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Evidence-Informed and Comprehensive

Whole Selves worked in partnership with Mt. Holyoke College Graduate and Professional School of Education to ensure alignment with National Health Education Standards and developing effective Assessments.

Mt. Holyoke and Whole Selves staff completed a comprehensive review of the literature and established the following key findings:

  • Effective Sexual Health Education (SHE) curriculum must take into account the range of identities that influence the decisions all individuals make about their bodies, relationships, and sex.
  • Teaching consent is vital for individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) who are also vulnerable to unsafe and unwanted physical interactions, but also desire sexually intimate relationships
  • An effective SHE curriculum must facilitate the development of healthy relationships by addressing the broad range of experiences, capabilities, and desires of the participants and giving students the opportunity to access the instruction and assessment through multiple modalities.
  • The health benefits of a SHE curriculum that explicitly develops self-determination skills also offers the potential to improve health outcomes and reduce common risk factors associated with adolescence outside of sexual behavior and relationships.
  • Self-determination identifies three universal, innate and psychological needs: competence, autonomy, and psychological relatedness (Deci and Ryan 2000).
  • In a meta-analysis of sixteen studies that purported to assess the self-determination levels of people with IDD, Mumbardo et al. (2017) concluded that gender, disability label, and race/ethnicity were all associated with variations in self-determination measures (Mumbardo et al., 2017).
  • Designers of SHE curriculums need to consider these variations in self-determination when crafting activities meant to help develop the ability of students with IDD to engage in healthy intimate relationships, which are predicated on consent, a concept directly related to self-determination and a key concept in comprehensive SHE.

(Compiled by Eric Schildge, Interim Assistant Director for Outreach, Professional and Graduate Education, Mount Holyoke College)

Whole Selves staff and Mt. Holyoke is committed to creating an inclusive curriculum. To achieve this goal, we engaged in a rigorous process to test and refine the curriculum:

  • Curriculum refinement happened over 10 years, with the input and feedback of students, teachers and parents.
  • Language was created to be inclusive and avoid binaries.
  • Lessons were created for alignment between objectives, activities and outcomes.
  • Lessons were created to ensure coverage of core content regarding National Health Education Standards, self-determination theory, and transition planning.
  • Curriculum was created for adaptability so teachers can meet the particular needs of their students.
  • Supplemental activities augment the lessons, and can be repeated depending on the needs of students.


  • Scaffolded role-playing supports students as they develop independence and applicable skills.
  • Whole Selves prioritizes community building and self-esteem to encourage the development of autonomy and relatedness, two essential parts of self-determination.
  • Consent is taught in multiple contexts, including sex and personal relationships.
  • Every student receives the clear message that intimacy and sex are positive, healthy, and normal behaviors between consenting individuals.
  • Whole Selves prioritizes units such as “I Matter” and “Knowing Yourself” to support the development of student’s sense of self-regard.
  • The curriculum is comprehensive, addressing a range of transition skills for students to engage in healthy relationships.


Pre- and post-assessments were developed with the guidance of Mt. Holyoke College professionals for all units, as well as skills checks for all lessons, based on industry best practices and stated objectives for the lessons:

  • Student skills/knowledge related to the unit objectives are assessed at the beginning of each unit using the “Teacher Rating Scale” and “Pre-Assessment.”
  • They are assessed throughout each unit, through “skills checks” in each lesson including activities and exit tickets.
  • They are assessed using the “Teacher Rating Scale” and “Post-Assessment” at the end of each unit.
  • Student work samples are generated through each lesson and can be compiled as part of a student portfolio of their progress toward meeting the unit objectives.
  • Each assessment comes in Form A for readers, and Form B, which includes visual aids to help students who are non-readers.
  • When administering the pre-assessment, exit tickets, and post-assessment, teachers can indicate the type of form and level of support provided to each student using the “Accommodations” form provided with the assessments.

Assessment System – Click on images to view