114 - Ignored Needs, Gingerbread Houses Leads to a Dating Curriculum

Why a Dating Curriculum?


We have quite a few terrific curriculums out there teaching people with disabilities about sexuality and sexual rights. But as I always say, what about dating??


I know much of my podcast and resources are geared toward people with disabilities who want to date. However, I often work with professionals in disability services raising the issue of dating and providing training in how to effectively support people in developing dating skills and navigating relationships. I could tell you about my previous life working for disability organizations and encountering how dating was never addressed or strongly denied when it came up.


Instead, though, I have two stories that make poignant points about why dating skills and relationship development need desperately to be integrated into disability services.

The Cost of Ignoring

Early in my career I received one of those famous 4pm on a Friday afternoon calls. I was a program coordinator at the time for a one to one service that got people out into the community.

Lisa, one of the staff I supervised, worked with Kelly, who was in her early 20s and lived with an intellectual disability. “Kelly’s telling me she has a boyfriend,” Lisa began. Normally this would be something to celebrate, but I could hear the concern in Lisa’s voice. “And that it’s her next door neighbor,” she continued. Kelly’s neighbor was about 20 years older than her, married, with kids. “She’s saying they’re having sex,” Lisa went on to say.

In the midst of investigating what was happening, interviewing Kelly several, and having her examined by a doctor, it was concluded that Kelly’s neighbor had befriended her, groomed her, and eventually lured her to his basement to have sex with her one weekend while his wife and kids were away for the weekend.

One of the sad pieces of this story is that Kelly truly believed this meant they were boyfriend and girlfriend.

However, the saddest part is that before this happened Kelly talked openly about wanting a boyfriend and she was ignored. People in her life thought she wasn’t capable of love and relationships simply because of her disability. Kelly watched her two sisters go out routinely with their boyfriends. She wanted that for herself, but her support system ignored those desires.

Not having guidance or skill development in dating and relationships, Kelly sought to figure it out for herself and find the love she longed for. Who could blame her? When the need for love and intimacy is so great, but we don’t have support in our search, we end up in unhealthy situations.

What if someone had responded to Kelly when she talked about wanting a boyfriend with a reflective question like, “What kind of person would you like to date?”

The Gingerbread Story   

Lesson audio of Lesson 1 of Empowering Healthy Relationships for People with Disabilities

Imagine how learning skills in dating would empower people in feeling worthy as relationship partners, have confidence to seek out relationships, and the skills to make the right ones last.

Check out our Dating Memberships:

Dating Made Easier (for all people wanting to date) - is a monthly membership for anyone (with or without disabilities) who wants support and guidance in dating skills and getting the RESULTS you want in dating and relationships. Click here to learn more.

Get half off a whole year of Dating Made Easier here.

Supporting Dating and Relationships membership (for special educators and professionals in disability services) - is for professionals in the disability field who are looking for training and resources to effectively help students/people with disabilities in developing dating and relationship skills. Click here to learn more.

Music by Successful Motivation

Artwork photo by Elevate