Right now I'm working on an exciting project with a terrific team of people. Our goal is to create a series of comic books, or if you prefer 'short graphic novels,' that will feature people with intellectual disabilities and their various quests for love and relationships. They will look at dating, break ups, intimacy and, without being completely graphic in one way it won't be too graphic in the other, sexuality. The goal is to create a resource with accessible information presented in an accessible format.
The team at the sexuality clinic of Mackenzie Health's Behaviour Management Services of York and Simcoe, and I, have been discussing various story lines that we want to include. We've already been fleshing out possible stories and characters in the story. Two of the people will be based on a couple I met years and years ago, when they were in their late teens, a woman with Down Syndrome and her boyfriend with Cerebral Palsy. What struck me about them was their love for each other but also the responsibility they showed. They knew, from watching TV, that there were diseases you could get from sex, they wanted to be safe - so they waited, asking questions that weren't answered - until they could make responsible safe decisions based on information. I was lucky enough to have them in a series of classes that I taught.
They caught my imagination at the time and I thought that their quest for information and how they survived the frustrations that they faced quite inspiring. Before the class ended I had come up with the idea of creating a series of comic books that would tell the story of the lives of some young people with intellectual disabilities AND provide information of love, relationships and sexuality.
I put sex last on the list because, as I've said before, that in all the years I've worked with people with disabilities in the area of sexuality, I've never been asked the question, to which the answer is "penis goes into vagina." The questions I get asked are "how do I find a girl/boyfriend" or "how do I know if s/he likes me" or even "is it OK that my heart speeds up when s/he kisses me." These are the kinds of things we want to deal with. We also want to deal with situations that are common to people with intellectual disabilities like the approval of those who have, or feel they have, the right to disapprove of their love and relationships.
Here's why I'm telling you all this. At our last meeting we discussed reaching out to you, the readers of this blog, and asking you to give us some ideas for situations or barriers that people with intellectual disabilities face (remember at least one of the characters will be using a mobility device). We'd also like to know what kinds of things do you think should be included, most particularly if you are a person with an intellectual disability - a curriculum is going to be hidden behind the stories we are going to tell - so what needs to be there? Do you have a story line that you think should be included? Please, please, please, ask those with intellectual disabilities that you parent or serve what kind of stories they'd like to read about and what information they'd like to learn. That would be helpful too.
I applaud the team at the sexuality clinic for embracing this idea with such passion. It's a resource that is needed and one that puts information, literally, into the hands of people with intellectual disabilities. So, if you are of a mind to, would you give us ideas and suggestions in the comment section of this blog. Thanks!