Date of Award

Fall 2019

Document Type

Open Access Dissertation


Educational Studies

First Advisor

Anthony J. Plotner


Adults with intellectual disability report the same relational and sexual intimacy needs as those without disability, yet experience barriers in accessing intimacy education and engaging in intimacy. Postsecondary education (PSE) programs for students with intellectual disability allow for college students to experience a higher level of autonomy in choice-making they may not have experienced in their family home. The Continuum of Support for Intimacy Knowledge in College Survey (CoSIK-C) was used to examine how PSE programs support college students in building their intimacy knowledge, intimacy education professional development opportunities for PSE staff members, and staff perceptions on factors that could influence whether students engage in intimacy or access intimacy education. Frequency of support, context in which support is provided, and types of resources and services used to build intimacy knowledge were identified and varied across programs. Half of the respondents indicated that their PSE program provides support in building students' intimacy knowledge two times per year or less, with 15% of programs not providing any support related to building intimacy knowledge. Contextually, support is most frequently provided proactively for all students, and one-fourth of PSE programs provide support reactively based on a student's negative experience with intimacy. Intimacy topics most frequently discussed include personal hygiene and social skills and cues related to dating, while topics such as unplanned pregnancy, biological and reproductive functioning, sexual and gender identity, and masturbation were not discussed in 40-50% of PSE programs. Half of PSE programs do not offer intimacy education professional development to their staff members, yet almost two-thirds of respondents indicated that students in their PSE program consider learning about intimacy a priority. Additional staff perspectives on influential factors that could affect whether a student enrolled in the PSE program can access intimacy education or engage in intimacy are identified. Implications for practice and future research are provided.