People with developmental disabilities teaching medical students – Does it make a difference? Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Negative attitudes towards people with developmental disabilities, including intellectual disabilities (ID), have the potential to contribute to the poor healthcare received by this group. The aim of this study was to evaluate changes in the attitudes of fourth year undergraduate medical students towards interacting with people with developmental disabilities after taking part in a communication skills training session. METHOD: Students (N = 128) completed an attitude scale at the beginning and end of a 3-hour communication skills session, and provided evaluative comments. The session comprised a lecture on developmental disabilities and communication, followed by direct contact with tutors with disabilities, and finally, a communication exercise. All tutors had ID, and some also had physical and/or sensory disabilities. RESULTS: A significant change in attitudes was evident, with the students feeling more comfortable interacting with people with disabilities after the session than before. Students reported that they had gained a greater understanding and insight into the communication issues faced by this group, as well as valuing them more as individuals. CONCLUSIONS: Even a brief information session, combined with the opportunity to interact with people with disabilities, can have an impact on medical students' attitudes. Further research is needed to determine how such experiences may influence their future practice.

publication date

  • December 2008