South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault & Family Violence

Developmental & social consequences

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People with an intellectual disability do have a number of characteristics of intellectual functioning which can make learning, remembering, understanding and communicating, difficult for them.

No two people with an intellectual disability will have exactly the same intellectual functioning, even if they both have the same IQ, as is the case for the broad community. People with an intellectual disability are not an homogenous group, they are individuals with different strengths, capabilities and abilities.

The developmental consequences of intellectual disability should be taken into consideration to make access to learning easier, but should not exclude an individual from education, counselling and decision making.

(See overhead number 2 for a list of key developmental issues which can impact on a person's access to information).

Social consequences

As indicated in the previous activity, the social response to a person's intellectual disability can determine what impact the person's intellectual disability will have on their lives. People with an intellectual disability can learn, can develop skills and can have very similar aspirations as any person. The extent of their intellectual disability will determine how much support they need to fulfill these things but does not solely determine what they can do and experience.

The 'social consequences' of having an intellectual disability need to be considered to help understand why an individual may have difficulties accessing counselling or implementing strategies suggested in counselling. If the individual is disempowered due to the social response to their disability, or has not had access to education, or is over compliant they may have difficulty with a counselling situation which assumes independent decision making and assertiveness can be implemented by the individual in their life.

This should not exclude an individual from support but will impact on how the counselling and advocacy is offered and what the outcomes may be for the individual.

(See overhead 3 for a list of common 'social consequences' of intellectual disability).

Overhead 2: Intellectual disability training manual

Developmental consequences:

  • limited attention span;
  • limited recall skills;
  • difficulty with ordering time;
  • difficulty with causal relationships;
  • possible gaps between receptive and expressive communication;
  • difficulty with comprehension.

Overhead 3: Intellectual disability training manual

Social consequences:

  • limited access to education;
  • over compliance due to lack of opportunities to be assertive;
  • social isolation limited life experiences;
  • disempowered;
  • devalued status;
  • limited access to social networks or intimate relationships.

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