Intellectual Disabilities and Supportive Rehabilitation: Developing an Individualized Support Plan (ISP)

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Intellectual disabilities (ID, formerly mental retardation) have many medical causes. As such, these disabilities may manifest in different ways. The specific set of symptoms will vary according to each medical cause. Depending on the origins of the disability, medical treatment can be helpful. For instance, some people with IDs have mobility problems. Therefore, mobility devices are useful. However, medical treatment alone is inadequate to address the many types of impairments and limitations.

As intellectual disabilities are not illnesses, there are no treatments per se. Instead, interventions focus on identifying abilities and limitations. The goal is to provide sufficient supports that maximize each person's functioning. In this respect, we may speak of rehabilitation, rather than of treatment. In this section, we discuss the strategies used in supportive rehabilitation.


Developing an Individualized Support Plan (ISP):

When someone is ill, health care professionals develop an individualized treatment plan. The treatment plan is designed to correct, or limit, the harmful symptoms. However, intellectual disability (ID, formerly mental retardation) is not an illness. Therefore, a different type of plan is developed. This plan is called an individualized support plan (ISP). The first goal of the ISP is to assess the individual needs and abilities of each person. The second goal is to identify a strategic approach that maximizes functioning. This is accomplished by using strengths to offset limitations. Ultimately, the primary objective of the ISP is to optimize functioning and life satisfaction. This is achieved by creating a match between a person's environment, and their abilities.

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ISPs are developed and executed by a team of professionals. However, the success of the ISP rests upon a collaborative alliance between the team, the person with the disability, and caregivers. Accordingly, psychologists, social workers, nurses, doctors, speech and occupational therapists, teachers, and service coordinators are just a few of the professionals who develop and execute the ISP.

Early intervention is crucial. This ensures the optimal development of children with ID. Some early intervention programs begin at birth. These early intervention programs serve multiple functions. First, they inform caregivers about early child development. Second, they help children grow and learn by working with their strengths and limitations. Third, families learn specialized techniques to help children function to the best of their abilities. Settings for these programs may include home, school, and community.

Individualized support plans (ISPs): Intellectual functioning & education

The diagnosis of intellectual functioning (ID) is determined by a variety of tests. These tests assess intellectual and functional limitations. These tests have been reviewed in another section. Through this testing process, relative strengths and weaknesses are identified. Individualized Support Plans (ISP) do not typically reassess this. Instead, the ISP evaluates the abilities and limitations of the person. Based on this evaluation, the ISP identifies what additional supports are needed to ensure optimal functioning. Furthermore, the ISP determines the best method to provide these supports.

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