Working Alongside People with Intellectual and Learning Disabilities

Fact sheets & resources


This a brief introduction to some of the techniques used at WWILD for individual counselling for more detailed information please contact us.

Hayes (2006) advocates for the use of Cognitive Behavioural Techniques for people with intellectual disabitlies.  In our experience this technique is useful if it is broken down to its simplest components and you adjust your language and use of naming emotions to the level at which the person is at.

Narrative counselling is used by the current WWILD Counsellor as her practice framework.  This technique supports people as storytellers who make meaning of their live within the discourse available to them.  The Dulwich Centre - provides a great range of resources and information if you are interested in this practice.  Women find this method useful as they are able to explain their lives within the language available to them without feeling judged.

Sandpit play is also used by our counsellor and is very successful for the women who access counselling.  When people have limited language or expressive language getting them to express their feelings through play is a useful way of gaining a picture of what the experience of a person is for a therapist.  It is often used with children and is useful for women we work with not because they are eternal children, but because they often have a limited range of language and words to describe emotions.  This American website contains some useful articles on sandpit play

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy is a useful technique in working with people because it builds on their capacity to accept and commit to their lives without demanding movement from them.  Once again it needs to be presented to them at their level.  It is useful because people often have limited power and control over their lives and so if they are counselled with techniques that seek to change them and their circumstances – this is often unachievable.  A technique that enables them to be where they are without struggle can open up their lives to at peace where they are at.   If you are looking for information

Being creative is very important in working with our women.  If you can’t say it can you draw it (Spencer, 2007) is a way of supporting people to show you the feelings that they may not have the words to describe.  Robinson (2009) found that the use of doing a narrative collage is useful and we have used this technique in both research and counselling with the women who come to WWILD.  Visual techniques - Using feelings cards or other kinds of therapeutic cards that give people the opportunity to pick an image of what they are feeling and explain it to you.

We are happy to discuss ways of supporting people with you any time.


Bender, M., 1993, “The unoffered chair; the history of therapeutic disdain towards people with learning difficulty” Clinical Psychology Forum, Issue 54: pp 7-12.

Chenoweth, L. 1995 in French, P. 2007, "Disabled Justice: the barriers to justice for persons with disability in Queensland" Queensland Advocacy Incorporated.

Hayes, S. 2006, "Cognitive behavioural therapy for people with ID who are victims of crime – can it be accessed and does it work?" 5th World Congress of Cognitive and Behavioural Therapies, Barcelona, 11-14 July 2007

Jackson, R, O’Connor, M & Chenoweth, L. 2006, "Journeys of Exclusion" Community Living Association, Brisbane.

Mitchell, A. & Clegg, J. 2005, "Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder a helpful concept for adults with intellectual disability?" Journal of Intellectual Disability Research.  Vol 49 552-559

Mitchell, A., Clegg, J., Furniss, F. 2006, “Exploring the Meaning of Trauma with Adults with Intellectual Disabilities” Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, Vol. 19. pp. 131–142

Rapley, M. 2004, "The Social Construction of Intellectual Disability" Murdock University, WA

Spencer, M. 2007, "Beyond Measure: Assessing the support needed by parents with intellectual disability" University of Sydney, Sydney.

Sobsey, D. 1994, "Violence and abuse in the lives of people with disabilities: The end of silent acceptance?" Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company.

Wilson, C. & Brewer, N. 1992, “The incidence of criminal victimization of individuals with an intellectual disability” Australian Psychologist,  27:. 714-26.

Sandra Seymour © 2010.

WWILD Sexual Violence Prevention Program is funded by the Department of Communities, QLD. & the WWILD Victims of Crime Disability Training Program is funded by the Department of Justice and Attorney-General, QLD

WWILD Phone: (07) 3262 9877 Email: Address: 211 Hudson Road, WOOLOOWIN QLD 4030 Contact hours: Monday to Friday 8.30am - 4.30pm