed in the last few months. He's been secretive, and awkward around women. He has also been getting frustrated with me.

I am concerned he feels ashamed of his feelings and that makes desperately sad.

Any ideas about where to start without him making him feel embarrassed.

Thanks

Claire_Lightley
Claire_LightleyExpert
in reply to Freddy44

Hi Freddy44,

Puberty can be such a tricky thing for young people with disabilities, especially if no-one has spoken to them about it. Parents of non-disabled children can pop a book in a child's bedroom but this is not going to work for most children with disabilities.

One thing that might help and hopefully not embarrass your son is a social story book about puberty called 'What's happening to Tom?' - I use this a lot with the groups and individuals I work with and they enjoy reading it with me. You can get this on Amazon for £8.99

If your son is happy to sit and do little activities with you then I would suggest looking at 'Talking Together about Growing Up'. There are a number of activities you can do with your son to perhaps help him understand some of the concepts around puberty and change. This book has been written by the brilliant ‘Image in Action’ organisation who have years of experience in this field of work and you can buy it from fpa.org.uk

Obviously talking openly in your house about body changes and feelings and letting your son know he can talk to you is very important. You might want to consider whether he is starting to have sexual feelings and whether you will need to think about him having some private time in his bedroom to masturbate. I am going to do a post later on here about masturbation so keep an eye out for that, it will have lots of top tips!

Lastly, talk to his school. From September 2020 they have to teach about puberty, it will be part of the National Curriculum so ask them what they are doing, ask to see the lessons as this may help at home. If they are struggling tell them to talk to me - clairewithwings@gmail.com - I can suggest some resources and organisations for them to talk to.

Hope these help a bit.

Claire

Hi Claire. Thank you so much for this. I will look for that book. I will ask his school what their plans are and suggest they contact you if they're struggling. Thank you again 😄

Hello Claire

Our son is 25, has moderate LD, pretty independent, etc. He struggles to find a girlfriend, and can easily fall 'head over heels' for anyone who shows an interest, which then frightens them off! It's so sad to see, because in other ways, he is so good at managing friendships, and is sociable and kind. We're wondering if there is any kind of course that he could do, which would help him understand how to manage this a bit better?

Picklebum
Picklebum
in reply to 1994EJED

I just think how lovely he’s kind and caring

Contraception advise a good place to start I’m sure there’s groups online for advise and education

I did a course on sex and relationships to give me more knowledge

Claire_Lightley
Claire_LightleyExpert
in reply to 1994EJED

Hi 1994EJED

Can you tell me geographically where you are so I can see if I know of any courses, they do exist!

Claire

Through an organisation I work for online I will try and find the links

Hi I had a 20 yr old young lady living with me long term she has a long term boyfriend and has now been with him for over 4 yrs she has adhd pdd anxiety disorder etc etc he s also has got sen and very similar to her

They were together over 3 years before having sex but we all spoke about it and the implications many times I feel she was ready before him so she went onto the pill and they both had a good sex education at school

When he had told his mum that he was having these feelings .... they both had decided the time was right so this is still the. case now they have sex ... and they are protected as well as him too to be doubly sure so I suppose this is the other’s idea to the plate !!!

They idolise each other but sometimes I think how on earth is she going to cope if he dosnt want to be with her .... she has no friends apart from him and even when she dosnt see him for a few days she’s in a state

Sorry for the manuscript but if I can help anyone feel free x

Claire_Lightley
Claire_LightleyExpert
in reply to Picklebum

Hi Picklebum,

It sounds like the young lady you are discussing has been well supported. If your query is about supporting her if the relationship goes wrong and you need something to help you discuss this with her I would suggest the same resource as I did before around breaking up and their emotions around this which can be found in ‘Talkabout Sex and Relationships 1: A programme to develop intimate relationship skills’. You can buy this from Amazon.

Perhaps supporting her to develop other interests as well rather than just being with him might be good. Is there anything else she is interested in?

Hope that helps a bit.

Claire

Thank you for yr reply yes she does have another interest which she’s very into but I will take on board yr resourse for future just in case

Good morning everyone, I am here all week to answer any questions you may have - please feel free to post them here.

I will be back later today to talk about masturbation and how to support people with learning disabilities but for now have a good Monday.

For anyone who uses Facebook I have a private group which I run with Supported Loving, a fantastic organisation supporting people with learning disabilities to have relationships. If you search for 'Relationships and people with learning disabilities' in Facebook you will find us. We have over 350 members now who all help each other with questions and support. Come and join us!

Hello Claire

My daughter (with an LD) is dating someone and she is very fond of him. He also has an LD, but it affects him more than my daughter.

I have always been supportive of their relationship because it makes them happy. It has been fairly innocent over the last 6 months, but she wants more.

She has started talking about wanting to stay over with him.My main issue is that I feel her boyfriend needs more support than she does and I am not sure that he has capacity to consent to a sexual relationship.

I have tried talking to her about it but she says I don't need to worry, and that it isn't down to me (I do agree with her about this). I don't know his family well but they seem very nice. However, I am nervous about talking to them about this. I know that my daughter will see it as me butting in.

Sorry to moan. I don't think that doing nothing will help, even thought that is what my daughter wants.

They are both in their 20's and live at home.

Thank you

Grace

Hi Grace,

Thank you for your question.

This is a really interesting situation but I think I need a bit more information to be able to advise you. If your daughter has capacity to consent then in her twenties she doesn't need anyone's permission to have sex but it seems you have some genuine concerns about her boyfriend. Can I ask why you think he would not have capacity to consent to sex?

In terms of someones capacity to consent we must always assume that someone has capacity, that is our starting point, and then we must consider if there are any gaps in knowledge, how these could be filled, in a way that the person can understand. Capacity is decision specific which means that someone might have capacity for one decision but not another so it is never simple. Any capacity assessment would need to be carried out by professionals with training to do so.

This being said, your daughter is in her twenties and doesn't feel this is your business (which you agree with) so its a difficult call. I have helped couples who have come for education with the support of their families but they have been ok with doing so. Your daughter should agree to you talking to his parents otherwise you could damage your relationship and the trust that you have.

Does your daughter acknowledge that there is a difference in their support needs?

Claire

Thanks for getting back to me. My daughter definitely has capacity to consent. She sometimes needs a bit of help to think things through, but I am sure she understands fully. She is also very talkative and able to express herself clearly.

She does acknowledge that her boyfriend is different. He does speak a little, but is quite hard to understand. They are close, and she often speaks on his behalf. This can be very sweet, but I wonder how much of it is accurate. From what I can see, it isn't that he doesn't understand, but that we need to listen very carefully when he communicates his thoughts.

I will talk to her again and see if we could speak to his family together. I agree with waht you say about not breaking her trust. I think his family would be the best people to help him decide what he want, and express that.

thanks again.

Claire_Lightley
Claire_LightleyExpert
in reply to Grace2232

Hi Grace2232

Yes, totally, I think you are spot on. If his family also have reservations they may need to get some external help in terms of capacity assessment because it is all about what he understands, not how he communicates.

If your daughter is very fond of him she will also want the best for him and I am sure she would not want to do anything he didn't consent to - maybe that will be a conversation to have with her.

If all is well and the relationship does progress and this is the first time either of them have had sex it would also be good for someone to talk to them about what sex is with some information about contraception and STIs but also really importantly about pleasure and consent.

Good luck, I hope that you and your daughter can find a way through this together.

Claire

Hi everyone,

It's quite late but I did promise you some information about masturbation - this is because when I do professionals training (I deliver around a course a week) the thing I am asked about most is about is "inappropriate" masturbation. Mostly it is only inappropriate because of where it is being carried out but sometimes it can be inappropriate because people are hurting themselves or using objects which are not fit for purpose. So, here go my top ten myth busting tips about masturbation and people with learning disabilities...

1. Some babies and young children touch their genitals, a lot. It feels nice and it is normal. It's really good to start young and gently say that this is a private activity when it happens in public

2. Some people want to masturbate (this is normal) and some people do not (this is normal too)

3. Although we often talk about masturbation in the context of boys and men, girls and women masturbate too (it just might be a bit less obvious when a girl is feeling sexy!)

4. Masturbation will not make you go blind or your palms of your hands go hairy (not matter what your parents told you)

5. Masturbation is actually a great way of learning about your body (esp. for girls and women whose sexual parts are less spoken about and more hidden)

6. Masturbation in private is legal and you do not need to have capacity to consent to touch your own body in this way

7. Masturbation should always be encouraged in a private space where someone lives (a bedroom is the ideal place as long as they don't share a room with a sibling)

8. We can teach someone about where it is ok to masturbate using photos of public and private places

9. We can teach someone about how to masturbate using social stories, pictures and educational videos. We never use pornography, demonstrate on our selves or touch others when we teach about masturbation

10. Some people with learning disabilities might never have a sexual partner (because they would not be able to consent or because they do not want a partner) so then masturbation becomes even more important as an expression of their sexuality

I run a training course all about this - explaining how to support people. The next one is running on 2 April in London - if you want more information please email me: clairewithwings@gmail.com

That's all for now. I'll be back tomorrow to answer more questions and talk about inappropriate touch. Goodnight!

Hello everyone,

I am back to talk a little bit about inappropriate touch and although there are lots of types of touch which could be seem inappropriate in different situations I would like to relate this to consent and what we teach children, young people and some adults with learning disabilities about touch.

Although we all are all aware that no one has the right to touch anyone in a sexual way if they do not consent we do not always attach the same awareness to the way we expect our children to greet and say goodbye to relatives and friends.

So, if we encourage our children (even if they are over 18) to "give Aunty Mary a hug" even if they seem quite reluctant because that is what we have always done (and Aunty Mary might be offended if they don't) then we are missing an opportunity to teach about consent.

If from a early age we can give options for greetings, for example,

"Would you like to wave at... shake hands... high five... fist bump... hug...

kiss... Aunty Mary"

then we are teaching the young person that they have a choice and they have control over what happens to their body.

There are so many times in life that this will be important, but particularly if they are ever in a position where someone wants to touch them and they do not want it, they will be more likely to know it is ok to say no.

Please keep sending your questions and I'll be back tomorrow to talk about how to talk about healthy and unhealthy relationships.

Claire

Hi Claire, really enjoying reading all your advice here. Something we get asked a lot by family members is how to teach about the differences between public and private. What can families do to teach the differences in behaviour and activities and knowing what is 'private' or 'public'. Do you have any tips for this?

Claire_Lightley
Claire_LightleyExpert
in reply to Jenny_Mencap

Hi Jenny

Thanks for your message. I do a lot of teaching about public and private in my work and there are many ways of doing it. I tend to use a lot of visual materials and if you can get some photos of the places that an individual might go that can be really useful. So take pictures of the rooms where someone lives (all the rooms they use) and the street they live on, school/college/day centre, swimming pool, supermarket, cinema, other shops and places they go.

Once you have the photos you can do lots of activities with them, but first you need to define what you mean by public and private. A good starting point is:

A public place is somewhere that other people can go even if they are not always there (ie you can be alone in a public place but that does not make it private)

A private place is somewhere where you can close the door and curtains and be by yourself where others have to knock to come in

You might want to define these differently depending on your circumstances. Some young people might need 24 1:1 care and will never be 100% alone.

Then start with a sorting activity with the places - ask your child to put the photos into two sections - which are public and which are private to see what they understand. The only truly private places are bedrooms (as long as they don't share with other siblings) and bathrooms at home.

You can then think about what it is appropriate to do in a public or private place. I use line drawings of young people fully clothed and in their underwear and ask where is it appropriate to be undressed?

There are lots of activities you can do with these figures and the photos. You can find them in the Talking Together about Growing Up book and the Talking Together about Sex and Relationships book from fpa.org.uk

That's a little snippet, hope it helps.

Claire

Hello Claire. My brother is 46 and has DS.

He and has never really had a relationship. He has some friendships but I worry about him being lonely as I know he sees other people having relationships, including his friends with DS. And me.

He hasn’t talked to me much about this sort of thing (we do the usual sibling teasing). I wonder if I should try to help a little, but I don’t want to make him feel under pressure.

Are there any dating agencies I could suggest? He isn’t very chatty so he would need to meet someone who would understand that.

thanks

Claire_Lightley
Claire_LightleyExpert
in reply to jow2319

Hi jow2319

It's very lovely that you want to help your brother and I appreciate your need to tread carefully.

If he's never mentioned anything to do with this it might be good to have a conversation first. To see if he actually wants to met someone and also to check out his sexual orientation (if he is aware of it) - it would be a mistake to assume he wanted to date women when actually he fancied men.

Perhaps one way of doing this might be to watch a programme together, like The Undateables (terrible name) where people with different types of disabilities date and you see how they get on. It could be a casual way of introducing it without it being a dig deal.

If he says he would like some help to meet someone then definitely have a look at local dating agencies. If you tell me geographically where you are I might be able to suggest one.

Claire

Hello. My daughter is in college now and is managing okay with support. What's worrying me though is that she doesn't really have any friendships there and finds it hard to make or keep friends in general despite all my efforts to get her involved in things. She's spending a lot more time on her phone or tablet in the evenings and talking about people she sees online as though they are friends. I think she mainly uses Youtube and sometimes Instagram and I do check in with her to see what she's doing. She's almost 17 now and the internet seems to be her main outlet but I worry that it's taking up too much of her time. I'm also scared about her possibly wanting to look into online dating in the future (she has asked me before how do people date online and I wasn't sure what to tell her). I just am not sure if I could handle the risks of her speaking to people online as she can be really naive and too trusting. Thanks

Claire_Lightley
Claire_LightleyExpert
in reply to Growbag45

Hi Growbag,

I think its quite common for some people with learning disabilities to prefer communicating online with people, after all if you struggle face to face then what can be better than thinking that you can still have relationships that are not face to face.

There are obvious issues with spending too much time online and online dating for people with learning disabilities as the vulnerability levels are higher than others.

When someone is 16 they have the right to date and can legally have sex, as long as they have capacity to consent. They can not join an online dating site until they are 18 however. Most online dating sites are very led by the way that people look and this image led society isn't necessarily what we want to be teaching our children. Also, if you so decide to meet up with someone you don't really have any idea of who they actually are (they might have been using fake photos and details - this is so common it has a name - catfishing).

There are dating agencies for people with learning disabilities and most of them have friendship aspects as well so this could be useful for your daughter - she could experience some of the group social events before actually dating anyone if she wanted. The socials and dates at these organisations are well structured and risk assessed.

Why does she find it hard to make friends? Is it because she isn't really that bothered or does she try really hard and still not really make any friends?

Whereabouts are you in the country? I'll see if there is a friendship/dating agency I could suggest.

Claire

Hi. I think she is just shy. She isn't too worried about it (it doesn't seem to stress her out) but it does take her a long time to make connections. We live in Manchester if that is any help. I have tried looking but no joy so far. thanks

Claire_Lightley
Claire_LightleyExpert
in reply to Growbag45

Hi Growbag,

Aww, that's a shame if her shyness isn't helping things. The good news is that there is LOADS of work going on in the North West with dating agencies and also courses for people with learning disabilities - some of this could help with the shyness too.

Contact Meet n Match on 01254 457026

meet-n-match.co.uk

Hope she finds something she is looking for here.

Also you should have a look at the Supported Loving Toolkit as there is a section on online dating which you might find useful. choicesupport.org.uk

Hope that helps a bit

Claire

Hi Sarah,

I am writing to ask if you could help us, I work in a supported living accommodation and we would like help and support with regards to supporting our tenants to understand safety on the internet ?

Sarah_Mencap
Sarah_MencapAdministrator
in reply to Twinkle28

Hello Twinkle28

I will gather together some info about this and get back to you tomorrow.

Cheers

Sarah

Hi Twinkle

It would be useful to know what the issues are for your tenants around internet safety. Is it social media issues, accessing pornography or talking to people they don't know?

There are slightly different approaches depending on what the issue is. It's really important that people are aware that any images they share with another person or online they no longer have control of. The thing I say to people I work with is 'if you wouldn't want your mum to see it, don't post it!'

If they are making friends with people they don't know, this can be ok, depending on the conversations that follow. Often people will 'friend' others on social media in the hope that they find people to share explicit photos and videos with. There are a certain amount of people who would target people with disabilities as they might think they will be easier to convince to send images etc.

In terms of pornography, if they are over 18 and viewing legal pornography in private it is ok. It become an issue when they:

-send this pornography to others who do not consent to seeing it

-view anything with children (under 18s), animals or anything excessively violent

-act out the things they see in pornography such as the way people speak to each other

-have an expectation that people in real life are going to look and act like the people in pornography

-believe that porn sex is like real sex

So, lots of things to think about concerning porn!

A couple of (hopefully) useful things:

CEOP are the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Agency, run by the police. They have a website thinkuknow.co.uk - this is full of free resources, videos, session plans to help you think about how to talk about some of this stuff with people. Register and you will get access to everything to have a look through.

If pornography is an issue you can download this easy read guide for free. it is produced by CMG and Choice Support and its really good.

choicesupport.org.uk/upload...

And lastly, I run training for organisations about all aspects of sex and relationships including online stuff - if you're interested in that do drop me a line at clairewithwings@gmail.com

If you want to feedback a bit more on the detailed issues I would be happy to comment further.

Claire

Sarah_Mencap
Sarah_MencapAdministrator

Hi again Twinkle28

I think Claire has pretty much covered this.

If you are after more general info about people with a learning disability staying safe online here are a few useful links:

* mencap.org.uk/about-us/our-...

* here is a bit about cyber bullying - mencap.org.uk/advice-and-su...

* mencap.org.uk/blog/discussi...

Best wishes

Sarah

Hi Twinkle28. You can download a free chapter on 'relationships and the internet' from the handbook Sexuality and Learning Disabilities from bit.ly/39yo4lZ Pavilion publishes training resources for supporters of people with intellectual disabilities. You can see more resources at pavpub.com/learning-disabil...

Hello. I hope it isn't too late for this one.

What advice do you have for parents who have a child with more complex needs? What is the best way for them to understand what is happening to their bodies (during puberty) and their interest in other people sexually.

Thank you

Hi crazysquirrel,

Thanks for your question. This is a difficult question to answer because when working with more complex needs the work is very individualised because it needs to be so there is no 'standard' answer.

In terms of puberty we would use lots of visual materials and items of reference. You haven't said whether your child is male or female but we would try and visually represent some of the main body changes that we know from experience may concern people

-Growing pubic hair - reassurance that this is normal - some young people do not like the sensory feelings of pubic hair (and other body hair) and they may need additional support with it. We try and teach that it will be growing before it comes using line drawings and sometimes photos if we need to

-Periods - this is a complicated thing to explain but there is a really good resource with some pictures in that we like you can find here:

bodysense.org.uk/wordpress/...

-Voice getting lower - for some young men their voice getting lower can be alarming (we don't call it voice breaking because that sounds even scarier) so we might play recordings of children and adults saying the same thing and talk about the changes

There are lots of ways to support young people with these issues but they are very particular to the person themselves.

A last thought is that if your child responds to songs there is a CD you can buy which is 'Songs for your Body', the songs are about issues such as hygiene, needing the loo, masturbation and sex.

They can be found here: bodysense.org.uk/wordpress/...

Many thanks

Claire

Hi everyone,

Thanks for all your questions and for welcoming me as your expert this week. I've had a few emails from organisations looking for more support in this area so do please feel free to email me: clairewithwings@gmail.com if you want to talk me about supporting your staff or talking to parents that you support.

I have two training courses coming up, the first one in March, a Train the Facilitator for professionals supporting people with learning disabilities with their sex and relationship education needs and the second one in April for parents or professionals focusing on masturbation and people with learning disabilities. If you want anymore information about this please contact me on clairewithwings@gmail.com

I wish you all well in supporting your children with learning disabilities in this area, it can be so difficult and challenging as a parent but I feel very hopeful about many of the messages on here - so many positive posts for people's sex and relationship needs.

With all my best wishes

Claire

Sarah_Mencap
Sarah_MencapAdministrator

Thank you to you all for making this sex and relationships event such a success! Also a big thanks to Claire for her wonderful posts and advice.

This topic is now closed.

If you want to post more about sex or relationships (or anything else) please just write a new post - healthunlocked.com/mencap/w...

We will have some more expert events running soon.

Bye for now.

Sarah

Hi everyone, really enjoyed reading this thread. Thank you so much Claire for such insightful and valuable advice.

If you would like to find out more we have some FAQs, a resource list and an accessible vision statement on our website.

mencap.org.uk/advice-and-su...

Thanks

Jenny

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