Academic journal article The Journal of Special Education and Rehabilitation

Development of a Quality of Life Approach: Issues across the Lifespan

Academic journal article The Journal of Special Education and Rehabilitation

Development of a Quality of Life Approach: Issues across the Lifespan

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-US-ASCII text omitted.)



University of Calgary, Canada

Flinders University, Australia

University of Victoria, Canada

Recived: 01.02.2012

Accepted: 29.02.2012

Review article

Corresponding Address:


School of Child and Youth Care

University of Victoria

PO Box 1700 STN CSC

Victoria BC Canada, V8W 2Y2



INTRODUCTION: Quality of life as an approach to intellectual and developmental disabilities has developed considerable over the past 30 years and now is having major impacts on the research, the delivery of services and the setting of policy in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities.

AIM: This article introduces and describes the development of quality of life, its major concepts and principles and links them to research, practice and policy.

DISCUSSION: Quality of life is seen as a sensitizing concept and one that can bring further cohesion to research and practice and provide a framework for policy. Quality of life is, as a developmental process or approach, bringing together previous ideas such as normalization and pulling together a number of principles, which are relevant to those working in this field.

CONCLUSIONS: The ideas and the areas described are linked, and it is argued that a full understanding of the research concepts and their practical implications are necessary, if the policy is to become the driver of practice over the life span, while including intervention and support along with the education of personnel.

Key words: quality of life, intellectual and developmental disabilities, assessment, intervention, education of personnel


In many parts of the world, particularly in North America, Australia and Western Europe, the notion of quality of life has become an important approach in theory, research, application and evaluation. One well-developed area is in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities, which specifically relates to people whose major disabilities take place in their developmental years and particularly affecting their cognitive, social and emotional functioning.

In the past 30 years, the quality of life as a model or approach has gradually been developed in the field of intellectual and developmental disabilities. Prior to this changes had been brought about through work on normalization (1), later called Social Role Valorization (SRV) and developed further by Wolfensberger (2). This led, for example, to much greater inclusion of people with disabilities in the local community and education, and it was associated with the attempt to prevent from placing people in institutions and returning of those already there back into the community. The aim has been as far as possible, to place individuals with or nearby family members, so they can experience life in the local community, schools and employment. Much of this appeared because of the understanding that a very strong component of the disability was associated with environmental and particularly social environment, including community exclusion or restriction. If someone does not have experience of normal social activities and facilities, that individual is unlikely to learn or develop optimally (3).

The quality of life initially was seen as a sensitizing concept that encourages people to look at the nature of disabilities in new ways (4, 5). It has also been suggested that quality of life, like a Newton prism, enables people to see disability in a new light and consisted of different components which together make one whole. Disability, like a light, is a more complex phenomenon than its face value. In this context, in order to look at the lives of people with disabilities in new ways, the model of quality of life has been developed, which has resulted in a theoretical construct (6) or approach, as a research paradigm (7) and as a means of professional and personal practice (5). …

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