Individuals who live with intellectual and developmental disabilities deserve the same innate right to enjoy a fulfilling life and loving relationship. Many with I/DD are proving that romantic love between couples exists regardless of their disabilities. Lasting and committed relationships are transitioning to legal marriages among those with I/DD, and weddings are becoming more of the norm.
What About Love?
Individuals with I/DD continue to be stereotyped as not requiring or needing sexual or romantic relationships. Being denied that right can lead to poor self-esteem, lack of self-worth, and confusion over gender identity.
According to a study by the International Journal of Adolescence and Youth, young adults with intellectual disabilities questioned were objective and defined in their understanding and description of love and perceived love as important and valuable to their well-being.
Organizations like ILA have made impressive strides in working with people living with I/DD, teaching them skills development and an appreciation of their value to others and society, which helps them to achieve independence and socialization.
Online Dating and I/DD
Entering the dating world takes a degree of confidence for anyone and can be especially challenging for individuals with I/DD. When entering a dating or friendship site, the advice given by those already in the dating world is to remain upfront and honest regarding their disability. Take things one step and one day at a time. Get to know someone and build friendships.
The internet has opened many doors, and some websites connect individuals with I/DD socially to find friendship, interest groups, and romance.
Marriage and Children
Sadly, restrictions regarding marriage and parenthood still exist. Individuals with I/DD have the same right to enter wedlock as everyone else. However, if the State court determines that an individual is incapable of entering into the marriage contract, their right to marry is rescinded. Marriage laws and restrictions vary by state and are not under federal jurisdiction.
Individuals with I/DD can legally bear and raise children. However, different states have different laws governing the parental rights of those living with I/DD. In over half of the US, state law maintains that a person’s developmental disability may be grounds for termination of parental rights. There is no evidence to support that children are at risk any more than with neurotypical families. However, parents with I/DD are still experiencing numerous challenges in the courts, despite the ADA and Rehabilitation Act.
All You Need is Love
Poets, theorists, theologians, and scientists have debated the elusive meaning of love for centuries. Tolerance, patience, tenderness, and understanding are all part of a loving and long-term relationship.
Individuals with I/DD who experience these relationships can set an example for many without disabilities. Anyone, regardless of disability, can experience love in all of its many forms.