Intellectual disability essentially means that someone needs more support to learn and understand information.


Particular conditions that cause a disability can form in the womb or in the developmental years of life and are often irreversible.

People with an intellectual disability may often have a different level of what is called “adaptive behaviour”, which is the ability to use what they have learned in a practical way.

This is often manifested in the form of an IQ below 70 and a higher than normal need for support in two or more adaptive life areas of:

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Intellectual disability occurs in one of three stages of development - Before birth, during birth or in early childhood. 


Intellectual disability is caused by genetic factors from parents or other factors that directly affect the mother such as trauma, substance abuse or serious illness, that can influence foetal development. Examples of genetic based disability include Prader Willi syndrome and Down syndrome.


Complications such as premature birth, trauma, lack of oxygen, prolonged labour or multiple births, all increase the risk of intellectual disability.


Lastly, during childhood, intellectual disability can come about after severe head injuries, brain tumours, severe malnutrition, severe allergic reactions or certain illnesses like meningitis or encephalitis.

For members of the intellectually disabled community there are many barriers to living a good life that others take for granted.


Every person in Aotearoa deserves the opportunity to create a full and happy life in their community. However, many people with intellectual disabilities are unable to fully realise their aspirations due to the currently limited support available.

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Hāpai is focusing on better supporting people who fall into the “middle ground” as shown in yellow above. These people need the most support to find meaningful roles in their communities, including activities and work they enjoy. The support available is currently limited and work also needs to be done to build understanding and inclusion for this group of people in our community.


A variety of support is already available for those who are most able and it is often easier for this group of people to participate in their community. Organisations like Kilmarnock Enterprises are leading the way in offering valued work and training opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. Those who need slightly higher levels of support can find meaningful roles within organisations like Trees for Canterbury - and many more.


People who need higher levels of support have access to more full-time care, funded by the Government Disability Support System through the Ministries of Health, Social Development, and Education. Registered Nurses, disability support workers, and full time care organisations provide the necessary in-home or residential-care support for those who need it.


Hāpai is addressing the current gap in support to ensure that all people with intellectual disabilities and their whānau can make short and long-term plans for a positive future.