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Down Syndrome and Adolescent Issues

Down Syndrome in Adolescents and Sexuality

 

Parents, teacher and medical providers spend a lot of time educating teens about all the life changes that happen during these challenging years, especially regarding sexuality.  Unfortunately, this is often a topic that is overlooked when preparing teens with Down Syndrome for all these changes.  It is sometimes assumed that issues such as unprotected sex and STI’s do not affect teens with Down syndrome.  Secondary sexual characteristics develop at the same age for adolescents with Down Syndrome as those who do not so it is safe to assume that sexual curiosity and arousal do as well.  Given that teens with Down syndrome may have varying levels of cognitive impairment, it is important to approach sex education at a developmentally appropriate level.  Normalizing the feelings and having discussions on appropriate and inappropriate expression are important.  As with all teens, acceptance and inclusion are of the utmost importance.  These physical and emotional changes for teens are important to coordinate with a visit to the teen’s primary care provider to ensure all health-related issues have been assessed.  Local support groups and national organizations for children with Down syndrome and their families, such as the Down Syndrome Association of Minnesota, can provide excellent resources to broach the issue of sexuality. 

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