Constructing adulthood in discussions about the futures of young people with moderate-profound intellectual disabilities
Background This study examines how those planning futures for young people with moderate-profound intellectual disabilities invoke, deploy and interpret contrasting definitions of adulthood and perceived capacity for autonomy and self-determination. Methods Twenty-eight young people were followed through transition from children’s to adult services. This paper incorporates data from interviews with young people, their carers and transition staff. Results Two discourses around adulthood were identified. One positioned the young people as adults entitled unequivocally to self-determination, invoking policy injunctions to do so. The second qualified the young people’s adult status and claims to self-determination, emphasising the obdurate reality of intellectual disability. Conclusions Transition to adult services for young people with intellectual disabilities raises difficult questions about the relationship between vulnerable young people, families, professionals and society. Reducing these to rigid moral polarities of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ creates an unhelpful context for good decision making. A more constructive approach would include all stakeholders in discerning ‘the right thing to do’.