Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Living with the Label ‘Intellectual Disability’

LEVEL 03 - Years 2, 3, 4 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT Disability Studies

DESCRIPTION This study-unit will enable students to learn more about and investigate the socially-constructed barriers encountered by people who live with the label 'intellectual disability'. While the etiology of intellectual impairment will be addressed, the content will focus mostly on the social construction of the label 'intellectual disability' and on the barriers that people living with this label encounter in different aspects of life. Possible solutions to reduce, or even remove, these barriers will be identified and discussed.

The history of the label 'intellectual disability' and different perspectives that have been adopted will be outlined, and cultural representations of intellectual disability investigated. The different experiences of people with intellectual disability, including those who have additional impairments, across the lifecourse will also be looked into, focusing on experiences of segregation from and inclusion in the mainstream of society. There will also be a focus on the rights of persons with intellectual disability and the intersection between intellectual disability and other issues such as gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

The study-unit will also present the various ways that can be used to promote the empowerment of people with intellectual disability, including self-advocacy, self-determination, easy-to-read information and inclusive research. This is important to counter the tendency to view people with intellectual disability as being vulnerable, while ignoring their capacity for resilience and their ability to stand up for themselves.

This is not to say that people with intellectual disability are never in a vulnerable position. In fact, the study-unit will also focus specifically on the areas of work in which the students are likely to encounter people with intellectual disability in their future careers. Given the nature of the professions in which the students are likely to work in, it is highly probable that these encounters will happen when the people with intellectual disability are in a vulnerable situation - for example when they are suffering ill health, when they are the victims or perpetrators of crime, or when they are living in difficult material or emotional circumstances. This study-unit will cover these issues, highlighting the approaches that should be used with people with intellectual disability. Furthermore, in such situations it is likely for more than one professional to be working with the same person. Through following the study-unit together, students reading for different courses will be able to discuss together the relevant issues from the point of view of their respective chosen professions, thus preparing themselves for better collaboration in the future for the benefit of the people with intellectual disability they work with. The study-unit will also include lectures which are led by persons with intellectual disability with the support of the lecturer. The persons chosen are ones who already have considerable experience in delivering such lectures.

Study-Unit Aims:

The aims of this study-unit are:
- to enable students to appreciate the extent to which the difficulties encountered by people with intellectual disability are a result of socially-constructed barriers rather than necessarily being an inevitable result of their cognitive impairment;
- to present the history of the label 'intellectual disability', and different perspectives and cultural representations;
- to familiarise students with the different experiences of people with intellectual disability across the life-course and in different aspects of life, examples of good practice of working with people with intellectual disability and solutions to the difficulties encountered;
- to appreciate the resilience of people with intellectual disability and the different means of promoting their empowerment and self-determination;
- to enable students to learn about the skills, techniques and approaches they should use when working with people with intellectual disability in the future.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- describe different perspectives and cultural representations on intellectual disability and identify the different historical periods in which each of these perspectives was more common;
- identify the socially-constructed disabling barriers that people with intellectual disability encounter in different aspects of life across the life-course;
- demonstrate the different ways in which the empowerment, autonomy and resilience of people with intellectual disability can be fostered;
- analyse the techniques and approaches that they need to use when working with persons with intellectual disability and the skills that they need to develop to cater for the needs of these persons while fostering their empowerment.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- demonstrate how to work and interact with people with intellectual disability whom the students will in the future encounter in their various professional capacities;
- demonstrate how carry out other work, including research, using techniques and approaches that address to the maximum extent possible the power imbalance that usually obtains in relationships between people with intellectual disability and non-disabled people;
- discuss relevant issues presented in the lectures with people with intellectual disability co-delivering lectures within the study-unit;
- apply the knowledge, understanding and skills described above to a case-study.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts:

- Bachke, C. C. (2012). Professionals' naming of intellectual disability, past and present practice and rationales. Scandinavian Journal of Disability Research, 14(1), 56-73.
- Callus, A.M. 2013. Becoming self-advocates: people with intellectual disability seeking a voice. Oxford: Peter Lang.
- Docherty, D., Hughes, R., Phillips, P., Corbett, D., Regan, B., Barber, A., et al. (2005). This is what we think. In Goodley, D. and Van Have G. (eds) Another Disability Studies Reader, 29-49.

Supplementary Readings:

- Carlson, L. 2010. The faces of intellectual disability: philosophical reflections. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.
- French, S. & Swain, J. (2008). Understanding Disability : A Guide for Health Professionals. Churchill Livingstone.
- French, S. & Swain, J. (2011) Working with Disabled People in Policy and Practice: A social model Palgrave McMillan.
- Goodley, D, 2000. Self-advocacy in the lives of people with learning difficulties. Buckingham: Open University Press.
- Rapley, M. 2004. The social construction of intellectual disability. Cambridge University Press.
- Walmsley, J. and Johnson, K. 2003. Inclusive research with people with learning disabilities: past, present and future. London: Jessica.


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Case Study (take home) SEM2 Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Claire Lucille Azzopardi Lane
Isabel Bonello
Anne-Marie Callus (Co-ord.)
Rosanna Fenech
Maria Victoria Gauci

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It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2019/0, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.