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Disability support worker comforting a person with intellectual disability as they wait in Emergency

People with ​Intellectual Disabilities


After spending time in an Emergency Department, patients move to other parts of the hospital or they might be discharged. This movement is a transition. You will see Jeff about to be moved to another part of the Emergency Department, called a Short Stay Unit. He is with Amelia, his disability support worker, and Lynne, his sister. You will also meet Cassandra, who is with Johnno, her disability support worker and is getting ready to go to a hospital ward. Lorraine, the social worker comes to take Cassandra to the ward.

Applying the Framework

Diagram showing the four framework processes, with the Knowing segment highlighted.

Knowing that

  • Patients often move to different parts of the hospital before being discharged.

  • Like other people with intellectual disabilities, you might find these transitions difficult.

  • Short Stay Units (SSU) are cubicles close to the Emergency Department. 

  • You could spend up to a full day and night in SSU.

  • You may have to have more tests and a nurse will continue to check in on you and take your temperature and blood pressure, and take some blood for testing. You may also be put on a drip of fluids, be given medication, or be taken out of the cubicle for an X-Ray. 

  • You will be admitted to a ward if you need more tests or care before you go home. 

  • Information about you can go from one part of a hospital by computer or notes written down by a nurse, doctor or other hospital staff. 

  • Hospital staff may not know how to communicate with you using ways you are familiar with, such as signs,  gestures, pictures, or electronic devices.

Diagram showing the four framework processes, with the Informing segment highlighted.



The person with you will need to

  • repeat information with new hospital staff that are in the parts of the hospital you move to

  • ask hospital staff questions about where you are being moved to and why

  • tell you what they said so that you can understand

  • explain how you communicate to hospital staff and what you need them to do to take care of you

Diagram showing the four framework processes, with the Collaborating segment highlighted.

Collaborating happens when the person with you


  • is clear about what they know about your health and who can answer questions they don't know the answer to

  • tells other people who support you about what is happening

  • shows hospital staff how to communicate with you, especially if you use signs, pictures or a communication device.

Diagram showing the four framework processes, with the Supporting segment highlighted.



You will be supported when the person with you

  • uses your way of communicating when explaining what is happening

  • shows hospital staff how to include you in a conversation, even if you don't understand everything they are saying

  • helps hospital staff understand how to care for you and how to help you to relax 

  • calmly explains changes and transitions that are about to happen to you


People who support you when you go to hospital need to know about transitions that can happen when you are in hospital.

As a person with intellectual disabilities, you might find hospital transitions difficult because you are moved to new places and will see new people. A family member, friend or disability support worker needs to reassure you and tell each new hospital staff member what you need. They can ask hospital staff questions and tell you their answers so that you can understand a change is about to happen and why.  

You can find more information in the Resources tab about hospital short stay units.



These activities will help you to think about what you have learned. You can do them or your own as an Individual or with friends as a Group. You can write answers in the workbook that you can download onto your computer. 

Write down your answers to these in your workbook, or ask someone to write them for you:

  1. How do you feel when you have to go somewhere you haven't been before? 

  2. If you don't like being in new places or with new people, what would help you feel calm?

  3. What would you like a family member, friend or disability support worker to tell hospital staff if you have to be moved to a new part of the hospital? 

  4. What would help you feel reassured? 

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