Self-Determination and Community Life in Persons with Intellectual Disabilities
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Personal self-determination has been understood as being a causal and conscious agent in one’s life free from unnecessary external influence or interference. This has been influential in intellectual disability (ID) discourse and practice. Residential settings for persons with ID can have elements that enhance or hinder residents' self-determination. There is a lack of research, however, on self-determination of persons with ID within community living contexts. This grounded ethnographic study explores the relationship between self-determination and community life in a L’Arche community home (Serenity House), where people with and without ID are invited to live together in a spirit of friendship and belonging. Serenity House was thus studied as a site, with informants (live-in persons with ID, live-in assistants and key live-out staff) participating in the research. An iterative-inductive approach was used to work with the data, which included interviews, observations, literature and visual material. Through ethnographic data analysis and theoretical reflection, insights and questions about selfhood, personal agency, relational identities, the role of the unconscious and power dynamics have emerged as being relevant to understanding self-determination and community, broadening and deepening the existing understanding of self-determination and ID.