People with intellectual disabilities differ in certain aspects from other people and may therefore experience stigma. This may influence their sense of belonging in the community. This study examined how to train health care students to take into account the insider perspective of their future clients.
Four students examined the images of people with intellectual disability among students in the allied health professions and people with intellectual disability (PwID) themselves. They interviewed each other, six other health care students and six people with intellectual disabilities. The interviews were transcribed and analyzed using a word-processing program.
The interviews revealed several themes relevant for the sense of belonging of PwID and the students themselves. “Unknown, unloved” appeared as an important theme, while learning to know people with intellectual disabilities made that they were seen as individuals “that you cannot lump together”. An additional theme centered on “becoming a professional” showing how students developed a sense of belonging to their future professional group. Listening to the insider perspective revealed a shift towards issues relevant for daily life with ID. While listening to the insider perspective, students tended to avoid the painful side of the stories told.
Educating students to take into account the insider perspective of people with disabilities requires a dual focus on issues relevant to care and to daily life with a disability. While becoming a professional, students need to learn how to deal with painful emotions of their future clients. Educating students to listen without prejudice to the stories of their future clients also requires that they explore their own experiences, images and values regarding disability.