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The dilemma for staff in 'playing a game' with a person with profound intellectual disabilities: empowerment, inclusion and competence in interactional practice.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date05/2008
JournalSociology of Health and Illness
Number of pages19
Original languageEnglish


Games between staff and people with intellectual disabilities serve to promote social engagement and inclusion. However, when the person has limited and idiosyncratic communicative abilities, it may be hard to gauge what his/her own view of the matter is. We examine video-taped records of two episodes in which a staff member of a group home prompted a resident with profound intellectual disabilities to play a verbal and a non-verbal 'game'. We examine how the staff member in these two cases designs her actions to solve the dilemma she faces between, on the one hand, abandoning an activity when the resident does not provide clear indications that she/he wants to continue or, on the other hand, persisting with it until the resident begins to enjoy it or, at least, participate more fully. The solution lies in a pervasive institutional practice: treat resistance or ambiguity as temporary reluctance. We discuss these interactions as examples of how principles of empowerment, inclusion and independence play out in the details of everyday interaction.

Bibliographic note

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