New Program Offers Social-Sexual Education for Adults with Neurodevelopmental Disabilities

July 25, 2022

“Relationships Decoded” Teaches How to Have Safe Connections to People and May Prevent Sexual Abuse

Many people with neurodevelopmental disabilities, including autism, are interested in having romantic relationships but lack the knowledge and skills to develop these connections in a safe and meaningful way. This lack of knowledge is one of the reasons why California’s Department of Developmental Services partnered with the UC Davis MIND Institute to develop an educational tool called Relationships Decoded. This innovative program aims to help those with developmental disabilities create healthy, romantic relationships. A pilot study measuring the program’s effectiveness suggests that not only can the curriculum improve individuals’ knowledge and preparation for romantic relationships, but it is also critical in preventing sexual abuse. Unfortunately, people with all types of disabilities are at increased risk of sexual abuse compared to those without disabilities. An investigation by NPR reports that people with developmental disabilities are seven times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than the general population. After experts finished developing the Relationships Decoded curriculum, the program was shared with a panel of adults with disabilities to gain feedback. Eighty-two percent of the 46 individuals in the group expressed an interest in dating. At the same time, 40% reported that they had never learned about relationships or dating. The pilot test of Relationships Decoded included ten professionals who administered the curriculum to adults with neurodevelopmental disabilities for one year. Pre- and post-tests assessed the program’s effectiveness. Results showed that adults scored 22% better on the post-test than the pre-test, indicating that the program’s lessons increased knowledge and understanding of social-sexual relationships. 

Original Article

Pilot Study

Relationships Decoded

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