This is the fifth activity on diversability. This activity can be used for reflection. You can find more activities on diversability here.



60 minutes


Between 9 and 16 participants.


A sheet of paper for each group with the description of the situation that they have to represent.


The facilitator shares with the participants some of the situations experienced by people with intellectual disabilities and for this purpose introduces with this content.

People with intellectual disabilities constantly live a paternalistic and condescending treatment from adults who share life with them: parents, siblings (even younger than them), doctors, teachers, classmates, etc.

One of the aspects they face is that, in general, they are not consulted in decision-making in situations that directly affect their lives, such as:

– Whether or not to go to the movies with people their age without adult supervision.

– Spend the money they earn on things that they like or interest.

– Maintain safe and healthy sex.

Sharing decision-making means sharing power and implies assuming that we all manage spaces of power, regardless of our appearance.

We can understand power as a quality of the human being, an attribute of their social relations, which is based on the possession of certain resources that allow a subject or group to realize their interests. The exercise of power affects the subjects of the relationship, helping to build their position and identity.

Under this concept, adults and people with intellectual disabilities have power, but people with disabilities encounter many difficulties in exercising it in their daily relationships.

So, if we want to be allies of people with intellectual disabilities, we must assume that we must share power in the decisions we usually make on their behalf. In this way, doubts and fears may arise about how the process will be and its results. This feeling is normal since it is not usual for adults and people with intellectual disabilities to share decisions, it is a new field, but very necessary to advance in an empowerment of people with intellectual disabilities.

The basis for sharing decisions – which are the spaces of power – is mutual trust between adults and people with intellectual disabilities, believing that it is possible to share diverse spaces and capacities to achieve common or complementary objectives. For this, it is essential to identify paternalistic behaviors, based on limiting beliefs about people with intellectual disabilities.


This activity really highlights the lack of rights that people with diversabilities have. It is an open discussion on the topic of people with intellectual diversabilities and how they have limited power over the decisions that they make in their lives down to how society sees and treats them.


  • Analyze the concerns, doubts and potential achievements of sharing decisions and power between adults and people with intellectual disabilities.
  • Identify patronizing, condescending behaviors.
  • Learn to avoid paternalistic and condescending behaviors with people with disabilities


The facilitator divides the large group into small groups of 3 or 4 participants.

The facilitator gives each small group a common situation in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.


1- Pedro is a 33-year-old boy with down syndrome who travels by intercity bus every Thursday from his town to the city to take dance lessons.

When Pedro goes to the city bus station, he has encountered many people who have tried to trick him into giving them the money that Pedro takes to pay for the bus. His fearful parents want to take him out of the dance classes.

2- Ruth is a 36 year old woman with down syndrome. While on holiday in her town, she was walking with her parents through a market. A lady from one of the market stalls addressed her and wanted to give her a SpongeBob plush toy. Ruth rejects the present saying that she does not like SpongeBob and that she is not a child. An awkward situation is generated for everyone.

3- Montse is 32 years old and has down syndrome. Herpes has come out in one of her buttocks, she goes to the doctor’s office with her mother.

Adults talk to each other about her, make decisions and do not tell Montse what is happening.

4- Clara is 24 years old and has down syndrome. On a summer camp with more people with syndrome down, one of the monitors tells her to put on sunscreen. Clara takes off her clothes in an open space, outside the tent and begins to apply the protective cream.

There is a great uproar among people who do not belong to the group with down syndrome camping in the same place, among the monitors, They cover Clara’s body in a hurry, take her to another place and explain that she should not get naked to put on sunscreen in public.

5- A group of boys with down syndrome, arrive at a bar to watch a football game, Spain is playing. The bar is packed with people and there is a line at the entrance door of people who want to enter.

Most of the group of boys with down syndrome are placed in line to try to access the bar, but Berto and Felipe are chatting animatedly and are placed right at the door of the bar, skipping the line to access. The monitor that accompanies them approaches them to indicate that they should wait in the line, the people in the line tell the monitor that nothing is happening, that they can pass.

6- Francisco is 39 years old and has a down syndrome, works every morning in an adapted job workshop. He is in love with Olga, wants to have her as his girlfriend and wants to have sex. His parents do not authorize him.

Each small group will have 10 minutes to rehearse their situation in order to present it in 2 different ways:

– With adult paternalistic attitudes.

– With other more equal and fair attitudes of relationship.

The rest of the participants will observe the improvisations.


  • What paternalistic behaviors do you identify with people who have intellectual disabilities?
  • What simple actions can you modify in yourself to relate equally to people with intellectual disabilities?