Social stories and consent.

I’ve spoken recently about how we conceptualise consent, most recently in a presentation at the World Congress on Education in Dublin. One of the best ways we can talk about consent is through social stories, particular for young adults with learning difficulties for whom the concept might need a little more going over.

I want to talk a little more about this, because sometimes I feel that the way we use social stories isn’t as impactful as it could be. If it’s going to be an effective way of explaining something, it needs to be a multifaceted approach.

What I mean by this is that one social story cannot describe a multitude of situations. For consent, for example, I find it best to start with a social story about holding hands. When might that be appropriate? How would you ask someone if it’s okay to hold their hand? Then a different social story to model kissing, other forms of touching, and other sexual situations.

It can’t be a one size fits all approach. If sex education is going to be comprehensive, the resources we use need to be comprehensive too. Young people deserve the chance to process each situation separately, and to ask any questions they want to. What we refer to commonly as “sex” encompasses a wealth of situations and acts, and it’s only fair to explore that adequately for young people who take longer to process complex issues.

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