Teaching Children with Down Syndrome about Their Bodies, Boundaries, and Sexuality


Drawing on her unique background as both a sexual educator and mother of a child with Down syndrome, author Terri Couwenhoven blends factual information and practical ideas for teaching children with Down syndrome about their bodies, puberty, and sexuality.

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This book gives parents the confidence to speak comfortably about these sometimes difficult subjects.

It also explains why it’s so important to begin early in the life of a child to deal with issues such as hygiene, emotional and physical boundaries, privacy, and what makes for healthy relationships.

In a friendly conversational style, the author covers relevant issues and concerns for children of all ages, such as:

  • Labeling & explaining private body parts
  • Identifying & expressing emotions
  • Respecting personal space
  • Teaching self-care & hygiene
  • Understanding norms of privacy
  • Understanding gender identity
  • Showing appropriate levels of affection


She also covers later issues that affect teenagers and young adults, including:

  • Anticipating and understanding puberty
  • Dealing with periods, bras for girls
  • Experiencing erections, wet dreams for boys
  • Relating to the opposite sex
  • Sharing parental values about sexuality
  • Explaining sexual relationships
  • Preventing sexual abuse
  • Understanding how Down syndrome affects puberty & fertility rates


Each chapter provides parents with loads of practical tips, including dozens of anecdotes and sidebars. “Key Messages” outline important points to teach a child about a particular topic, such as expressing feelings or how to problem-solve issues related to relationships.

“Teaching Activities” suggest things parents can do to teach concepts by reading specific books, making visual aids, role playing, or using materials and illustrations provided in the book. (The book includes some sexually explicit illustrations for teaching purposes.)

“Parental Pauses” invite parents to consider their own values regarding relationships or sexuality so they can decide how they want to discuss the topic with their child.

This comprehensive guide has a wealth of authoritative advice and sensitive insight that is invaluable to parents as well as caregivers and professionals.

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