sex ed for and by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities \ image background, bright pink, a n african american woman with glasses is smiling. text reads ''sex ed for and by people with intellectual and developmental disabilities'

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This is about the vibrant, engaging, powerful new video series that is a guide to practical sex education for people with intellectual disabilities and developmental disabilities. I have a daughter with Down syndrome.

Having been raised with disabilities myself and been part of the extremely high percentage of deaf children and youth who are sexually abused, my biggest fear in bringing my daughter into the world was that she would be abused.

Nine years into my parenting journey and this remains a fear of mine.

I know I am not alone in this: every parent of an individual that I have met with Down syndrome, indeed, every parent of a person with an intellectual or developmental disability that I have ever met, has voiced this concern.

That is why I was over-the-moon-happy about this new video series that I saw online.

A New Free Video Series on Sex Education for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

This practical sex education program  teaches everything related to sex. It goes far and away from “good touch, bad touch” types of series. This free video series is excellent. It’s snappy, on-point.

What the Series Covers

This series, hosted by people with intellectual disabilities, covers the explanation of  genitals, our bodies, the difference between sex and gender. It talks about masturbation, healthy relationships, how to leave a relationship, the use of condoms, safer sex and what that means.

Even controlling relationships and the balance of power is covered, which I think is so important.

The hosts are diverse, representing different disabilities as well as races. All videos are beautifully captioned, and produced in short 2-minute max bursts.

The videos felt empowering to me, they felt respectful, kind. They also delivered their truths cleanly and succinctly.

These videos are so well done that I wanted to learn more about how they were produced and created. I interviewed Cara Liebowitz, whose brainchild they were, at the end of this post.

You can read all about how they came to be, and with lots of glorious links to more resources and information.

But first, here is a video:

The video above is the concluding video of the series, and the images below are linked to the discussion guides.

The link to the full series playlist is here.

The sex education program discussion guides for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are available in 3 formats:

  1. plain English with graphics (like a power point, but in plain English)
  2. plain text with no graphics
  3. word doc with no graphics

This series is the brainchild of Cara Liebowitz (whom I featured as an original Cool Cat back in 2013)!

I really like and admire Cara, and I like her sensibilities, her natural barometer for what is solid or not.

Here is an interview in which Cara answers some questions about how the series came to be, and offers us more information about the production and creation of the series.

meriah asks, cara answers: interview with the creator of the sex education program for people with intellectual disabilitiesWhose brainchild was this video series on sex education for people with intellectual disabilities?

It was actually my brainchild!
The WITH Foundation focuses on healthcare for people with I/DD and so I was trying to think of a project that could fit that focus.  Sex ed was one of the first topics that came to my mind for a number of reasons.
Joe Shapiro’s excellent NPR series on sexual abuse of people with intellectual disabilities had recently come out.  I have a lot of friends with intellectual and developmental disabilities that don’t get the traditional sex ed that nondisabled students get, from schools, parents, etc.
And on the other side of things, I know a lot of people who work in special ed, particularly at the middle school/high school level, who are continually trying to figure out how to talk to their students about basic things like “masturbation is private” and “you have to wear deodorant”.
It was something that was on my mind and very, very needed.


What was the impetus behind creating the series?

It was just so needed.
As I did research for the grant application, I realized there’s very, very little out there in the way of sex ed that is targeted directly at people with I/DD themselves.
There are some great resources out there, but they’re all books or curricula aimed at parents or teachers, like “here’s how to teach sex ed to people with I/DD”.  I wanted to take out that middleman and go directly to the source.
And the great thing about the videos (and the discussion guide) is that they’re free and available online.
People with  can look at them whenever they want, at home, at school, at a library, as many times as they want.
Initially we were envisioning one long video broken up into chapters, but I ended up really liking the short video series idea.
And in looking at other long form video projects that Rooted in Rights has done over the years – like Bottom Dollars – we realized an accompanying discussion guide could be really useful too.

Who wrote this sex education information series?

We had a whole team of really excellent people who helped write the script for the sex education information.
Alie Kriofske Maniella, she’s an expert in sex ed and has been doing research on sex ed and people with I/DD for a long time, was our lead content expert.  She worked really closely with the folks at Rooted in Rights to outline the script, and then once we had our cast, to refine the script to fit each cast member’s particular strengths.
I provided input on the script as needed, but really it was all them.
It honestly made me realize how little I know about these topics.
Then we had two consultants, Sara Luterman and Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone, write the discussion guide.  And then after the discussion guide was written, we had three people with I/DD, Liz Weintraub, Micah Fialka-Feldman, and Noor Pervez, who reviewed the guide and pointed out where things could be clearer or where more explanation was needed.
You know the saying it takes a village?  It very much took a village to do this project.

Who produced this sex education program for people with intellectual disabilities?

The videos were produced by Rooted in Rights.
I’m a huge fan of Rooted in Rights and as soon as we knew we were doing video content, I said “we have to get Rooted in Rights on board”.
I’m so grateful to Rooted in Rights for the amazing work they did on this project, and I’m very lucky that I got to work with Clark Matthews, who I’ve known for a long time.

Was this sex education project financed by any particular fund or a source that is worth mentioning?

The WITH Foundation funded the project and I’m so glad they did.
Even just in the few short days the project has been public there have been so many people liking and sharing it.  I think it really fills a gap, and I’m grateful that the WITH Foundation recognized the potential in the project.

Who are the stars and the narrators in this practical sex education series?

 Oh my god, we had such an amazing cast.
When I first saw the draft videos and the way the cast came together and the way they interacted with each other, I was literally squealing with joy.
Our cast was ChrisTiana ObeySumner, Eric Matthes, Dorian Taylor, Ivanaova Smith, and Ky Ly, and we had ChrisTiana do the voiceover work.

sex education program for developmental disability: image of a red back ground, text reads, "for & by people with IDD" an african american woman sits and smiles, she is wearing glasses and her hair is pulled back

Where to Find the Videos

The videos are available at (playlist).

Discussion Guide for the Video Series

The discussion guide is available at in multiple formats.  And the evaluation form is available at

It’s really important that people who watch the videos and read the discussion guide fill out the evaluation form, so we can judge the success of the project.

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  1. Anjali Ali says:

    Thank you so much for this Meriah. I am a Victim Advocate at a non-profit organization in Florida. I am launching sexual assault support groups for individuals with IDD, and I keep trying to find a basis of the curriculum, or ideas that can help me build it. Your video posts are amazing. It’s definitely something I want to show in some of the classes I do.

    1. That’s so wonderful, such a necessary endeavor, Anjali. I’m glad it’s helpful.

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