Relationship & Sex Education for pupils with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities.

Oxford, Worcester, Newcastle, Rotherham, Rochdale: Family, Facebook friends, religious groups, charity workers, Jimmy Saville. Unfortunately, no child is safe from the threat of sexual abuse and exploitation.

With sexual abuse disclosures at an all-time high, educational professionals, parents and carers of special needs and disabled pupils would be foolish to say “that doesn’t happen around here” or bury their head in the sand when it comes to protecting their children.

A report in 2015 by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme showed that over two years 4,748 reports of sexual abuse against adults with disabilities were reported to 106 of 152 councils in England. The NSPCC described this a just the “visible peak” of a much larger scale problem largely going unreported by victims who find it hard to speak out.

Jon Brown, head of sexual abuse programmes at the NSPCC was quoted as saying “Abusers are often very adept at identifying vulnerabilities. And, importantly, we know that it’s less likely for children and young people to be believed as well.”

The data, secured through a freedom of information request showed that 63% of the 4,748 reported cases were against those with learning disabilities, and 37% against those with physical disabilities.

Perpetrators are known to target those that are most vulnerable and unfortunately this often means that children, young people and adults with special educational needs or disabilities are preyed upon.


Kiranpreet Rehal, Department for Education (DfE) safeguarding project manager at the National Autistics Soceity details the three of the many reasons why this may be the case.

  • They are more dependent on others to meet personal and intimate care needs.
  • Not being aware that what is happening to them is even wrong.
  • Communication difficulties that prevent the child from expressing concerns about what is happening to them.


What does this mean for RSE?

Relationship and Sex Education for SEND (Special Education Needs and Disabilities) pupils must start from an early age to ensure they know what is right and wrong and have the language to tell someone if something happens to them. The NSPCC states that 90% of CSE victims know their abuser with many being within the family, so we must ensure that parents and carers who believe their children to be sheltered from the threat of abuse understand their children need to be educated to be protected. The Growing Up Safe programme is designed to be responsive to a child’s ability therefore can be used to help all children and young people understand what is okay and not okay from a young age.


The Growing Up Safe programme and all senior lesson content is fully autism friendly:

  • Where possible we deliver within the normal classroom environment to minimise the disruption to the pupils’ routine.
  • We are clear from the outset what the lesson includes and what will be the pupils’ required behaviour and input. This is to reduce any possible anxiety.
  • Risky and safe scenarios are shown visually but are elaborated on using ‘social stories’ as recommended by the Autism Society. We present information in a literal, ‘concrete’ way, which may improve a person’s understanding of a previously difficult or ambiguous situations or activity. By providing information about what might happen in a particular situation, and providing some guidelines for behaviour, we aim to reduce anxiety of these social situation.
  • It is important to clarify that the Growing Up Safe programme goes beyond the NSPCC’s pants rule, as abusers may not solely inappropriately touch genitalia, this is particularly important to teach special needs children and those on the autism spectrum who communicate in a very literal way. For example, Autistic children may not make the link from the pants rule to being pressured to perform oral sex on an abuser, or sharing pictures of their naked chest so we must be clear and give them the information they need to know in a gentle manner. To do this we classify the four private areas of the body which we use to teach about good and bad touches, these include the chest and mouth area, in addition to the genital area and the bottom.


Further ways BigTalk Education is fully SEND inclusive:

  • We can deliver one to one and small group sessions with SEND individual’s either in proactive or reactive referrals.
  • Our team includes specialists who have specific backgrounds working with SEND pupils and vulnerable young people.
  • All of our resources include imagery of children with (and without) disabilities to ensure we represent all young people in our materials.
  • We liaise closely with School SEND Coordinators, plus our team are briefed by class teachers on any specific needs from pupils in our lessons. This may include adapting our provision for children with special communication requirements, learning difficulties, physical disabilities or any other issues.


When delivering classes in a special needs school setting we offer a fully adapted programme relative to pupils’ abilities through close liaison with school staff. For more information please see our SEND programme information.


Sources and further reading


Request information on BigTalk Education's services for your school

Introduction to age appropriate RSE

Our guide to high quality, age appropriate Relationship & Sex Education for your child, helping you know what to expect from us.

BigTalk Education's Growing Up Safe Programme

Children want their parents to be the first people to talk to them about growing up, sex and relationships. Yet many parents say they lack confidence to answer their children's questions frankly, Schools are there to help, and BigTalk Education are here to support Schools and Teachers. Members of the BigTalk Team can come into School for a part or whole day, ensuring your children (and you as parents) are well educated to keep them safe, healthy and happy! Find out more > 


BigTalk Education's RSE Lessons for Life

Our Programme in Secondary Schools uses a Youth Work approach to RSE delivery, participation, empowerment and inclusion are fundamental to its success. Our Team fosters a non-judgmental, relaxed, receptive atmosphere, which doesn’t shy away from sensitive issues.


Bodies, Babies & Bellybuttons

This book is a gentle introduction for children about their bodies and where they come from. A must have for all parents to help answer your children's questions in a simple, understandable and age appropriate way.