Sexual Rights: Autonomy

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The sexual right of autonomy for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. There is a woman who is blind. In one hand she is holding a walking stick, and her other hand is up above her head in an empowering movement. Autonomy is to self govern or to determine what you want in your life. It’s about being in charge of your life, body, mind, and relationships. It’s about having the ability to make informed decisions without others pressuring, manipulating, or forcing you to make a different decision. 

“I have the right to say what happens to and with my body.” says an anonymous Illinois Self Advocate. You could replace “body” with mind, time, relationships, and more. 

Learning Objective:

The learning objective for this mini-lesson is for self advocates to understand what autonomy is and how to take actions to be autonomous. 

Here are 3 activities that support the learning objective:

1. Help someone explore their dreams and goals. This supports people to see that they are in charge, not others. Ask:

    1. What do you wish you had in your life that you don’t have right now? 
    2. What is missing in your life? 

If we aren’t given the opportunity to explore these questions one may believe they have no right to determine what their life is like. 

2. Explore Barriers. What makes it difficult for you to be in charge of your life? 

It could be the individual’s own beliefs that makes it difficult to be in charge of their lives.  “I don’t know how to make good decisions” or “just tell me what to do.”

It could also be the beliefs of the people around them like staff/teachers or family members. 

3. Speak up. This can be in one’s head by saying things to oneself such as, “It’s my body and I get to decide what is right for me.” Or “I am in charge of my life.” Or speak up to others about what you want in your life like, “I want to learn about sexuality and relationships” or “I want to meet someone to date.”

When a person feels in charge of their life it can be empowering and can lead to greater happiness in one’s life. It can also help protect them from negative experiences. If someone feels like their body is their own, they are more likely to speak up. 

Here’s a link to an article: A Prelude to Consent which will reinforce this message.

And, as a bonus activity, ask yourself:

What am I already doing to support self advocates to be in charge of their lives? What else can I do to help self advocates feel and be in charge of their lives?

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