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A pilot implementation of an intervention to promote sexual health in adolescents and young adults in rehabilitation

Publication of Innovations in Care
S.R. Hilberink, | Article | Publication date: 19 January 2013
The majority of children treated in pediatric rehabilitation reach adulthood and develop into individuals with needs concerning sexuality and intimate relationships. However, because sexual health is rarely addressed during rehabilitation, some of these youngsters have unmet needs regarding the development of romantic and sexual relationships, and various other problems. This study evaluates the pilot implementation of a group program for youth and young adults with physical disabilities in four rehabilitation centers and two special schools in a 3-month pre-post study. Ten professionals were trained to apply the program. Both professionals and participants filled-out pre-post questionnaires. In addition, participants were interviewed after the program about their experiences. After the training, two rehabilitation centers and one special school succeeded to offer the program, including a total of 14 participants [79 % male, mean age 19.9 (SD = 4.6) years]. The mean attendance rate for the program was 83 % and the sessions were generally positively received. Ten participants filled out the post questionnaire and reported a decrease in having difficulty with discussing sexuality with their (eventual) partner (Cohen’s d = 0.66). There were no changes regarding sexual self-esteem and self-efficacy. Although contact with professionals and peers was considered valuable, the perceived effectiveness was moderate. Participants missed diagnosis-specific information about sexual functioning. Professionals considered the program to be feasible in their setting. Despite some important barriers, the group program is a step forward in offering specialized rehabilitation for youth and young adults with physical disabilities. To measure its impact for participants, a longer follow-up period and more participants are required.

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