This story appears in the November Issue of VICE.
If you have ever worried about sex education for kids with learning disabilities, worry no more. In Sweden, sex-ed books developed for kids with special needs have been released. The idea is to explain sex and relationships with the help of simple texts and illustrations.
A school nurse and two teachers who work in a special school in Uppsala County are the brains behind the books. "It's a difficult and sensitive subject that's been neglected in special schools. But we know it's of importance," one of the authors, school nurse Vija Bjelvenfeldt, told VICE. Bjelvenfeldt and her co-authors, Margareta Nymansson and Hillevi Törmä, have years of experience working in special schools, where they've seen the need for sex-ed material for both students and teachers.
"You need to respect teens, especially during puberty. That's why children's books in the subject aren't good material—they're simply too childish," she said. Bjelvenfeldt explained that teens with special needs have a hard time understanding words that have more than one meaning. In the books, these subjects are explained in an unambiguous way. For example, the Swedish word for sexual intercourse also refers to the number six, which can be confusing. Instead, the authors use the slang word knulla (Swedish for "fuck"), which is a naughty word but can't be confused with anything else.
The books cover everything from masturbation to menstruation and will help teens who have a hard time communicating their thoughts and feelings about sex. Both the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education and the national media welcome the books. "We never thought [the project] would get this kind of attention. But we're happy that people seem to understand the need of these books and the gap they fill," Bjelvenfeldt told VICE.