Parkland Institute grant supports research project

The Parkland Institute has granted funding for the first time under a new program established this year.

Both the Parkland Institute Faculty Research Grant and the Parkland Institute Graduate Research Award aim to provide seed funding for University of Lethbridge faculty and their research teams, including students, in areas of public policy. Dr. Claudia Malacrida (sociology) and international graduate student Alan Santinele Martino are the first recipients of the combined $10,000 award.

Both researchers will be exploring information and services about relationships, intimacy and sexuality for people with intellectual disabilities. Malacrida will be gathering data on the policy and programming options that guide individuals, family members and agencies in their decision-making.

International graduate student Alan Santinele Martino, left, with Drs. Claudia Malacrida and Trevor Harrison.

Martino will be interviewing agency workers about the challenges and resources they experience in supporting people with intellectual disabilities in terms of sexuality and relationships.

Parkland Institute Director Dr. Trevor Harrison (sociology) says the projects fit well within the institute's mandate to research topics of interest to a broad audience, and which examine disparity between groups or organizations.

"Studying the issues surrounding sexuality in the context of an intellectual or developmental disability is an under-researched area that we are pleased to support both at a faculty level and at a graduate student level," says Harrison. "Research is a long-term process that often suffers in the initial stages for lack of start-up funds, much like a small business. We are hopeful that, by making sure projects like these get started, they lead to other opportunities for our researchers and graduate students."

Martino says that advocating for the rights and social inclusion of individuals with disability has always been a personal commitment.

"I have an older brother with cerebral palsy, and I believe that this research is a chance to connect knowledge and practice in a way that we can improve the lives of individuals with disability, as well as their families."

"For me, it is not possible to talk about social inclusion without considering sexuality. We need to acknowledge the importance of recognizing individuals with disabilities as sexual beings within their communities and providing them with opportunities for a healthy sexual development."

Martino is originally from São Paulo, Brazil. He came to the U of L to work with Malacrida after completing his undergraduate degree at St. Lawrence University in New York State. He plans to interview agencies, policymakers and community members to learn more about how sexuality is either integrated or not integrated into the process of working with people with developmental disabilities, and hopes to influence change at a policy level.

"The key objective of my research is to influence the policies and practices in the agency and government levels, identifying gaps and suggesting possible solutions."

See the video below for more on Martino's experience at the U of L.

This story first appeared in the October 2012 issue of the Legend. To see the full issue in a flipbook format, follow this link.