Educating Teens with

Developmental Disabilities

about Healthy Relationships

The Partnership

University of Saskatchewan College of Nursing’s Dr. Lee Murray has been working with Saskatoon community partners for over 10 years to educate teens with developmental disabilities about safe environments and healthy peer relationships. The community partners include Canadian Red Cross, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools and the Saskatoon Sexual Assault and Information Centre. Dr. Murray and the current partners have been meeting with other community agencies to explore the possibility of providing sexual health education for all people with developmental disabilities in schools, communities and other settings. These community agencies include Saskatoon Sexual Health, Saskatchewan Prevention Institute, Saskatchewan Alternative Initiatives, OUTSaskatoon, Saskatoon Public Schools, Creative Options Regina, Saskatchewan Association for Community Living, Community Living Service Delivery Ministry of Social Services, STEPS (Strategies to Engage and Promote Success) and SARC (Saskatchewan Association for Rehabilitation Centers).

Red Cross
Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools
Saskatoon Sexual Assault and Information Centre

Working Together

Sexual assault happens all over the world, to both men and women, adults, teens and children and to people from all walks of life. One group of individuals that is often not talked about is teens with developmental disabilities. While the stats related to the sexual abuse of people with disabilities are shocking, there are very few services and supports to promote healthy sexuality and healthy relationships for teens with disabilities.

Dr. Lee Murray from the College of Nursing and individuals from Canadian Red Cross, Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools and the Saskatoon Sexual Assault and Information Centre have been collaborating on the Creating Safe Environments for Adolescents with Developmental Disabilities project for over 10 years. The project aims to promote sexual health, with the goal of preventing sexual abuse.

Using storyboards, interactive educational resources and puppets, Dr. Murray is able to connect with teens to comfortably discuss sexual health. The storyboards and puppet shows are used to give teens information about emotional health, healthy sexuality, personal rights and the establishment of personal boundaries. “We teach the students assertive communication, expression of personal feelings, sensitivity to others feelings and attitudes and provide knowledge about inappropriate behaviour and where to get help,” said Dr. Murray.

The project extends beyond the teens and also provides education, awareness, tools and supports for parents and teachers, enabling them to further educate and support teens with developmental disabilities. Parents and teachers learn about the myths and misconceptions regarding sexuality of teens with developmental disabilities and they develop the skills to promote healthy sexuality, prevent abuse and work with the teens to develop risk-management strategies. 

Dr. Murray couldn’t do this project alone. In addition to the community partners mentioned above, she also works closely with Learning Assistance Teachers in the high schools, the Meitheal mental health clinic at E D Feehan Catholic High School, and has actually worked with Red Cross to adapt their peer-to-peer training model to train and educate typical high school students and university students to deliver the program in the schools. She has trained a number of university students from a variety of colleges at the University of Saskatchewan, including College of Nursing students. 


Funding for Dr. Lee Murray’s project has come from a number of sources including the Community Initiatives Fund, Saskatoon Health Region and the University of Saskatchewan.

Bob Gibb, co-owner of the Awl Shoppe in Saskatoon and pictured above with Dr. Lee Murray and former nursing student and Project Manager Tara Leson, graciously donated three suitcases for the storing and transportation of the puppets used in Dr. Murray’s project.  

More Information

For more information on the Creating Safe Environments project or to become a community partner, please contact Dr. Lee Murray

To view the Creating Safe Environments full project video, please visit YouTube.