Evidence based practice and Intellectual Disability

Intellectual Disability(ID) may be caused by factors that are physical, genetic and/or environmental. There are a number of syndromes associated with intellectual disability some of which are, Down syndrome, Fragile X syndrome, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder (FASD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD). There is no cure for an ID.


ID has been approached by practitioners through various interventions that target learning, language, working with parents and behaviour. Evidence based practices(EBP) in ID are those that have demonstrated a reduction in symptoms in a relatively short period of time to improve a person’s’ abilities across a number of or a specific area.

Genetic conditions (eg. Down syndrome and Fragile X syndrome), problems during pregnancy (a mother who drinks alcohol while pregnant may result in FASD baby), problems at the time of birth, health problems such as measles or meningitis and exposure to environmental toxins like lead or mercury can also cause an ID all of which maybe be approached through differing practices.

ID may also be referred to as a ‘developmental disability’ which is a broader term that can also include ASD, cerebral palsy,  developmental delay, and other disorders that occur during the developmental period (birth to age 18).

As with all evidence based practices it is worth considering the following when you are looking for an intervention or a program:

  • There is a clear rationale behind the strategies being used
  • Has the research been conducted by clinicians with expertise in the area
  • Has the intervention considered the individual’s’ needs
  • Effective interventions and programs are those that work in other environments and with other people

Practices that are inclusive demonstrate the following criteria:

  • Holistic- it can be used across many areas of the individual’s’ life
  • Connectedness- easily linked to many parts of a person’s’ life
  • Adaptive- it can be adjusted to individuals’ needs
  • Participative- allows involvement and participation by the individual
  • Implementation/Generalisation- can easily be applied to the person’s life and extend  to other environments
  • Resources- materials to support the practice are easy to access

If your child is diagnosed with an ID you need to think about your child’s areas of strengths and deficits. The organisation of your child’s assessments  will inform your pathway for further investigation as to what you need to do next.  Use the above information to help you formulate your questions when a looking for an intervention or when one is recommended to you. For more help with this check out our ID planning flowchart.

Sorry, this article is for subscribers only.

Subscribe now to unlock this article,
plus a range of exclusive member benefits:

Sign up today for our 15 day FREE trial

Membership costs just $9.95 per month (AUD) for unlimited access. There’s no lock in contracts and no cancellation fees.

Subscribe now and start exploring the benefits:

  • Over 350 online resources
  • ASD, ID & ADHD support
  • Written & visual tools
  • All learning abilities
  • Ready-to-use downloads
  • Global online community
  • Events, workshops & seminars
  • Login anywhere, anytime!
  • No lock in contracts

Find out more →

Join Login