About How to Hear Me

How to Hear Me is a resource kit for counsellors and other professionals working with people with intellectual disabilities

The WWILD Sexual Violence Prevention (SVP) Association Inc is pleased to present How to Hear Me: a resource book and accompanying DVD that together form an important tool for building the capacity of victim support agencies, counsellors and therapists to work effectively with people with an intellectual disability who have become victims of crime.

This book and accompanying DVD are designed to help build the capacity of mainstream counselling professionals to work with people with intellectual disability in their day-today practice. This resource is not intended to instruct professionals in the work they are already trained for, but rather to augment their existing expertise and allow them to adapt their current practice to meet the needs of a wider and more diverse client base.

Intellectual disability in Australia

Around 3 percent of people living in Australia experience intellectual disability. All counsellors have a professional responsibility to increase their competence in working with this broad group of clients, as they would with any other group of service users. In the past, people with intellectual disability have been portrayed as lacking the cognitive ability and insight to engage meaningfully in counselling. This, along with the lack of confidence that counsellors often express about working with this client group, has often led to people with intellectual disability being excluded from mainstream or generalist counselling services.

Counselling services that cater to the specific needs of people with an intellectual disability are rare. Thankfully, we are becoming more aware of people’s emotional and psychological needs and there are an ever increasing number of mainstream counsellors seeking to work with this client group. This resource aims to build the capacity of mainstream services to provide quality support and therapeutic interventions for this group whose needs are still largely misunderstood and under-recognised.

Fundamental to the purpose of this resource is the knowledge that people with intellectual disability in Australia are over-represented in nearly every area of disadvantage, for a wide range of complex individual, social and systemic reasons. For the same complex reasons, people with intellectual disability are significantly more vulnerable to becoming victims of crime than other members of the population and therefore more likely to experience trauma and require therapeutic counselling and support. We have given considerable space to discussing the ‘lived experience’ of this disadvantage in the first half of the book to support professionals to better understand this complexity.

How to use this resource

It is important to keep in mind as you read this book that a lot of the research referenced doesn’t make a distinction between different levels of impairment (i.e. people with ‘milder’ forms of impairment as compared to people with more ‘severe’ levels of impairment). This is another reason why this book should be viewed only as a guide. Getting to know the people you are working with as unique individuals is what is most important.

This book is written from WWILD’s perspective and experience of working with people with intellectual disability. It provides information to enhance understanding and practice skills in the counselling context when working with people with intellectual disability, including barriers to communication, useful therapeutic approaches, important considerations for practice and tips for legal professionals. The accompanying DVD provides a short explanation and demonstration of four individual counselling techniques that might be usefully applied in counselling practice with people who experience intellectual disability. It aims to contribute to the conversation about how this group can be better served and supported within our community, particularly within the mainstream counselling setting. We acknowledge that it does not contain a full account of the diverse range of critiques available by which to understand the experience of people with an intellectual disability.

We hope you find this resource useful.

Between the micro level of low self-esteem and the macro level of social disadvantage, there is also the mezzanine level of negotiating the everyday. People with a learning difficulty struggle everyday to understand what people are saying, tomake themselves understood and, above all, to not appear different. However, people can and do triumph over their difficulties, even if only partially. (O’Connor & Fowkes, 2000)

About WWILD

WWILD SVP Association Inc is a not-for-profit organisation based in Brisbane, Queensland, that works with people with intellectual disability who have experienced or are at risk of experiencing sexual violence or have been criminally victimised. Through its two program areas, the Sexual Violence Prevention Program and the Disability Training Program – Victims of Crime, WWILD provides support for people with intellectual disability who are victims of crime, and to the professionals, carers and family members who support them. WWILD’s work includes counselling and therapeutic groups; community education; court and legal support; research, resource development and advocacy; and information, advice, resources and referrals.

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