Parents living with Intellectual Disability

The right to marry and raise children has long been recognised as a fundamental human right. While these rights apply to parents with intellectual disability, their parental rights are sometimes undermined solely because a parent lives with an intellectual disability. Often, there is no assessment of the parents’ actual abilities or the likelihood that they could successfully parent with appropriate supports.

Article 23 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities states that a child should not be separated from their parents on the basis of a disability of either the child or one or both of the parents.

Parents who have intellectual disability may be closely scrutinized for any sign or symptom of abuse or neglect to their children. Parents live in fear of having their children taken away. Many whose children have been removed don’t understand why or how to prevent it next time.

Parents with intellectual disability

  • Experience negative assumptions about their abilities which lead them to have fewer opportunities to learn parenting skills
  • Often have money worries, lack support from other people or experience other vulnerabilities
  • Don’t often get the teaching support that matches their learning style

As a result, parents with intellectual disability experience a range of challenges including a reticence to engage with support because asking for support can be taken as a sign that their child is at risk; being undermined in their parenting role by support services that seem to parent their child rather than supporting them to parent their children. There is a perception that the NDIS planning around a parent who has an intellectual disability does not focus sufficiently on planning for a family.

Organisations and groups supporting parents with intellectual disability

Healthy Start

Healthy Start is a national capacity building strategy which aims to improve health and wellbeing outcomes for children whose parents have learning difficulties.


  • practical resources to support practitioners and parents
  • Hundreds of abstracts and references on research articles
  • Best-practice approaches and in-home education

Self Advocacy Support Unit (SARU)

The Self Advocacy Resource Unit, based in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia is an organisation that supports the development and running of self advocacy groups where people with intellectual disability join together to have their voices heard and support each other.

Reinforce Self Advocacy Group

Reinforce is a self advocacy organization for people with an intellectual disability that provides training, resources, lobbies government, holds forums, and promotes socialising and networking. Reinforce is run almost entirely be volunteers.

The Powerful Parenting Self Advocacy Group

Powerful Parenting Self Advocacy Group (PPSAG) is a group of parents with an intellectual disability who believe that most parents should be supported to have their children at home with them. The group is support by Reinforce and meets regularly to provide mutual support and think of ways to make the system fairer for parents with I.D. The group was founded and is led by Susuan Arthyr who herself is a parent with intellectual disability who has had her child removed from her care

PPSAG meet every month. Contact Susan at Reinforce on 9650 7855 or if you would like more information about the group

DSOs that facilitate peer networks of parents with intellectual disability


Intellectual Disability Rights Group (IDRS)

NSW Council on Intellectual Disability