A program to explore how individual gifts can be nurtured and celebrated

To read on St Francis Xavier University website:

Diploma in Intellectual Disability Studies



Mary L. MacInnis


Program Assistant:

Cindy MacEachern


The Diploma in Intellectual Disability Studies is a series of five distance-education courses for professional and personal development. Courses are theory and values based, designed to build on the experience of the participants; they are not “how-to” or skills based courses. Each of us contributes to living as community and this program explores how individual gifts can be nurtured and celebrated.

The intent of the program is to build on the current knowledge and skills participants have regarding community living and human care. It provides an opportunity for deeper understanding and commitment to practice, enriching not only the participant’s life, but also the life of persons for whom she or he cares and their family and friends.

Current participants include parents and siblings of children or adults who have an intellectual disability, L’Arche assistants, group home leaders and workers, residential care facility coordinators, employment counselors, residential counselors, teaching assistants, and CACL staff.

Participants must have a minimum of Grade XII academic and one year experience working or living with a person/people with a developmental disability. Those who do not have Grade XII may qualify under the Mature Student Policy.

Fees (in Canadian funds)
– Application fee – $50.00
– Tuition – $515 per course (subject to change at the discretion of the University)
– Textbooks, course packs and videos – check the Campus Store website for details
– Shipping & Handling
– Tuition & Education amounts are tax deductible (Revenue Canada)

Each 12-week course is offered on a set schedule in either the fall (September – December) or winter term (January – April) and the program generally takes 2.5 years to complete.


Study Time
The five courses are required to qualify for the Diploma and each course involves on average 10-12 hours of study per week. Courses are also offered individually for personal interest (excluding the Practicum) and participants who wish to take one course can do so without formal application to the program.

There are no tests or exams but there are two written assignments per course; one at mid-term and one final assignment. Grades are assigned in a Pass/Fail format.

Student Support
Program Office – Participants may contact the program office Mon-Fri, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. (AST) toll free within North America or by email or fax at any time.

Course Instructors – have designated office hours through the program office toll-free number. Instructors are available at any time by e-mail.

Classmates – An important feature of the program is online discussion using Moodle. The asynchronous (anytime, anywhere) discussions allow participants to choose a convenient time to log on and comment on the weekly topics. They also read/respond to their classmates’ postings. Participation in the confidential, online discussion two or three times per week is required.

The diploma is a progressive way of addressing some of the toughest challenges in the field of disability and assisted living; the online discussion is an excellent forum for combining education and experience in the field through dialogue about theory and practice. Coming from a variety of backgrounds, the participants in the Diploma in Intellectual Disability Studies program share from the richness of their first hand experiences.


Why did the University develop this program?
Members of L’Arche had taken part in another distance education program through StFX both as participants and instructors. Based on that experience representatives of L’Arche Canada approached StFX Continuing & Distance Education to develop a program focused on individuals who live and/or work with people who have a developmental disability. StFX staff then approached representatives of government and private sector residential care facilities and asked them to join us in an advisory capacity in developing this program.

What curriculum does it encompass?
This non-credit 5-course program is for both personal and professional development and provides a historical perspective on society’s treatment of persons with disabilities. It provides an outline of the psychological principles of development and explores the care of persons with disabilities within the context of community. Individual course themes include a historical perspective on disability and care-giving; discussion of relationships, advocacy and vision as it relates to care; physical, psychological and emotional development; as well as an exploration of models of developing community.

Who should enroll?
This program will be of interest to people who work and/or live with individuals who have an intellectual disability. Current participants include parents and siblings of intellectually disabled children or adults, L’Arche assistants, group home leaders and workers, residential care facility coordinators, employment counselors, residential counselors, teaching assistants, and CACL staff.

What would it qualify people to do?
It will give people who are currently in the field, a broad perspective of developmental disability, community and all that it encompasses. The focus is on caring for and caring about people with an intellectual disability and to recognize the reciprocal nature of the relationship.

What are the prerequisites?
Academic grade 12 or equivalent, as well as a minimum one year experience working and or living with a person with an intellectual disability.


Please direct inquiries to:

Diploma in Intellectual Disability Studies

Continuing & Distance Education Department
St. Francis Xavier University
P.O. Box 5000
Antigonish, NS B2G 2W5
Local: (902) 867-4696
Toll Free (within Canada and Continental US): 866-551-7575
Fax: (902) 867-5154
E-mail: inds@stfx.ca


Thanks to Gabrielle who drawn my attention on this subject.

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