Supports Intensity Scale®

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Supports and SIS

What are supports?

Supports refer to an array of resources and strategies, including individuals, agencies, money or tangible assets, assistive devices, or environments that enable people with developmental disabilities live in typical community settings.

The nature of supports has changed in that care in restricted settings such as institutions has been replaced with supports to enable people to live as fully participating members of their community. This concept has revolutionized the way habilitation and education services are provided to persons with intellectual disabilities. Rather than mold individuals into pre-existing diagnostic categories and force them into existing models of service, the supports approach evaluates the specific needs of the individual and then suggests strategies, services, and supports that will optimize individual functioning. The supports approach recognizes that individual needs and circumstances will change over time. 


AAIDD and Supports

The American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (Formerly AAMR) has been a leading force in advocating the supports paradigm. In 1992, AAIDD published the first and only supports-based definition and classification system of mental retardation, making it the most progressive disability diagnostic system available for people with significant cognitive disabilities. Over the last twenty years, supporting people in community settings has been recognized as the new way of thinking the disabilities field and AAIDD has been developing tools and materials to advance this paradigm. AAIDD updated its supports-based classification system in 2002 in Mental Retardation: Definition, Classification and Systems of Supports (10th edition). The Supports Intensity Scale, published in 2004, is the first assessment tool that enables professionals to put the concept of supports into practice by allowing persons with intellectual disabilities plan a life of their choice in their community.

Learn more about how SIS reflects the strides society has made in thinking about disabilities.

Learn more about the AAIDD supports-related initiatives.

Learn more about Classification and Intellectual Disability