Embracing the future: an evaluation of sexuality workshops for parents and carers of children and young people with intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorders

Ms Erin Donnelly1, Ms Ee-Lin Chang1, Dr Yan Cheng1, Ms Jessica Botfield1, Mr Rob Hardy1, Ms Jodie Duggan1, Ms Jane Estoesta1

1Family Planning NSW, Ashfield, Australia

Evidence shows that parents and carers are often under resourced and lacking confidence and awareness in supporting their child or young person with intellectual disability (ID) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD) with puberty, sexuality and relationships.

In 2018, Family Planning NSW (funded by nib Foundation) delivered six workshops to parents and carers across NSW focussing on puberty, sexuality and relationships education for children and young people with ID and ASD. Pre and post workshop surveys were completed by participants (n = 116) with a three month follow-up via online survey or telephone interview to evaluate the effectiveness of the workshop. Quantitative data was analysed using STATA 14.0. Qualitative data was summarised by theme or analysed in Nvivo using thematic analyses.

A significant improvement in participants’ knowledge and confidence level in providing sexuality support to their child/young person between the pre- and post-workshop survey was found across survey respondents, with those gains retained at the three month follow up. Respondents also identified barriers in supporting their child or young person, including lack of understanding about how to adapt information effectively to their child’s needs, lack of time, and a scarcity of workshops and resources in regional areas.

The provision of sexuality workshops to build the knowledge and confidence of parents and carers is highly valuable. However, improving the sexuality support provided to children and young people should also focus on identifying and minimising barriers to providing that support.


Erin Donnelly is the Health Promotion Officer for disability at Family Planning NSW. She holds a Bachelor of Behavioural Science and a Masters of Public Health (Health Promotion and Disease Prevention) and has a special interest in the sexual and reproductive health inequalities experienced by people with disability.

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