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Effective workplace communication with employees with an intellectual disability



Welcome to Work Talk.

The team who put the manual together and the Department of Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs who funded its production, hope you find it useful in your work supporting employees with disabilities.

Aim of this manual

The aim of the manual is to bring together information about and strategies for effective workplace communication in Disability Employment Services. It focuses on the communication between the employee with a disability (we've called them 'supported employees' here, but your service may use a different term) and staff who work with them directly (again, we've used the term 'support staff' but your service may use terms like supervisor, team leader or job coach). If you have a different role, you may find the examples and case studies less familiar or directly relevant but we hope you will still be able to make use of the strategies we suggest for your workplace communication with supported employees, specifically those with an intellectual disability.

Worktalk introduces a fictional business service, Merrinvale Enterprises. Throughout the manual you will meet a number of people connected with Merrinvale, including some of its supported employees and support staff (who Merrinvale call 'supervisors'). Merrinvale provides the 'stage' for case studies and scenarios that illustrate the communication situations support staff may encounter in their everyday work with people with intellectual disabilities.

Merrinvale Enterprises is used as the organisation for the case studies presented throughout the workbook. The Implementation Guide includes information and background about Merrinvale and its staff.

Relationship to the Disability Service Standards

Using Work Talk will assist services to meet the requirements of a number of standards. For example, it will be useful in relation to Standard 11, provision of appropriate and relevant training and skills for each staff member.


This manual has four sections:

The learning topics are based around communication situations you are likely to encounter in the workplace.

On each of the learning topic pages you will find four sections:

Using the manual

You may be asked to use this manual in a number of ways:

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