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PSME439 Intellectual Disability: Theory into Practice

The application of philosophical frameworks within practice to support individuals to optimise health, behavioural challenges and service access for people with intellectual disability across the lifespan.

This paper will advance the knowledge base, clinical and practical skills of health and disability practitioners working in the specialist field of and alongside people with an intellectual disability. The core aim is to understand the current philosophical underpinnings within the sector and to explore the application of practical tools to support individuals and communities to proactively manage physical health, dual diagnosis, behavioural and access challenges that arise for people living with intellectual disability across the lifespan.

Paper title Intellectual Disability: Theory into Practice
Paper code PSME439
Subject Psychological Medicine
EFTS 0.25
Points 30 points
Teaching period Semester 1 (Distance learning)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $3,018.75
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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NURS 433 and PSMX 439
Limited to
MHealSc, PGCertHealSc, PGDipHealSc

The applicant will:

  • Hold a professional health/education qualification and/or undergraduate degree
  • Be a professional working in the health and/or disability sector
  • Nurses must hold registration from a three-year programme or course, congruent with the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance (HPCA) Act (2002).

Teaching staff
Staff from the Centre for Postgraduate Nursing Studies and the Department of Psychological Medicine.
Paper Structure

To understand the population and their citizenship in the community, the application of philosophical drivers in the disability sector are demonstrated through a range of topics, which include but are not limited to:

  • Diagnostics
  • Autistic Spectrum Disorder
  • Prader Willi and Downs Syndrome
  • Health care and ageing with intellectual disability
  • Movement disorders
  • Applying evidence-based models into practice
  • Ethical and legal frameworks
  • Sexuality
  • Positive behaviour support
  • Child and adolescent neurodevelopment and pharmacology.
Teaching Arrangements

This Distance Learning paper is a combination of remote and in-person teaching.

This paper is taught with a blended learning approach and combines on-campus and online study days. This may be up to 8 days across the semester.

There are no required textbooks for this paper. Recommended reading and texts will be advised.
Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Interdisciplinary perspective, Lifelong learning, Scholarship, Communication, Critical thinking, Cultural understanding, Ethics, Environmental literacy, Information literacy, Research, Self-motivation, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Within their scope of practice, students who successfully complete the paper, will be able to:

  • Critique a relevant philosophy and demonstrate how it underpins their professional practice within the intellectual disability sector
  • Synthesise a range of evidence-based literature, research, national and international guidelines as they pertain to the student's professional role working alongside people with an intellectual/learning disability
  • Discuss the underlying ethical concepts informing practice that is respectful of personhood and relevant to supporting people with an intellectual disability within their context of family and whänau and/or systems support
  • Evaluate key elements that should be considered at each stage of transition across the lifespan
  • Demonstrate an understanding of culturally responsive inter-professional roles and collaborations between individuals, family and whänau, communities, health, disability and education services
  • Operationalise the principles of positive behaviour support
  • Demonstrate advanced knowledge about the implications and management of the prevalent physical and mental health conditions that present in people with an intellectual/learning disability and alongside differing aetiologies
  • Appraise and apply a model of community care that advances their practice and achieves commonly identified human rights and quality of life goals for people with an intellectual/learning disability, including community integration, meaningful relationships, education and employment.
  • Analyse the utility and application of statutory legal frameworks to demonstrate practice competency in their area of practice

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This paper is double coded. If you are on a nursing pathway and wish to enrol in the Intellectual Disability paper you should register for NURS433 rather than PSME439


Literature Review 30%
Project 30%
Case Study 40%

Further information

Judith Stone
Department of Psychological Medicine
University of Otago, Christchurch
PO Box 4345, Christchurch, New Zealand
Tel 64 3 372 6704

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Semester 1

Teaching method
This paper is taught through Distance Learning
Learning management system