Community Integration or Community Exposure? A Review and Discussion in Relation to People with an Intellectual Disability

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Abstract

Background  This paper reviews the issue of integration as it applies to people with an intellectual disability. A compelling finding is the almost exclusive orientation of the literature to physical integration within the general community of non-disabled people. Moreover, it seems to be generally assumed that the more frequently people experience such integration the better their lives will be.

Methods  We question the validity of this assumption on several grounds. It is social, not physical integration, that has a reliable positive influence on well-being. This is an important conclusion as some disabled people find effective social integration with the general community extremely difficult to achieve. Because of this, the consequences of an overly enthusiastic program of integration for such people has more potential to be more stressful than beneficial.

Results  We further argue that, as integration is being pursued to benefit the individual, the essential goal of service provision should be to achieve a sense of community connectedness, rather than being concerned with physical integration within the general community.

Conclusion  It is proposed that such connectedness is more likely to be achieved within the community of people with an intellectual disability.

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