Most people with intellectual disability get help, but many could do with more

In 2003, 2.5% of Australians under the age of 65 had an intellectual disability (436,000 people), and the vast majority of them (423,000) were living at home, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

'Intellectual disability can cause a person to experience difficulties in learning, making decisions, managing their emotions, maintaining relationships and interacting with people. It can also make it harder to cope in unfamiliar environments and circumstances,' said Dr Xingyan Wen of the Institute's Functioning and Disability Unit.

'For these reasons, people with intellectual disability often need increased support during times of change or transition in their lives,' he said.

The report, Disability in Australia: intellectual disability, showed that over half (60%) of people with intellectual disability living in households needed help with things like learning, making decisions, and managing emotions; 33% needed help with mobility, 27% with communication and 24% with self-care.

'Of those who needed help with things like learning, making decisions, managing emotions, interacting and maintaining relationships with people, 38% reported that their need was only partially met or not met at all,' Dr Wen said.

'Similarly, for those who needed help to communicate effectively, 36% believed they did not receive adequate communication assistance,' he said.

School-age children typically need additional help with the transition from home to school. These students are also likely to need ongoing support to participate in school activities.

In 2003, more than half of the 184,200 school students with intellectual disability were either attending a special class or a special school that offered special support. The remaining children were in ordinary classes. However, almost 30% of students with severe disability who start off in an ordinary class move to a special class or special school within five years.

Once out of school, labour force participation rates of people aged 15-39 years with intellectual disability range between 34% and 60% within this age group. By comparison, participation rates for people without intellectual disability are over 80%.

In 2003, 17,700 people with intellectual disability reported they needed employment support. They were either unemployed, or could work with special assistance but were not looking for a job due to their illness or disability, and they were not attending disability day activity programs.

Another 10,300 people reported needing help to participate in community activities. They were not studying or attending a day activity program; their main reason for not looking for a job was their illness or disability; and they could not go out as often as they would like because of their condition.

The report is an analysis of data from the 2003 ABS Survey of Disability, Ageing and Carers.

Wednesday 12 November 2008

Further information: Dr Xingyan Wen, AIHW, tel. 02 6244 1177 or mob 0407 915 851.

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1032.