Psychology of Intellectual Disability & Autism

Terms of Reference

“..disability is an evolving concept ..disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others” [from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities]. What is disability?: Disability can arise from physical, sensory, cognitive, neurological or intellectual impairments. 

Intellectual Disability is either present at birth or becomes evident during the developmental period (i.e. before age 18). Other Developmental Disorders, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, are usually the result of cognitive or neurological impairments and can vary in their impact on the functioning of the individual.

Impairments that have no significant impact on a person’s functioning or are temporary in nature are not usually seen as leading to disability. While disability is permanent, its impacts can be lessened through effective supports and treatments. The World Health Organization (2001) considers disability in the context of the impact on a person’s wellbeing as a result of interplay between Body Structures, Body Functions (including psychological functioning), Activities and Participation, Environmental Factors (physical and social) and Personal Factors (such as age, gender, life experience etc.). The role of psychology in disability: Psychology plays a major role in understanding the impacts of disability on an individual’s social, emotional, cognitive, educational and vocational life. Psychology plays a leading role in the research into the nature of disabilities. Psychologists are involved in designing and delivering a wide range of therapeutic and systemic responses that aim to reduce the impacts of disability or to reduce the complexities that a disability might bring to other conditions. In assisting people with a disability, psychologists need to be mindful of, not only the ethical standards of the profession, but also the human rights frameworks that are essential to support a person with a disability.

People with disabilities experience the full range of individual and social life events that occur in everyone’s lives. As such, the practice of psychology in the area of disability is never more than a scientifically informed adaptation of the recognized psychological practice that applies to all.

Terms of Reference:

  1. To facilitate a national forum for discussion, peer support and information sharing among practitioners interested in and / or working with people with intellectual and / or other developmental disabilities, their families and support services. This will include, but need not be restricted to psychologists in the fields of Clinical Psychology, Developmental Psychology, Educational Psychology, Forensic Psychology, Health Psychology, Neuropsychology and Organisational Psychology;
  2. To promote high standards in professional development and the practice of psychology in support of people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, their families and service providers;
  3. To encourage research and publication in the field of psychology relevant to intellectual and other developmental disabilities, and the support of people with disabilities, their families and service providers; 
  4. To generate, acquire and disseminate knowledge concerning contemporary best practice in support of people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, their families and support services;
  5. To advocate for and promote best practice in support of people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, their families and support services;
  6. To establish and maintain links with other professional groups, self-advocacy associations and family organisations whose aims are congruent with those of the interest group and which are in accordance with those of The Australian Psychological Society Limited;
  7. To enhance public awareness of the interests of people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, their families and service providers, with particular reference to the contribution of psychology;
  8. To contribute to public debate and policy development on issues effecting people with disabilities, their families and service providers, in accordance with the policies of the Australian Psychological Society Limited;
  9. To provide expert advice to The Australian Psychological Society Limited on issues relating to the interests of people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, their families and support services.