Positive Attitudes – it all begins with Positive Attitudes

The following research conducted by the Special Olmpics strengthens the resolve of www.myspecialneeds to change attitudes at our conference on 7th October 2010 in Dublin- see tab on home page “Including Samuel” for more information!

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Attitude Research

Multinational Study of Attitudes toward Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities

 
Download the Multinational Study of Attitudes toward Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities General Findings report (147K Adobe PDF file)Download Spanish language version (140K Adobe PDF file)

Special Olympics-commissioned study validates the longtime struggle to change attitudes of stigmatization and the importance of inclusion

For decades, many have believed that the doors to inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities in mainstream society have been shut tight because of misconceptions, ignorance and fear. Now, those suspicions have scientific validation, according to a groundbreaking study released by Special Olympics.

The results are in on a major international study that, for the first time, documents how the general population across cultures view persons with intellectual disabilities, and how they should fit into society — views which have far-reaching, negative consequences for the more than 170 million individuals with intellectual disabilities worldwide. The study was conducted in 10 countries across the world, with 8,000 persons responding. On Friday, 20 June, in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the Multinational Study of Attitudes toward Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities was presented as part of the 2003 Scientific Symposium, held in association with the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games.

 

Our greatest hope is that this study will serve as the catalyst for a real and lasting change in the public’s attitudes toward the inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities in every aspect of society in every country on the planet.”
 – Timothy Shriver, Chairman

 Highlights of the Findings

  • 46 percent of those surveyed believe that persons with intellectual disabilities are capable of playing on a team with others with intellectual disabilities; while only 14 percent believe they are capable of playing on a team with players who do not have intellectual disabilities. However, those respondents who had an involvement with Special Olympics believed in more inclusion, and they expected less negative impacts from the inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities in all aspects of society.
  • 53 percent believe that the negative attitudes of others in society — their neighbors — also pose a major obstacle towards inclusion in society.
  • 74 percent of those surveyed believe that people with intellectual disabilities are capable of performing a simple task like sustaining a friendship;
  • 67 percent believe that people with intellectual disabilities can wash and dress themselves;
  • But, only 36 percent of the respondents believe that those with intellectual disabilities could perform more complex tasks, such as understanding a news event;
  • And, only 19 percent believe that people with intellectual disabilities could handle an emergency.
  • Additionally, 79 percent of the respondents agree that children with intellectual disabilities should be educated in a segregated setting, either in the home or in special schools, with the remainder believing that they should attend a regular school, either in special classes or inclusive classes.
  • 54 percent believe that the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in the workplace increases the risk of accidents.
  • 49 percent of the respondents believe that the best living arrangement for people with intellectual disabilities is in the home; 9 percent believe that institutions are the best; 17 percent believe that group homes are best; and only 25 percent believe that people with intellectual disabilities should live in either a supervised apartment or totally independently.
 
Researchers, family members and Special Olympics athletes came together at the Special Olympics Scientific Symposium in Belfast, Northern Ireland, 19-20 June. An official event at the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games, the Symposium featured 50 papers and workshops on a wide variety of subjects under the theme of “Supporting Families.” A highlight of the Symposium was the release of results from the Multinational Study of Attitudes toward Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities. Pictured (left to right) are Dr.Stephen Corbin, D.D.S., M.P.H., Dean, Special Olympics University; Rodney Hankins, Special Olympic New York athlete and International Global Messenger; and Jennifer Norris, Co-investigator, University of Mass., Boston Centre for Social Development and Education. [Photo by Naoise Culhane, Ireland Out]

“While the results of this survey were not surprising to those of us who have experience working and/or living with individuals with intellectual disabilities, we’re encouraged by the very telling results that those who had an involvement with Special Olympics had better attitudes toward individuals with intellectual disabilities,” said the Chairman of Special Olympics, Timothy Shriver. “Simply put, these results are unacceptable. But, it strengthens our resolve to expand the Special Olympics experience to new generations of athletes and volunteers throughout the world. Our greatest hope is that this study will serve as the catalyst for a real and lasting change in the public’s attitudes toward the inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities in every aspect of society in every country on the planet.”

Overall, the survey shows that the general population lacks an appreciation of the range of capabilities of individuals with intellectual disabilities, and therefore have low expectations of how much people with mental disabilities can achieve. The study also revealed that the world still believes individuals with intellectual disabilities should work and learn in separate settings, apart from people without disabilities. It is very important that the results be viewed in a global context, as cultural values and practices vary from country to country. Thus, country-to-country comparisons are unlikely to give an accurate representation of the true attitudes behind the results.

The goal of the Multinational Study of Attitudes toward Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities was to document the social acceptance level of individuals with intellectual disabilities worldwide. In particular, the study focused on: how the general population views the capabilities of individuals with intellectual disabilities; the extent to which they should be able to employ those capabilities in inclusive settings; and exactly how far average people believe that persons with intellectual disabilities should be integrated into everyday society.

It is hoped that this survey will spur individuals, families, educators, young people, healthcare professionals, employers, service providers, sports and community organizers, and government leaders to address what can be done to promote the inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities in every segment of society. Suggestions include: more volunteerism with groups/organizations affiliated with the intellectually disabled, identifying and erasing attitudinal misconceptions of individuals with intellectual disabilities, and better education across all sectors of society as to what capabilities individuals with intellectual disabilities truly possess.

Commissioned by Special Olympics, the two-year study, led by Dr. Gary Siperstein of the University of Massachusetts Boston, is the largest and most comprehensive study ever conducted on this subject, reporting how people across the world view the roles and capabilities of persons with intellectual disabilities in the workplace, the classroom and in daily social life. The results will help researchers and laypeople alike better understand and document evidence of public perceptions and negative attitudes which millions of individuals with intellectual disabilities struggle with each and every day.

“By exposing the often latent beliefs of ordinary people towards individuals with intellectual disabilities, scientists, educators, social service workers, parents, friends and many others will be better equipped to combat the negative stereotypes exposed by this research. They will also be better equipped to encourage and grow the positive beliefs,” said Dr. Siperstein. “It is striking that, compared to the general public, Special Olympics families demonstrate much more positive attitudes toward the capabilities of persons with intellectual disabilities and their inclusion in society.”

“One of the greatest challenges persons with intellectual disabilities face is overcoming the barriers to inclusion in society,” said Shriver. “For many years, the athletes, volunteers and family members of the Special Olympics movement have known that the attitudes and expectations of the public determine the degree to which children, adolescents and adults with intellectual disabilities are able to learn, work and live alongside their peers without intellectual disabilities. Through this study, we now have conclusive and scientific confirmation of this long-held belief.”

The study uncovered a definite presence of negative attitudes — both within and across the countries surveyed — toward persons with intellectual disabilities. It also demonstrates the relationship between public attitudes toward intellectual disabilities and the practices within countries that impact the quality of life of these individuals. Attitudes, beliefs and expectations are, in part, influenced by the distinct cultural norms, values and variety of resources and services that are available.

 Overview of Results:

Education:

  • 78 percent believe that a lack of school resources presents a major obstacle towards inclusion of persons with intellectual disabilities in the classroom).
  • 78 percent believe that the lack of teacher preparedness presents a major obstacle to inclusion of individuals with intellectual disabilities in the classroom.
  • 66 percent believe that the negative attitudes of other students present a major barrier to inclusion in the classroom.
  • 53 percent believe that persons with intellectual disabilities pose a safety risk to others in the classroom.
  • 53 percent believe that inclusion of persons with intellectual disabilities into regular schools will impede the learning of the other students.
  • 53 percent believe that including children with intellectual disabilities in the regular classroom will likely create discipline problems.

Employment:

  • 76 percent believe that the lack of job training programs for persons with intellectual disabilities presents a major obstacle towards their inclusion in the workplace.
  • 61 percent believe that the negative attitudes of other workers present a major obstacle towards inclusion in the workplace, as well.
  • 51 percent of the respondents believe that persons with intellectual disabilities should work in either skilled or unskilled positions, with the remainder believing they should either not work or should work in a special workshop.
  • 50 percent believe that inclusion also will reduce the productivity of the other workers.

Community:

  • 67 percent believe that the public’s beliefs about the limitations of individuals with intellectual disabilities interacting in public pose a major obstacle to their inclusion in society.

Sport:

  • 46 percent of those surveyed believe that persons with intellectual disabilities are capable of playing on a team with others with intellectual disabilities; while only 14 percent believe they are capable of playing on a team with players who do not have intellectual disabilities.

Healthcare:

  • 27 percent believe that persons with intellectual disabilities receive better health care than the general population, while 39 percent believe they receive the same treatment and
  • 34 percent believe they receive worse treatment.

Media Portrayals:

  • 54 percent believe that negative media portrayals of persons with intellectual disabilities pose a major obstacle to their inclusion in society.

Across every continent, the survey shows that each individual’s image of people with intellectual disabilities affects the degree to which they believe persons with intellectual disabilities should be included in society. A curious finding is that most respondents believe that it is others’ attitudes about persons with intellectual disabilities — and not necessarily their own — that affect how persons with intellectual disabilities are included in general society. This was found in respondents’ answers across the three areas of work, school and community. They also feel that the lack of resources affected inclusion across the three areas.

“The results of this survey show that while there has been some progress in changing the public’s perception of the abilities of persons with intellectual disabilities, there is still much work to be done. Special Olympics will continue to be at the forefront in creating this change, helping individuals with intellectual disabilities to better experience life and the joy of sport,” said Shriver.

“We continue to challenge educators, employers, health care professionals and the public at large — worldwide — to introduce new opportunities for inclusion of persons with intellectual disabilities, and, once and for all, to dispel the myths surrounding their capabilities,” he continued.

About the Study:

Special Olympics and the Center for Social Development and Education collaborated with the Gallup Organization, Research and Evaluation Services of Northern Ireland and Center for Survey Research on the creation of the survey. It was conducted in 10 countries: Brazil, China, Egypt, Germany, Japan, Nigeria, Republic of Ireland, Russia, UK (Northern Ireland) and the United States. Sampling of the public was random, and respondents were selected from either a nationwide pool or from selected cities. The approximate sample size was 800 of the general public of each country, and 200 people from Special Olympics convenience samples of “family members” in Japan and the United States. The survey was administered either over the telephone or in face-to-face interviews. The margin of error is plus or minus three percent.

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