South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault & Family Violence

Guiding principles

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What follows is a list of guiding principles which relate to communication, counselling and recognition of life experiences:

  • Be sure the person knows why they are seeing you.
  • Be concrete and clear about boundaries and roles.
  • Allow flexibility.
  • Consider the psychological impact of the intellectual disability.
  • Consider the individual's life experiences.
  • Assess affective vocabulary.
  • Teach about feelings using concrete resources.
  • Be directive when needed - without "suggestion" to ensure the person is communicating their own thoughts and feelings.
  • Provide greater structure to sessions.
  • Work with caregivers where appropriate.
  • Consider the use of educational materials.
  • Gain an understanding of expressive and receptive abilities.
  • Determine what the person 'means' by their verbal and body language.
  • Determine whether you are being understood.
  • Be aware that the person may feign understanding so check and recheck often.
  • Use "Plain English".
  • Keep questions short, brief and easily answerable.
  • Be familiar with non-verbal forms of communication.
  • Adapt information to the person's level of understanding.
  • Provide verbal reassurance.
  • Reflect on and reinforce key issues.
  • Clarify feelings.
  • Be aware of the important role of family and carers.

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