Towards effective ways of teaching adolescents with disabilities about sexuality

March 27, 2024

By Amani Karisa


The sexuality of persons with disabilities is considered taboo in many communities. Society often wrongly views them as asexual or childlike, while some may perceive them as excessively sexual. Despite these misconceptions, persons with disabilities have the same sexual needs as the general population. The silencing around their sexuality coupled with pervasive inaccurate information in this regard is likely to predispose them to adverse experiences such as sexual abuse, unwanted pregnancies and/or sexually transmitted infections to a greater extent than their able-bodied counterparts.

Adolescents with disabilities are prone to lack sexuality-related knowledge compared to their peers without disabilities. Isolation and limited interaction with peers put these adolescents at a disadvantage, restricting their chances to learn about their bodies and engage in social and sexual exploration. Moreover, nearly half of adolescents with disabilities do not discuss sexuality with their families. Parents are often hesitant to broach the subject of sexuality with their children. It is urgent to explore effective strategies for providing sexuality information for this group of adolescents.

At the African Population and Health Research Center, a one-year study has been initiated to explore effective methods of delivering sexuality education to adolescents with disabilities in Kenyan schools. The study involves engaging with adolescents with disabilities, their parents or caregivers, teachers, and other education stakeholders in selected schools in Kenya. The aim is to gain insights into knowledge, opinions and attitudes concerning sexuality education, with an emphasis on identifying best practices.

The long-term goal is to use the evidence to inform the development of context-relevant educational interventions that will improve the sexual and reproductive health of adolescents with disabilities. It is believed that effective sexuality education for these adolescents can prepare them for healthier, safer, and more satisfying sexual lives in adulthood. Teachers are also believed to be crucial in imparting this knowledge and in encouraging parents and caregivers to provide this education.


Dr. Karisa is a postdoctoral research scientist at African Population and Health Research Center (@kilichobaki).