Adolescents with Learning Difficulties

The specific needs of young people with intellectual disabilities have received scant attention in the literature devoted to sexually harmful behaviour. Puberty and adolescence are developmental stages where young people are required to cope with a series of major social, emotional and physical changes. These include; physical maturation; experiences of sexual arousal and awareness of orientation; more complex peer interactions; a richer emotional perspective; experiences of greater autonomy and decision-making. Adolescence occurs within a familial; social; community and cultural context. Adolescents need to synthesis a variety of experiences in order to establish a healthy sexual identity. Intellectual disabled adolescents may experience deficits in skills and knowledge along with limited opportunities, which hinder this process. A number of factors may impact upon this transitional phase and hinder an adolescent gaining the requisite skills and knowledge to function within an acceptable social range. When attempting to evaluate and understand potentially concerning sexual behaviours presented by intellectually disabled young people it is important to consider the particular adversities they may experience on the transition to sexual maturity.

This intial assessment framework is geared to young people in the mild to moderate range of intellectual disability in an IQ ability range of  60-80.


1. Background Issues 79
Intellectual disability and adolescence 79
Privacy and opportunity 80
The potential impact of intellectual disability on
young peoples transition to sexual maturity
2. Specific Considerations in Undertaking Assessments with Young People with Intellectual Disabilities 83
Defining the behaviour as sexual 83
Defining sexual behaviour as problematic or concerning 83
Assessment frameworks 84
Which group of young people should this
assessment model be applied to?
Timescales 85
3. Applying the Model 86