Intellectual Disability & Complex Support Needs

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Intellectual Disability & Complex Support Needs

The Australasian Society for Intellectual Disability (ASID) has recently published a paper on people with Intellectual Disability and Complex Support Needs.

What do we mean when we talk about people with complex support needs?

ASID has recognised the need for a consistent definition of ‘complex support needs’ that will then allow people who have a requirement of complex support needs to be identified and early intervention to be in place.

Individuals are said to have complex support needs when intellectual disability occurs with other issues. – ASID Definition Complex Support Needs

These issues may include:

  • mental illness
  • complex health conditions
  • complex communication needs
  • behaviours that may be a harm to self or others
  • alcohol or substance misuse
  • homelessness or involvement with child protection or criminal justice systems

There may also be complexity through gender or ethnicity and being an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person.

People with complex support needs

Research shows that many people with intellectual disability will experience complex support needs at some point in their lives. This group of people is particularly vulnerable due to issues that prevent them from receiving early intervention and the right support at the right time. Therefore people with complex support needs are more likely to:

  • have unstable accommodation and live on their own
  • to be socially isolated
  • not have their individual service needs met
  • have less education and less likely to be in employment
  • require crisis responses and have engagement with police, hospitals
  • have more than one provider and may find themselves ‘bounced around’ services


However, on a positive note the research did show that having effective responses in place can make a real difference to people. This includes:

  • inclusive and person-centered engagement
  • responsive and adaptive supports
  • good planning around individuals and working collaboratively across organisations
  • integrated systems with a key coordinating agency


If you would like to know more about Intellectual Disability and Complex Support Needs please see the papers from ASID here 


You can also watch a video of Professor Leanne Dowse from the School of Social Sciences, University of New South Wales


Interchange is proud to be a member of ASID and have access to invaluable information and resources to provide the best quality service to those with intellectual disabilities.

If you would like to know how we can support people with complex needs, please Contact Us. If you are interested in our services please fill out our Customer Form, send it to and we will be in touch shortly.