Part II: Clinical Practice Guidelines for Adolescents and Young Adults With Down Syndrome: 12-21 Years

Susan Van Cleve, MSN, RN, CPNP; Sheila Cannon, MEd; William I. Cohen, MD


J Pediatr Health Care. 2006;20(3):198-205. 

In This Article


Adolescents with DS have sexual interests similar to their peers. The emergence of sexual behavior in teens with DS may cause parents to be alarmed and fearful regarding their child's vulnerability to unintended pregnancy, sexual abuse, and sexually transmitted infections. Sexuality education in adolescents with DS is important and should include these major objectives (AAP Committee on Children with Disabilities, 1996):

  • Children should be taught how to express physical affection in a manner that is appropriate for their chronologic age, not developmental age.

  • Children's behavior should conform to family and societal standards for privacy and personal modesty.

  • Children should be discouraged from inappropriate displays of affection in the community, such as hugging strangers.

  • Children should be taught the difference between acceptable behaviors in a private versus public setting.

  • Children should be taught they have the right to refuse inappropriate touching and how to refuse inappropriate touching, and they should be taught to tell their parents if they have been touched inappropriately.

  • When educating children and teens about sex, the discussion should normalize feelings of pleasure and affection and not be solely a discussion of sexual intercourse and abstinence.

Several books and resources are available for discussing sexuality with teens who have disabilities and DS; parents and health care professional can use these materials to help educate children and teens with DS about sexuality (see Box ).


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