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Working with intellectually disabled autistic individuals – a qualitative study using repertory grids

Rachel Worthington (Mental Health Care UK Ltd, Llangwyfan, UK)
Chris Patterson (Bangor University, Bangor, UK)
Neel Halder (GMMH NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester, UK)

Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour

ISSN: 2050-8824

Article publication date: 12 March 2018




The purpose of this paper is to elucidate how care professionals/providers construe, understand and make sense of the characteristics that are important when providing care to adults with intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder, based on their experiences of working within their roles within a residential care setting.


Care professionals and providers working at a community autism and intellectual disability service were interviewed to ascertain their experiences of working with this client group. The research design adopted a qualitative methodology using repertory grids.


Ten members of staff who agreed to participate formed the study’s sample.  This consisted of team leaders, support workers, one member of the executive management team and one clinical member of staff. Ten themes were identified for working effectively with people with autism and intellectual disabilities. These were: making autism-specific adaptations, approachable, reflective/self-aware, strong understanding of their residents/empathetic, benevolent, empowering, follows plans consistently, confident in ability to support residents with autism, resilient, respectful.

Practical implications

The paper discusses each of these ten themes above and how employers can aid in selecting individuals who may be more suited to working with this patient group.


A literature search demonstrated a lack of empirical research, especially qualitative research, on this topic.



Worthington, R., Patterson, C. and Halder, N. (2018), "Working with intellectually disabled autistic individuals – a qualitative study using repertory grids", Journal of Intellectual Disabilities and Offending Behaviour, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 22-31.



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Copyright © 2018, Emerald Publishing Limited

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