Session 3 Tip Sheet: Healthy Touch

About Session 3
In session three, participants discuss the differences between healthy, unhealthy, and confusing touch. Please watch the LEAP Session 3 video and then review the information below to learn the main points of the training and how you can practice the concepts with the people who you support.

Main Points

How to Support

Touch can be healthy, confusing, and unhealthy.

Say the three types of touch out loud and use the terms in your everyday language. Ask the people who you support about the people in their lives. How do they touch others? Is it healthy, unhealthy or confusing? 

Healthy touch is when two people:

  • trust each other and give each other permission to touch, and
  • are in a place (public or private) that they both feel comfortable being touched.

Romantic touching of private body parts is healthy when two people agree.

As a supporter, you should always ask permission before you touch someone. You can say it out loud, such as:

  • “I’m going to ask permission to touch your face now.”
  • “I’m going to push your wheelchair to the table. Let me know if you don’t want me to do that.”

Remind the people who you support that touch is alright when both people give permission. Explain that romantic touching of private body parts should be done in private when both people give permission.

Explain that holding hands or hugging is ok for public places when both people give permission.

Confusing touch:

  • can happen when someone is  trying to help you, especially with private things;
  • is a touch you did not expect; and
  • is if you cannot decide if a touch is healthy or unhealthy.

Suggest ways that the people who you support can handle different scenarios, such as:

  • asking to be touched in a different way,
  • talking to a person they trust,
  • asking someone to keep an eye out,
  • asking for the door to be left open so that others can hear them, and
  • choosing who helps them.

Unhealthy touch includes:

  • hurting someone physically or emotionally,
  • touching someone without permission,
  • touching someone sexually without asking or getting permission,
  • someone talking you out of saying no to a touch you do not want,
  • someone asking you to touch them when you do not want to, and
  • someone asking you to watch them as they touch a private part of their own body.

Remind the people who you support that they are in charge of their bodies. It is their choice if someone is allowed to touch them. If the people who you support tell you that someone touched them without their permission, explain that it is not their fault and that they did not do anything to ask for that.

Remind the people who you support of some things they can say or do if they want someone to stop touching them, such as:

  • “Please do not touch my _______.”
  • “I do not need you to touch my ___ right now.”
  • “I have to leave.”
  • Move your body away from them.
  • Tell someone that they do not like the way a person is touching them.

You can change your mind about who can touch you.

Remind the people who you support that they can change their minds about allowing someone to touch them at any time.

Developed by the Partnership for People with Disabilities and the School of Social Work at Virginia Commonwealth University, 2019.
For more information, please contact LEAP.