Conceptualization of Intellectual Disability in the Social Work Environment

Miloš Votoupal

The aim is to determine what characteristics of conceptualizing intellectual disability (ID) are field-appropriate in social work.
THEORETICAL BASE: ID is understood as a discursive concept, whereby various ways of conceptualizing ID are interpreted in terms of social work.
METHODS: The identified characteristics assumed by four different types of ID conceptualization were compared with the characteristics of the social work focus. Individual conceptualizations were understood as “pure types” that differ from the various eclectic “views on ID” applied in practice.
OUTCOMES: By comparing alternative types of conceptualization of ID, two views of ID were identified: “static” and “interactive”. By comparing the characteristics of ID with those of social work, the following characteristics of a social work field-appropriate way of conceptualizing ID were identified: the inter-relation between the potential and accessible support of people with ID; institutionalized barriers to access to opportunities; and the relativity and dependence of ID on the situation of people living with ID.
SOCIAL WORK IMPLICATIONS: The appropriate characteristics of ID would help adjust the aims of social workers’ interventions towards greater support of the autonomy of people with ID and the promotion of their integration into society by unlocking the potential of both sides of the helping interaction.

social work, intellectual disability, types of conceptualization

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