What is the best way to communicate information about sexuality to a child who has limited expressive communication?

This FAQ was compiled in partnership with the Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center and with the expert review of Dr. Scott Modell, Deputy Commissioner Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

Children may have different levels of understanding messages or receptive language that may not match their expressive language, including speech, sign and alternative or augmentative forms (voiced devices, typing, gesture, pictures, etc.). A combination of communication methods such as the use of body part words and some gesture to show different body parts and strategies for hygiene with children who have limited expressive communication may be most useful.

Parents and the child’s teacher/team member should review for themselves, and with the child, basic safety rules about the appropriate level of help needed in toileting and other activities of daily living with each other and the child. If words and gestures for body parts are reviewed, as well as what level of hands-on help is needed, it is possible that a child who has limited expressive communication, with cognitive disabilities, can indicate or “tell” when an inappropriate touch has occurred.

Support teams should review available health and safety materials and these should be available to the child in whatever communication format he or she uses. At least one safety goal should be on the child’s Individual Education Plan.