Sexuality and individual support plans for people with intellectual disabilities

J M T Stoffelen*, M. A. Herps, W H E Buntinx, D Schaafsma, G Kok, L M G Curfs

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


BACKGROUND: Sexual rights and sexuality are important aspects of quality of life, also for people with intellectual disabilities (IDs). However, providing support in this area to people with ID poses some challenges. In this study, the content of individual support plan (ISP) documents was analysed to determine the extent to which sexuality and sexual rights are addressed in part of the ISP documents.

METHOD: Content analysis was carried out on a sample of 187 ISP documents from seven different service provider organisations in the Netherlands. First, we conducted a lexical search using terms related to sexuality and sexual health. The retrieved segments were then analysed.

RESULTS: A total of 159 ISP documents (85%) of 60 men and 99 women contained some reference to aspects of sexuality. However, these references were mostly descriptive and offered little guidance in terms of providing support. Moreover, these notations mostly described negative or problematic aspects of sexuality. References to sexual education, treatment, intervention programs or support strategies were rarely found in the ISP documents.

CONCLUSIONS: Although sexuality is addressed in most ISP documents, there is little information available about the provision of professional support in this area that would give people the opportunity to exert sexual rights. As sexuality and exerting sexual rights are important for people with ID as well as for other people, it is recommended that issues surrounding proactive sex education, shared decision-making and the implementation of sexual healthcare plans are addressed in the ISP.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1117-1129
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Intellectual Disability Research
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • Journal Article
  • sexuality
  • CARE
  • sexual rights
  • individual support plans

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