Teaching Human Sexuality, Family Life & Parenting to Special Populations

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

As a special education teacher, you help your students learn what they need to know to have healthy, fulfilling lives. This lesson addresses how to discuss human sexuality, family life and parenting with your students.

Working with Special Populations

Roberta is a high school special education teacher who works in a self-contained setting. She has a very solid approach to academic instruction, and each year, she forms strong relationships with students and families. Recently, Roberta's school has implemented a more systematic curriculum for teaching health and wellness, with a particular focus on human sexuality, family life and parenting. Roberta realizes that this kind of material must be taught with particular care to students with special needs. She does not want to overwhelm her students, but she knows they will need how to manage their lives, desires and feelings. They also might need explicit help learning how to stay safe and comfortable.

Roberta decides to learn more about what it means to teach human sexuality, family life and parenting to special populations.

Confronting Your Own Emotions

As Roberta realizes, one of the most important things she needs to do when preparing this material is to confront her own emotions. This will look different for individual teachers, but Roberta knows that she needs to work through her worry about her students and her desire to see them as children. To work through her emotions, Roberta talks openly with colleagues, journals about every instructional experience, and reads professional literature on relevant topics.

Roberta knows that every special education teacher has particular feelings about discussing health and family life with their students, and it's even normal to have strong views. The task is to try to work through these emotions so that they do not get in the way of solid and meaningful instruction.

Using Social Stories

One strategy that Roberta finds very useful as she works with her students is using social stories, or excerpts of scripted language that provide students ideas for how to deal with complex scenarios.

Roberta writes social stories dealing with topics like informed consent, respecting others in a relationship, and setting limits with children. She finds that when she reads these stories with her students, it provides them not only with language for discussing sometimes fraught issues, it also gives them strategies for coping with life's challenges.

Task Analysis

When it comes to learning about relationship and parenting tasks, Roberta finds that her students benefit most from doing task analysis. This means that she teaches them how to accomplish a particular task, and then she might model or show a video of someone completing the task. The students then discuss what they see, what they noticed, and what went well in the performance of the task.

Roberta finds that task analysis is a particularly helpful tool when it comes to particularly concrete duties such as diapering a baby or creating a family budget.

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