No matter what our abilities, we are all human, with needs that are important to us.Sex can mean a lot of things to a lot of people. To some it is something they openly talk about and to others, it is a deeply private and intimate thing.
Empowering Choice & Access to All Abilities
Recently, I attended a workshop around sex and assistive technology. We had the privilege of hearing from not only other Occupational Therapists and Sex Therapists who worked in the field, but also from blogger and public speaker, Jonathan Bredin (Jono) [INSERT LINK: https://www.jonathanbredin.com.au/blog/ndis-will-pay-for-sexual-activities], who spoke from his lived experience with Cerebral Palsy.
“I’m unable to manually stimulate myself due to my disability and require assistive technology to achieve this.” – Jono: Blogger, Public Speaker & Self Advocate
Many individuals with various abilities experience the same desires as anyone else; sexual desire doesn’t just go away when you have an injury or receive a diagnosis. Nor is it absent when people are born with various ability levels.
What Sex Assistive Technology is available out there?
New technology continues to develop every day, with the market expanding to be more accessible to individuals of all abilities. The list can be wide, from something as simple as a cock ring or a cream to something more complex, like a penis pump or a clitoral stimulator. According to Jono, some important questions to keep in mind when finding the right sex assistive technology to enable access are:
- What is the shape/size/weight of the tech, and can the person use it?
- Is it easy to maintain (waterproof), clean and store?
- Are the functions going to meet needs – powerful vibration, settings available and minimal noise if desired?
How to talk about empowerment in a sex-positive way?
Sometimes it can be difficult to know how to talk about sexuality and how to help empower individuals. So, what are some simple ways to get started? First, we can get the conversation started… Candice Care-Unger, the Sexuality Services Team Leader at Royal Rehab said that one of the first ways you can get the conversation started is with screening questions. Here are some helpful examples she gave us:
- Declarative: “We know often after a stroke/brain injury people have changes with their sexual function. If you have any questions about that I’m happy to talk with you or put you in touch with someone else if you would rather talk more about that?”
- Question: “We know a lot of people have changes in their interest in sex or the way they experience themselves sexually after their injury. Have you noticed anything for you? Would you like to talk about anything like this?”
Helpful Tip: You can write out your prompting questions and practice them to feel more comfortable when the time comes to ask.
More resources and courses are becoming available as the topic of empowering sexuality to all abilities continues to expand. Courses For Disability Workers here. https://www.fpnsw.org.au/education-training/courses-disability-workers You can contact Candice Care-Unger, the Sexuality Services Team Leader at Royal Rehab: email@example.com or (02) 9808 9205 Hear more about Jonathan Bredin’s story here. https://www.jonathanbredin.com.au/ Author: Hannah Taylor, Occupational Therapy Student on placement at Capable Spaces