Communicative empowerment of people with intellectual disability

van Nijnatten C, Heestermans M.  Utrecht University, the Netherlands.  J Intellect Dev Disabil. 2012 Jun;37(2):100-11. doi: 10.3109/13668250.2012.678308.

BACKGROUND: Personal narratives are conditional for victims of sexual abuse to overcome their trauma. Counsellors can help victims with intellectual disability to take an active position in conversations about sexuality and to co-construct a personal narrative.

METHOD: Using discourse and conversational analysis, we studied 4 conversations between a counsellor and a woman with autism and mild intellectual disability.

RESULTS: In conversation with a counsellor the participant was able to express her inner emotions and understanding about sexual issues and other sensitive topics. She was able also to express disagreement and lack of understanding.

CONCLUSION: In spite of communication limitations, clients with an intellectual disability can participate actively in conversations with counsellors. Although a helping or encouraging professional approach may also be suggestive and affect the authenticity of the client’s narrative, it is the counsellor’s duty to prevent distressing effects within the interview.