Paraquad in St. Louis has been awarded a three-year, $150,000 grant for training advocates and self-advocates to provide comprehensive sexuality education to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, a group often excluded from any discussion of human sexuality.

The grant, awarded by the Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council (MODDC), was announced after the Council reviewed grant proposals from disability rights and service organizations both nationally and state-wide. In awarding the grant to Paraquad, the Council said it was seeking a partner with whom it could create a comprehensive and continuing program in which advocates for people with developmental disabilities, and self-advocates, would be trained to teach sexuality education. Those who receive training will go on to train other advocates and self-advocates, keeping the program ongoing and serving the critical need of providing sexuality education to people with developmental disabilities. This peer model design aligns with independent living philosophy by centering people with disabilities. The training, resources, and materials developed for the program will be shared with other advocacy groups throughout the state.

“The Missouri Developmental Disabilities Council is proud to partner with Paraquad for this important work,” says Leigh Anne Haun, a project coordinator at MODDC. “Paraquad’s vast network and robust outreach efforts will allow both urban and rural Missourians to benefit from this program. Their experience delivering high quality programming makes them an idea partner in this work.”

People with developmental disabilities include those with intellectual disabilities, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, and Down Syndrome. In addition to being devalued as sexual beings by having little or no access to typical sex education programs, people with disabilities in general are disproportionately impacted by all forms of abuse, including sexual assault. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the rate of violent crime, including rape and sexual assault, for people with disabilities is more than three times the rate for those who are not disabled.

Paraquad recently completed its first sexuality education classes in June. During the four-week course, “Sexual Health & Healthy Relationships,” participants learned about different kinds of relationships and knowing appropriate public and private behavior; making responsible decisions about sexual behavior; avoiding sexual exploitation; practicing proper hygiene and avoiding sexually transmitted diseases; understanding reproduction; and practicing safe sex. Paraquad staff created a safe and supportive space in which to teach the classes, which were well-received by participants and their parents.

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