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‘We need “culture-bridges”: professionals’ experiences of sex education for pupils with intellectual disabilities in a multicultural society

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This study aimed to explore how sex education in special schools in Sweden is influenced and challenged by the multicultural aspects of modern society. In particular, it sought to explore professionalls' experiences of sex education and of honour-related experiences among young people with intellectual disabilities. Data from five individual interviews and one focus groups with four professionals were thematically analysed using sexual scripts as a theoretical framework. The results reveal an ambivalent honour-related script geared toward pupils with intellectual disabilities from cultural backgrounds differing from those of the Swedish mainstream. The provision of sex education, including information about honour-related experiences, is especially important because of these young people’s vulnerability; however, addressing the subject effectively is sensitive and complicated. Colleagues with different cultural backgrounds can act as ‘culture bridges’ for professionals who lack strategies, methods and materials. Increasing professionals’ prerequisite qualifications (e.g. further education, supervision) and adopting autonomy-promoted conduct can empower pupils with intellectual disability to exercise autonomy over their sexuality outside their immediate cultural context.
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Keywords: Sexual education; Sweden; honour-related experiences; intellectual disabilities; multicultural society; special schools

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Social Work, Malmö University, Malmö, Sweden

Publication date: January 2, 2019

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