Monday, 6 September 2010

Sex, love, disability and Conductive Education

An unstated zone

Specific findings from a just-published, Dutch descriptive study may or may not be generalisable to other social contexts, but may be familiar in general terms in many countries, Considering how important sex and love are, both personally and culturally, to people of any age, it is worthy of note how little explicit attention is apparently paid to this within Conductive Education.

Wiegerink, D. J. et al. (2010) Development of romantic relationships and sexual activity in young adults with cerebral palsy: a longitudinal study, Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, vol. 91, no 9, pp.1423-8
OBJECTIVES: To describe the development of romantic relationships and sexual activity of young adults with cerebral palsy (CP), to investigate whether this development is associated with demographic and physical characteristics, and to compare the sexual activity of this group with an age-appropriate Dutch reference population.
DESIGN: Prospective longitudinal study with 3 biannual assessments.
SETTING: Eight rehabilitation centers and departments in the south-western regions of The Netherlands. PARTICIPANTS: Young adults (N=103; 61 men, 42 women) with CP without cognitive disabilities (age range at first assessment, 16-20 y; 82% Gross Motor Function Classification System level I or II).
INTERVENTIONS: Not applicable.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Sexual interest, romantic relationships, and sexual activity.
RESULTS: We observed a significant increase in dating in young adults with CP during the 4-year period; however, the experience in romantic relationships did not increase largely during this period. Young adults with a lower education level began dating later than those with higher levels. Significantly more women were in current romantic relationships than men. During the 4 years, participants' sexual experience increased significantly for all sexual milestones evaluated. Level of gross motor function was associated significantly with intercourse experience. Compared with an age-appropriate Dutch reference population, young adults with CP participated at a lower level in romantic relationships and sexual activities, but had equal sexual interest at the final assessment. CONCLUSIONS: Young ambulatory adults with CP had similar sexual interests and had increasing experiences with romantic relationships and sexual activities during the transition from late adolescence to young adulthood. However, the percentage of young adults with CP in current romantic relationships was low, especially for men.

This is of course a descriptive study of how things are.

Conductive Education is par excellence characterisable as being an intervention, one that is active on the part of both sides of the transaction. From the viewpoint of Conductive Education, something is very noticeable in the above abstract – the hole in the middle:

INTERVENTIONS: Not applicable.

People in Conductive Education, users and providers alike, deal with questions of sex and love within in their day-to-day living and working. Maybe all such transactions are satisfactory and well informed. It seems more likely, however, that some at least of those involved might benefit from the accumulated experience – yes, maybe even wisdom – of those who have gone this way before and those others concerned now.

There is plenty of material being published all the time on sex, love and disability but it is usually the case that extensive materials in existing paradigms might not be directly applicable, or even actively misleading, when applied to Conductive Education.

Questions when sex and love meet Conductive Education, technical, personal, ethical and legal, sexual politics and research metodology, are likely as complex as any to be met in respect to intervening in disability.

Any reports of good practice, in provision or training, any practical tips or warnings... any suggestions?

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