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About

Familiar Education and Training (FEaT) is the professional home of Erin J Basler, MEd.

Currently, the plan for FEaT is two-pronged: to hold educational materials, passion projects, and content; and to be the home base for a multidisciplinary professional community. Below is  the plan for community building, how and why FEaT came to be, and more information about Erin’s roles and background.

If you have questions, comments, or other feedback, let me know.

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The silos we work in – be they based on industry, professional cred, identity – are keeping us from making meaningful system wide change.

They are also keeping us from building on each others’ effort to find practices that bridge across our industries.

Think about this:

  • How many of us have run into a “unique” case that we don’t know how to approach?
  • How many have been “volun-told” to develop guidelines, policy, or tools and had to build them from scratch because of lack of examples or resources?
  • For those of us straddling industries, how many times have you translated a concept into another field…to be met with the corresponding jargon that means BASICALLY THE SAME THING? (Examples: Self-determination and Empowerment; “Nothing about us without us” and “survivor-led services”)
  • How many times have you learned about a resource that is commonly known in one field that would have been super useful before you learned about it in yours?

The first few times one of these happens, we use it as an opportunity to expand our own knowledge. After the tenth time, it becomes frustrating. Currently, the social tides are shifting in favor of making leaps forward in supporting human and civil rights around sexuality. I think connection is the first step to combining our activism efforts and necessary for using that shift to our advantage.

This project is born out of frustration.

I started in the field of intellectual and developmental disability (IDD) services in direct care with the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services (DDS) in 2006, got involved in human rights advocacy shortly thereafter, and became a sexuality educator – specialized in sex education for people with IDD in 2008 by training with Pat Carney and joining the DDS Sexuality Educator Network. I worked in a number of group homes where folks could have benefited from ANY kind of education about sexuality, but felt invalidated by a system that seemed to value credentials over experience and skill. I saw (and still see) my colleagues in the Network have sexuality added to their “regular” job duties – an already substantial set of tasks.

Based on my perception that I needed to have more academic training to be taken seriously, in 2010, I decided to get credentials. I finished my undergrad at UMASS, looking at disability policy and education access around sexuality – paid for largely by my State Employee tuition remission benefits. I was fortunate to be able to start graduate school the following academic year. I completed my Masters in Education focused in Human Sexuality from Widener University in 2014, again focused in sexuality education and access for people with IDD.

Prior to graduation in 2014, I began working as the Intern and Volunteer Manager at the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health – an organization based in the ideals that all people have a right to pleasure and the information they need to access it. I was offered the position through connections I made at Widener.

In 2016, on the recommendation of a coworker from the CSPH, I joined the education team at New Hope, a domestic and sexual violence (DSV) service agency, and transferred into the position of Disability Outreach Coordinator in early 2017. In this position, funded by the Office on Violence Against Women, I work with a counterpart at the Arc of Bristol County to make both of our agencies better at serving folks with IDD who have also experienced domestic and sexual violence.

In both my positions, I’ve been privileged to meet many folks in different segments of many fields that relate to the sexuality, DSV, disability advocacy, trauma care, education, and policy development fields. This includes advocates with and without disabilities, academics, sex workers, community educators, therapists, writers, designers, bloggers, and everything between…a community of diverse folks, each doing amazing work to make sexuality more accessible. Very few of the people in each industry were connected to one another – or had even heard of some of the work being done in other facets of our community.

Because of my history and connections, I end up on a lot of “short lists” in the sex and disability scene, especially in New England and sex ed circles. In 2018, I was invited to participate in two projects with large agencies interested in doing important, impactful work around sexuality education for folks with IDD. (Disclaimer: I was paid to participate in different capacities for each). Each organization held a convening of professionals with vested interest in access to sexuality education for people with IDD. The first convening was a learning day with guided discussion and was mostly attended by people involved in various aspects of the education and disability services fields. The second was a day of guided conversation and topic exploration with people from the public health spheres of education. Both events were productive, informational, and, minus a few of us “regulars” who had been invited to both, completely separate from the work the other organization was doing. These convenings were held in the span of six months.

We need to connect if we are going to make changes. I describe myself professionally as existing the middle of very specialized Venn diagram – with experience in many of the fields this community aims to connect. Making a chance for this community to connect and grow is my alternative to screaming into my loofah.

image from Maria Bamford's "Lady Dynamite: Maria, a blonde woman wearing a floral patterned dress, screams into a sponge pressed against her mouth with both hands while standing in a yellow tiled shower (which is not turned on). Caption reads [muffled screaming]