PSYC 3850 Lecture Notes - Multidisciplinary Approach, Genetic Testing, Behavioural Sciences

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Published on 17 Apr 2013
University of Guelph
PSYC 3850
Chapter 1- Understanding Intellectual Disabilities
Historical Perspectives
Before 1800, having an intellectual disability was not an urgent problem because those with more severe disabilities were either killed
or died of natural causes at an early age
Earliest written reference to intellectual disabilities was in 1552 B.C., in a time where severe head injuries were not uncommon (=
abnormal behaviour)
Evidence that some surgical procedures were conducted on these skulls to “free” the evil spirits causing these behaviours
Primitive tribes viewed those with disabilities as an economic drain, as they consumed food/water but did not contribute
In the 6th century political authority determined that cripples should be helped, and distinguished between mental illness and
intellectual disparities
Early 20th century reproductive sterilization debate began; fear of disabilities promoted support for methods that would “control it”
(sterilization and isolation)
Disciplines and Professions
Disciplinary perspectives and contributions
o People with intellectual disabilities are similar to those without in their need for love, independence, support and respect
o Benefit to a greater degree from services like medicine, education, psychology, etc
o Characterization of intellectual disabilities has moved from a genetically determines and incurable condition to a more fluid
conceptualization which includes biomedical causes as well as environmental and social
o Only 20% of intellectual disabilities is caused by biomedical factors and incidence of milder forms of intellectual disabilities is
much higher for people of low SES (support for environmental influence)
Contributions of biological and medical sciences
o A physician is frequently the first professional to identify, diagnose and counsel parents of children with intellectual disabilities
o Medical research is another important area, and as a result it has not become possible to implement procedures that prevent
some forms of intellectual disabilities (ex: phenylketonuria)
o Advances in genetics have allowed prospective parents who may be carriers of defective genes to undergo genetic screening and
receive counseling regarding the likelihood of having a child with the defect
o Psychiatry is also involved in dealing with intellectual disabilities
Contributions of the behavioural sciences
o Three important areas in which psychology has contributed are
Intelligence theory and testing
Learning theory research
Interpersonal social aspects
o This is partly a result of experimental psychology
o Anthropology has focused little on these disabilities, but has added information about the adaptation of disabled people to their
environment (observation= qualitative data)
o Sociology has viewed these disabilities from concepts of social competence and deviance
o The law has also been an important force, which operates in an adversarial role
Contributions of education
o The role of education in intellectual disabilities is primarily one of providing effective research-based instruction
o Contributions have been to
Identify needs
Stimulate research and theory
Coordinate and deliver instruction and related services
o Identifying children with intellectual disabilities was one of the earliest efforts
IQ test was first developed, then it was recognized that social factors were also important in determining a child’s present
and future performance levels
o Educators act as a catalyst core, stimulating the efforts of the disciplines and then using their findings
Disciplinary collaboration
o Lack of interdisciplinary collaboration results in les effective service delivery
o 2 factors have prompted the progress of bridging the gaps among perspective
People with intellectual disabilities being served are the ultimate beneficiaries of improved cooperation
Realization that something can actually be done to promote interdisciplinary collaboration
o Cooperation is also important at the practitioner level- the contact point between the service delivery system and the person with
an intellectual disability
o Inclusion (placing children in general education classes) requires collaboration between general and special educations and other
team members (ex: psychologists)
Intellectual Disabilities as a Concept
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