Healthy Sexuality

Katie Thune (courtesy photo)

At the age of 14, I volunteered as a swim instructor through adaptive recreation for the St. Paul Parks and Recreation program. My first student was Trina, a seven-year-old girl with cerebral palsy. I’m not sure if it was her amazing smile, or her contagious laugh, but Trina and I bonded from the beginning. I babysat Trina and her sisters, went to day camp as her inclusion companion, and, later, talked about her college plans while hanging out together. Since then, I’ve exclusively worked with people with disabilities.

I felt called to create Mad Hatter Wellness after a 12-year career as a teacher. I saw a major need in public schools and the community. I realized all young people — particularly young people with developmental disabilities — need more than schools can provide.

The rate of sexual assault for people with developmental disabilities is seven times higher than for people without.

Scary statistics like that, which speak to the vulnerability of people with disabilities, pushed me to create Sexuality for All Abilities curriculum.

The curriculum teaches young people, especially those with disabilities, how to find and harness their voices. Using consent as its framework, the program helps people learn the tools to develop healthy relationships. We believe that by teaching all young people to become powerful self-advocates, we not only ensure a stronger community, but we do our part to reduce sexual violence and promote peace.

At Mad Hatter, we believe that every person deserves to live a healthy and empowered life, with relationships of respect, dignity, and safety.

The Sexuality for All Abilities curriculum is now taught in more than 100 U.S. schools.

Examples From Madhatter Wellness Activity:

• In my relationships I get to be myself. I don’t have to pretend to be someone else. What is something unique about you? What can you do if someone you are in a relationship with tries to control you?

• We take time to get to know each other. Why would taking time to get to know someone in a relationship be important?

• There is compromise in my relationships. We take turns making decisions. How can you talk with someone if you are not sharing in decision-making or taking turns?

• We get along and have fun together. Arguments are brief and end respectfully. Name some things you like to do with people in your life. List qualities you look for in a friend or romantic partner.

• Boundaries are respected. If I say no, the other person doesn’t get upset with me. What are some boundaries you have with people, perhaps about touch, time spent together, and more?