RELATE with Katy Park

Supporting thriving relationships for everybody
with education, dialogue, advocacy, and training

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Katy Park LSW is passionate about the opportunity to support generative and thriving relationships as a social worker, Zen priest, and certified yoga teacher. She has been in the social work field in a variety of settings for over 20 years, and for the past 12 she has had the honor of working in direct support as well as case management for both children and adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. She currently manages Momentum's Portland location, Bomb Diggity Arts and Wellness and is committed to equipping and empowering people of all abilities to live fulfilled lives, creatively and relationally.

Katy is the creator and team lead of Momentum’s RELATE offerings and facilitates healthy relationship and sexuality trainings for staff, as well as workshops for participants. She also holds space for dialogue and informational sessions for parents, guardians, and providers and offers consulting and facilitation for teams and individuals who are navigating the complexity of such conversations for the individuals they support. Katy has been trained and mentored by Katherine McLaughlin, an expert in the field of sexuality and developmental disabilities. Much of Katy’s material draws on McLaughlin’s work including the curriculum she co-authored for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England: Sexuality Education for Adults with Developmental Disabilities.

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People with cognitive and physical disabilities are often excluded from opportunities to be supported in developing a healthy sexuality. There is pervasive belief that this population is incapable of having sexual thoughts, feelings, and needs; and yet, on the other hand, there has been a strong and long-lived fear that people with disabilities, especially intellectual disabilities, are not capable or responsible enough to handle sexual feelings appropriately. Because of this, they are often not given the information they need to navigate the very real and adult feelings and experiences that they may have.

In our current culture, sexuality and relationship education usually does not include appropriately adapted information, however, people with disabilities need access to the same information that their typically developing peers have. Without contexts where adapted learning opportunities are provided, our predominantly sex-negative culture experienced through movies, tv, advertising, etc. only leaves people more confused! Because folks are not given the information they need, they often learn about sexuality and relationships from their peers or through media, and their frustrations and confusion may come out sideways, sometimes manifesting with what providers and families might see as problematic behaviors.

We are all sexual beings. We all need information and skills so we can make healthy decisions about sexuality and our overall well-being. It can be intimidating to teach, support, and integrate such a complex subject matter to children and adults with a wide range of abilities across the developmental spectrum. We also all know, that what we are unable or unwilling to talk about does not go away - in fact, it often becomes louder!

Momentum is committed to educating and supporting people to develop a healthy and positive understanding of human sexuality and to give tools to foster thriving relationships. With Momentum’s support, Katy Park is using her experience and expertise to provide training in these areas for adults with intellectual disabilities. This program is called RELATE and is available to any adults with intellectual disabilities who feel they could benefit from information and support around sexuality and healthy relationships.