Abstract

Importance: Sexuality is an important part of the human experience. However, little is known about the experience of sexuality from the perspective of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD).

Objective: To review evidence about the lived experience of sexuality among adults with IDD to inform future research and practice.

Data Sources: We located articles using search terms summarized into three categories: intellectual disability, sexual activity, and feelings/opinions. Articles were indexed in the following electronic databases: CINAHL, Scopus, PubMed, and PsycINFO.

Study Selection and Data Collection: Arksey and O’Malley’s methodology was used to review scientific literature published between 2008 and 2018. The studies were in English, were located in peer-reviewed journals, and described the experience of sexuality from the perspective of people with IDD or observations of expressed sexuality.

Findings: Seventeen articles met inclusion criteria. Four main themes emerged: intimate relationships, oppressed sexual activity, knowledge, and identity. Findings indicate that sexuality is a part of the lives of many adults with IDD, regardless of their engagement in sexual activity.

Conclusions and Relevance: Barriers to expression of sexuality exist for people with IDD. Some of these barriers are internal, although many are external. The results provide support for addressing sexuality among adults with IDD.

What This Article Adds: This review provides evidence to support occupational therapy practitioners in including sexuality as a part of their holistic view of clients and as an area for advocacy.

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