Identity is both derived from individual characteristics and group membership. It has been connected to improved physical, emotional, academic, occupational, and psychological wellbeing. While there have been significant gains in acknowledging the critical role identity plays in positive life outcomes for various marginalized and oppressed groups, one population has largely been ignored in discussions of identity: individuals with intellectual disability (ID). Positive disability identity, formed out of interconnectedness with others who have shared similar experiences and protective against stigma and bias, has been linked to increased self-esteem, self-acceptance, sense of self, sense of belonging, sense of pride and reduced internalized ableism. However, individuals with ID have reported avoiding identifying themselves as having a disability or avoiding others with ID. For too long, academics within service-oriented disciplines have contributed to a culture of surviving rather than thriving for individuals with ID. In order to authentically partner with individuals with ID to improve life outcomes, we must make a concerted effort to reframe our lens and language and engage in identity-affirming work. This manuscript identifies barriers to identity development for individuals with ID, their impact on long-term outcomes, and strategies that academics can use to foster positive identity development for this population.
International Review of Research in Developmental Disabilities, Volume 65, January 2023,