OHSU Institute on Development and Disability UCEDD Expands Impact of Sexual Health Education

September 20, 2023

The UCEDD at OHSU has implemented The Friendships and Dating Program, created by the University of Alaska Anchorage Center for Human Development, in Oregon for the past three years. Thanks to funding from the Family Youth Services Bureau, administered by the Oregon Health Authority, this program aims to provide support as well as training to adults and students in high school transition programs with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD). The Friendships and Dating Program (FDP) uses an evidence-based comprehensive approach to teach students skills in developing healthy meaningful relationships and preventing interpersonal violence.

As of May 2023, 144 teachers from 49 different transition programs across Oregon have been trained to facilitate the FDP. With its growing success, the FDP has received a grant extension and will continue for another year. Throughout the program, students learn valuable lessons like healthy relationships, personal safety, and sexual health. These topics give students with IDD an opportunity for comprehensive sexual health education they are not likely to be given in other circumstances. In fact, a participant entry survey from September 2021 to June 2022 confirmed that 47 percent of students had never been taught about sex and birth control. This reflects the lack of information students with IDD are given about sexual health education. The grant extension gives OHSU UCEDD the opportunity to continue to train and expand the program.

There is a widespread misconception that people with IDD are asexual or are not capable of having sexual desires. This is a false claim that is causing harm to the disabled community. All individuals should have the opportunity to receive sexual health education to have the knowledge for a healthier life. Furthermore, in an exit survey conducted from September 2021 to June 2022, 53 percent of participants were more likely to talk about sex after completing the program. This result highlights the need for the FDP and its benefits in providing lifelong skills.

It is important to note that the FDP covers much more than basic sexual health education.

Although knowledge about sexual health is important, so is knowing how to communicate with people. Students learn about types of feelings and emotions, personal boundaries, hygiene, and how to plan activities. These lessons are then put into practice in the real world where students have the opportunity to go on social outings together.

Data has been collected from the 2022-2023 school year regarding productivity and teacher comments. This fidelity data has provided information for best practices and tips for teaching the FDP. Activities such as role-playing, observing public interactions, and simplified examples increased learning and understanding. Teachers also mentioned the need for more time to teach the program and a need to have extra support staff during social outings.

Visit our webpage for more information including upcoming training dates, what students will experience throughout the Friendships and Dating Program, and suggestions for teachers. https://www.ohsu.edu/university-center-excellence-development-disability/oregon-friendships-and-dating-program