Identity and Meaning

Who am I?  This is a question that has been asked by almost all individuals at one point or another.  According to Erikson there are two answers: 1) Who is the person who remains the same within me throughout all of my experiences and 2) What group of humans do I most resemble and fit in with.  For individuals with intellectual disabilities the second part of the answer appears to outweigh the first.  ‘Who am I?  I am the kid from Special Ed.  I am the “retard.”  I am one of the ones that no one will eat lunch with.  I am one of the ones who rode the Special Ed bus and now rides a van.’  This identity of having a “developmental disability” appears to far outweigh any other individual sense of self or social identification for the individuals with intellectual disabilities with whom I have worked. This is a powerful identity that, for many individuals, clearly overshadows any internal sense of sameness.  Positive Identity Development is based on the hypothesis that the development of the individual sense of identity, the resolution of the basic question of “who am I?” in a positive manner that separates the self from the stigma of “disabled person,” becomes the foundation for significant psychological growth.

from Positive Identity Development by Karyn Harvey, Ph.D.

NADD Press, 2009

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NADD is a non for profit membership organization designed to promote awareness of and resources for individuals who have an intellectual disability co-occurring with a mental health disorder.

One Response to Identity and Meaning

  1. Donna Raphael says:

    I would love to learn more about this concept regarding my daughter who has ID and mental illness. I wonder about her self-concept and it seems she often sees the world as what she cannot be instead of who she is or who she can be.

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