The pearl in the middle: A case study of social interactions in an individual with a severe intellectual disability Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: People with severe intellectual disability have limited communication skills, small social networks, and may experience isolation. Little is known about how interactions occur with social network members and the role of social support. METHOD: An adult with a severe intellectual disability was observed in her daily environments. Her social network members were identified and interviewed. Data were analysed using a grounded theory approach. RESULTS: Fourteen social network members were identified. People with severe intellectual disability interact in different ways, which may not be understood by network members or conform to normative expectations. Still, network members experienced enjoyment, personal satisfaction, and love in their interactions. CONCLUSIONS: Social interactions with people with severe intellectual disability are challenging. The results point to the benefits of a focus on learning that makes interactions meaningful for each individual, sharing that information with network members, and considering ways to increase interactions and extend the social network.

publication date

  • September 2010