DOI: 10.1044/2023_ajslp-23-00326 ISSN: 1058-0360

Who Helps Children With Communication Disorders Access Sex Education? Practice Patterns of Speech-Language Pathologists and Psychologists

Laura L. Wolford, Kate L. Jansen
  • Speech and Hearing
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Otorhinolaryngology


Children with communication disorders are often systematically excluded from sex education curricula. They may also have difficulty accessing the curricula because of the materials' linguistic and pragmatic complexity. Even curricula written for children with intellectual disabilities do not typically include considerations for communication disorders. This places them at risk for sexually transmitted infections, sexual health misinformation, and sexual assault. Yet, it is unclear which professionals are assisting children with communication disorders to access sex education.


North American speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and clinical psychologists ( N = 112) completed a survey that asked about their practice patterns in helping children access sex education, as well as their beliefs about the importance of sex education, how disabilities affect sex education, perceived barriers, and their self-efficacy and role in addressing sex education.


Although SLPs and clinical psychologists believed that communication disorders could affect sex education and consent and felt they had some responsibility for helping their clients in accessing sex education, they did not regularly assist their clients in this area. Both groups of clinicians were divided in their views of their own roles and responsibility. SLPs were especially polarized; every question about their role in addressing sex education included SLPs who fully agreed and some who fully disagreed with the statement.


Children with communication disorders do not consistently receive assistance accessing sex education curricula from either SLPs or clinical psychologists. Clinicians need education to support them addressing sex education and clear guidance about their roles in this area.

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