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Choices for people with intellectual disabilities: official discourse and everyday practice

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date12/2009
JournalJournal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities
Journal number4
Volume6
Number of pages7
Pages260-266
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Official policy talk of “choice” for people with intellectual impairments tends toward fundamental life choices (e.g., who to marry, what job to work at) at the expense of the minor but more frequent concerns of daily living (when to wash, what to eat, where to go in the evening). Statutes and mission statements are unspecific about how any such choices, big or small, are, or should be, offered. They are also silent on the relation of exercising “choices” to institutional imperatives. To examine these particulars the authors undertook an examination of how choice policies are actualized in day-to-day activities in two group homes. Data were drawn from a broader ethnographic study of residential services for people with intellectual disabilities serviced by National Health Service Trust in the United Kingdom. Conversation analysis, used to explicate the interactions, showed how staff, although undoubtedly well-meaning, use the discourse of choice to promote institutional managerial objectives, thus demonstrating a gap between practice and overarching policy theory and recommendations.