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Understanding Support

Under construction!

The Listen Include Respect guidelines are still being completed - stay tuned for illustrations which will be added shortly to help explain these guidelines!


For people with intellectual disabilities, families are often their first and most important supporters.  


However, anyone can learn to be supportive of people with intellectual disabilities.


Support usually does not take any special skills other than respect for the rights of people with an intellectual disability and a willingness to be flexible. 


Everyone who is working with people with intellectual disabilities should understand good support.

People with intellectual disabilities told us that having good support makes sure that:

  • they understand what is happening around them 

  • they are included and involved

  • they are developing new skills

  • they have the time they need

  • they are listened to and can say what they think

  • their decisions are respected

  • they can do their jobs or fulfil their tasks to the best of their ability


People with intellectual disabilities told us that the most important qualities of a good support person are:  

  • a good listener

  • friendly

  • have experience and knowledge about the work they are supporting with

  • trustworthy

  • encouraging skill development

  • supportive of decision-making

  • understand what support is needed and when

  • respectful

  • patient

  • able to explain things clearly using everyday language



It is everyone's responsibility to adjust the way that they work with people with an intellectual disability


Although many times a person may have a support person they work closely with it is not the role of one person to act as a go-between.

For example, in a meeting that includes a person with an intellectual disability, everyone must speak in an accessible way so that the person is included, not rely on a support person to 'translate'. 



Inclusive organisations should be able to recognise and challenge poor support and empower people with intellectual disabilities to do the same.

People with intellectual disabilities say that poor support is when:

  • people make decisions for them without including them

  • their supporters control what they do and when

  • their supporters overprotect them or treat them like children

  • they do not understand what is happening or why

  • they are not part of what is going on and can’t join in

  • they are not listened to

  • the supporter talks over them or answers for them

  • the supporter does things for them or to them not with them

  • the support is not about what they want or need but about what the supporter wants to do



Make sure that the person with an intellectual disability is always in control of their support. 


Often people with intellectual disabilities are not involved in who is chosen to support them or part of deciding how they will be supported. 

People with intellectual disabilities should always be part of any conversations or decisions about their support.


Useful resources


Good Support guide

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