Sexual health is a state of physical, mental and social well-being in relation to sexuality. It requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence”. (World Health Organisation definition). 

It is important that parents and carers are able to access support for their child or young person and to be aware that there are many professionals who are able to support them and their child from childhood through adolescence and into adulthood. Puberty and sexual health is an area of their child’s development that should be thought about, discussed and planned for. It is best if this is done in advance and support should continue throughout their adult life.

It is important that vulnerable children, young people and adults are protected but this should not be at the cost of respecting their human need to love and to be loved, to have friends and to express their sexuality (in ways that suit them and which are acceptable).

People with a learning disability have a right to express emotions and sexuality and develop relationships as an important part of a full and equal life based on a right to independence, control and life choices. Young people and adults with a learning disability have a right:

  • To fulfilling personal and sexual relationships.
  • To marry or cohabit.
  • To make an informed choice about whether or not to have children.
  • To take risks and make mistakes in personal relationships.
  • To privacy and to be free from exploitation.
  • To receive sex education, including counselling on personal relationships, sex and sexuality, contraceptive advice and sexual health support services.

Talking about sex can be difficult and daunting. There may be many reasons why you are worried about answering questions or bringing up sex in conversation. You may be concerned about vulnerability and the need for careful support. However, the physical, social and emotional needs of teenagers and adults with Down syndrome will be the same as for others in their age group and they may have a lot of questions for you.