With the number of Australians with intellectual disabilities steadily rising, the number is now being recognised as a national disability.
A new study by the Australian Disability Advocacy Network (ADAN) and the University of NSW and published today in the Australian Journal of Mental Health and Addiction found that, while it’s difficult to say precisely how many Australians have an intellectual disability, it’s believed to be around 10 per cent.
Dr Pauline Deakin from the University at Albany, who led the research, said people with intellectual disability are more likely to be disabled than others.
“We think that’s because their deficits in language and social interaction can be harder to understand,” she said.
“They have more difficulty in reading and understanding complex ideas, and that can lead to difficulty in working, for example, with other people.”
The study used data from a nationwide survey of more than 14,000 Australians conducted by ADAN in the last year.
Dr Deakin said while it wasn’t possible to accurately measure how many people had an intellectual disorder, it was clear the disability rate among Australians was rising.
“It’s a bit of a surprise because it’s been so long since people had a disability,” she explained.
“There’s been a lot of progress in terms of the diagnosis of people with a disability in the past 15 years, but we don’t know how many of those people are actually in fact disabled.”
Dr Deak said the number was much higher in the northern states of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Queensland.
“If you look at the data from the Northern Territory, they have the highest number of people who have an impairment in the Northern Territories, but they also have the lowest rate of people having an impairment,” she noted.
“In the NT, that’s around 1 per cent of the population.”
Dr Deskins said that was a problem because people with disabilities were more likely than others to suffer from depression, anxiety, substance abuse and self-harm.
“These people are more vulnerable to having a range of difficulties and to problems of coping,” she added.
“The more they struggle, the more likely they are to develop an impairment.”
Dr Alanna Schoeneberg from the Centre for Research and Education in Disability Studies at the University, Sydney, said the findings showed that “it’s important to recognise that people with an intellectual impairment are not just disadvantaged, but in some ways disadvantaged by society at large”.
“The idea that a person with an impairment is disadvantaged in their ability to work or communicate with others is a very dangerous one because it implies that the person who is disabled is incapable of thinking or feeling,” she told news.com and mail.au.
“People with an academic disability who are less likely to have academic difficulties can have some difficulties with academics, but these are relatively mild problems that can be dealt with with help.”
So it’s not that academics are disadvantaged in terms or that academics don’t need help.
“She said the research showed that there was a range in the levels of intellectual disability in Australia, but that there were also significant differences across states.”
What we see is that the more disability you have, the greater the likelihood of being disadvantaged in employment and education,” Dr Schoedeberg said.
Topics:mental-health,community-and-society,adults,behaviour,health,health-policy,australiaFirst posted June 02, 2018 08:21:47Contact Adam McLeanMore stories from New South wales