Canadian Survey on Disability, 2012
Developmental disabilities among Canadians aged 15 years and older, 2012

by Christine Bizier, Gail Fawcett, Sabrina Gilbert and Carley Marshall

Release date: December 3, 2015

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The results presented in this fact sheet are from the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD), which surveyed residents of private dwellings who reported an activity limitation and who were aged 15 years and older at the time of the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS).

According to the CSD, respondents are considered to have a disability only if they report a difficulty or impairment due to a long-term condition or health problem and they report that they are limited in their daily activities as a result of their condition. The exception to this is that people with developmental disabilities must have been diagnosed by a health practitioner. Their disability did not need to limit their daily activities. Appendix A describes how the CSD defines developmental disabilities.

The population living in institutions, including residential care facilities, was not included in the 2012 CSD. Further details are available in the Canadian Survey on Disability, 2012: Concepts and Methods Guide 89-654-X2014001.

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According to the 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD), 3,775,900 (13.7%) Canadians aged 15 years and older reported some type of disability, and 160,500 (0.6% of Canadian adults) were identified as having a developmental disability (Table 1). It is important to note, however, that this refers only to the population living in private households and does not include those living in institutions. The most prevalent underlying developmental conditions reported on the survey were autism, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome.

Table 1
Prevalence of disability by type, aged 15 years and older, Canada, 2012
Table summary
This table displays the results of Prevalence of disability by type. The information is grouped by Disability type (appearing as row headers), Population and Percentage (appearing as column headers).
Disability type Population Percentage
Total disability 3,775,900 13.7
Pain-related 2,664,200 9.7
Flexibility 2,078,000 7.6
Mobility 1,971,800 7.2
Mental health-related 1,059,600 3.9
Dexterity 953,100 3.5
Hearing 874,600 3.2
Seeing 756,300 2.8
Memory 628,200 2.3
Learning 622,300 2.3
Developmental 160,500 0.6
Unknown 79,500 0.3

As highlighted in Chart 1, the overall rate of disability increased substantially with age, rising from 4.4% among those aged 15 to 24 to 33.2% among those 65 and older. The prevalence of developmental disabilities, however, does not follow this trend; in fact, the rate of developmental disability was highest among those between the ages of 15 and 24 at 1.2% and decreased with age to 0.4% among those 65 and older.Note 1

At ages 15 to 24, men were more likely than women to report a developmental disability (1.6% versus 0.8%); however, there were no significant gender differences in older age groups.

Chart 1 Prevalence of developmental disabilities and total disabilities, by age group, aged 15 years and older, Canada, 2012

Description for Chart 1

The title of the graph is "Chart 1 Prevalence of developmental disabilities and total disabilities, by age group, aged 15 years and older, Canada, 2012."
This is a column clustered chart.
There are in total 4 categories in the horizontal axis. The vertical axis starts at 0 and ends at 35 with ticks every 5 points.
There are 2 series in this graph.
The vertical axis is "percent."
The horizontal axis is "Age group."
The title of series 1 is "Developmental disabilities."
The minimum value is 0.4 and it corresponds to "25 to 44 years and 65 years and older."
The maximum value is 1.2 and it corresponds to "15 to 24 years."
The title of series 2 is "Total disabilities."
The minimum value is 4.4 and it corresponds to "15 to 24 years."
The maximum value is 33.2 and it corresponds to "65 years and older."

Data table for Chart 1
  Developmental disabilities Total disabilities
percent
15 to 24 years 1.2 4.4
25 to 44 years 0.4 6.5
45 to 64 years 0.5 16.1
65 years and older 0.4 33.2

Multiple disabilities

Developmental disability frequently co-occurred with other types of disability: 94.0% of those with a developmental disability also reported at least one other type of disability in 2012.

Learning and mental health-related disabilities were common among young adults with a developmental disability; while among seniors, the highest rate of co-occurrence was with a physical disability (Chart 2).

Chart 2 Prevalence of co-occurring disability types among adults with a developmental disability, by age group, aged 15 years and older, Canada, 2012

Description for Chart 2

The title of the graph is "Chart 2 Prevalence of co-occurring disability types among adults with a developmental disability, by age group, aged 15 years and older, Canada, 2012."
This is a column clustered chart.
There are in total 5 categories in the horizontal axis. The vertical axis starts at 0 and ends at 100 with ticks every 10 points.
There are 3 series in this graph.
The vertical axis is "percent."
The horizontal axis is "Co-occurring disability."
The title of series 1 is "15 to 24 years."
The minimum value is 19.8 and it corresponds to "Seeing/Hearing."
The maximum value is 76.2 and it corresponds to "Learning."
The title of series 2 is "25 to 64 years."
The minimum value is 41.6 and it corresponds to "Memory."
The maximum value is 74.9 and it corresponds to "Physical."
The title of series 3 is "65 years and older."
The minimum value is 35.7 and it corresponds to "Mental health-related."
The maximum value is 96.3 and it corresponds to "Physical."

Data table for Chart 2
  15 to 24 years 25 to 64 years 65 years and older
percent
Memory 35.3 41.6 37.0
Learning 76.2 61.6 42.4
Mental health-related 60.8 59.7 35.7
Physical 49.3 74.9 96.3
Seeing/Hearing 19.8 53.5 44.3

Education

Educational attainment

Working-age adults (aged 15 to 64) with a developmental disability had lower levels of educational attainment than adults without disabilities, regardless of age. In fact, the gap in educational attainment between those without any disability and those with developmental disabilities was the greatest of any of the specific disability types. This suggests educational attainment for this population is a particularly challenging issue. Among those who were not still in school, adults with a developmental disability were four times more likely to have not completed high school compared to those without disabilities (53.6% versus 13.1%). As well, those without any disability were three times more likely than those with a developmental disability to have completed postsecondary credentials (61.1% versus 18.9%) (Chart 3). There were no significant gender differences in the highest level of educational attainment among those with a developmental disability.

Chart 3 Proportion of adults with a developmental disability compared to those without any disability by highest level of education, aged 15 to 64 years, Canada, 2012

Description for Chart 3

The title of the graph is "Chart 3 Proportion of adults with a developmental disability compared to those without any disability by highest level of education, aged 15 to 64 years, Canada, 2012."
This is a column clustered chart.
There are in total 3 categories in the horizontal axis. The vertical axis starts at 0 and ends at 70 with ticks every 10 points.
There are 2 series in this graph.
The vertical axis is "percent."
The horizontal axis is "Level of education."
The title of series 1 is "With developmental disability."
The minimum value is 18.9 and it corresponds to "Postsecondary."
The maximum value is 53.6 and it corresponds to "Less than high school."
The title of series 2 is "Without disability."
The minimum value is 13.1 and it corresponds to "Less than high school."
The maximum value is 61.1 and it corresponds to "Postsecondary."

Data table for Chart 3
  With developmental disability Without disability
percent
Less than high school 53.6 13.1
High school 27.6 25.8
Postsecondary 18.9 61.1

Educational aids and services

Over half (62.2%) of adults aged 15 and older with a developmental disability currently attending or who had recently attended school required an education aid or service. The majority (77.0%) reported that all their needs for an aid or service had been met; 20.1% reported that some needs had been met; and 2.8% reported that none of their needs had been met.

Chart 4 Met and unmet needs for education aids and services among adults with a development disability who were currently attending or recently attended school, aged 15 years and older, Canada, 2012

Description for Chart 4

The title of the graph is "Chart 4 Met and unmet needs for education aids and services among adults with a development disability who were currently attending or recently attended school, aged 15 years and older, Canada, 2012."
This is a stacked bar chart.
This is a horizontal bar graph, so categories are on the vertical axis and values on the horizontal axis.
There are in total 6 categories in the vertical axis. The horizontal axis starts at 0 and ends at 50 with ticks every 5 points.
There are 2 series in this graph.
The horizontal axis is "percent."
The vertical axis is "Aids and services."
The title of series 1 is "Aid needed and received."
The minimum value is 6.6 and it corresponds to "Recording or note-taking device."
The maximum value is 43.2 and it corresponds to "Teacher's aide or tutor."
The title of series 2 is "Aid needed but not received."
The minimum value is 1.3 and it corresponds to "Extended test time."
The maximum value is 6.7 and it corresponds to "Specialized software."

Data table for Chart 4
  Aid needed and received Aid needed but not received
percent
Teacher's aide or tutor 43.2 4.3
Extended test time 42.5 1.3
Modified course curriculum 40.0 2.3
Specialized software 18.1 6.7
Audio or ebook device 7.9 3.9
Recording or note-taking device 6.6 5.2

The most commonly required supports reported were teacher’s aides or tutors (47.5%) and extended test time (43.8%) (Chart 4). These needs, in particular, were predominantly met, with more than 90% of those who required these supports receiving them. Technology-based supports, such as specialized software, recording devices, and audio/ebook devices were less likely to be needed. However, those needing technology-based supports were also less likely to receive them compared to those requiring teacher’s aides or tutors.

Effect of disability on educational experiences

In the 2012 CSD, adults with a disability who were currently or had recently been in school were asked how their condition(s) affected their educational experiences.Note 2 Two-thirds of adults with a developmental disability reported that their condition(s) had influenced their choice of courses/careers, resulted in them taking fewer courses and resulted in them taking longer to achieve their current level of education (Table 2). More than a quarter had to leave their community to go to school.

Table 2
Effect of disability on educational experiences of adults with a developmental disability, aged 15 years and older, Canada, 2012
Table summary
This table displays the results of Effect of disability on educational experiences of adults with a developmental disability. The information is grouped by Effect of disability (appearing as row headers), Percentage (appearing as column headers).
Effect of disability Percentage
Choice of courses/career influenced by disability 66.1
Took fewer courses due to disability 65.7
Took longer to achieve current level due to disability 64.6
People avoided/excluded you in school due to disability 64.0
Attended special education classes in regular school due to disability 61.1
Bullied at school because of disability 52.2
Changed course of studies due to disability 38.6
Education interrupted due to disability 35.1
Changed school due to disability 33.1
Discontinued education due to disability 31.1
Additional school expenses due to disability 27.9
Left community for school due to disability 26.4
Began school later due to disability 25.5

Employment

Labour force status

A substantial majority (71.8%) of adults aged 15 to 64 with a developmental disability were not in the labour force and another 6.0% were unemployed. The employment rate of working-age adults with a developmental disability was 22.3%—less than a third of the rate for people without a disability (73.6%), and the lowest employment rate of any disability type.

Disability in the workplace

One in five (20.4%) adults with a developmental disability, who were employed, indicated that their employer was not aware of their condition(s).

Among those with a developmental disability, who were either currently in the labour market or had been within the previous five years, 66.8% believed their employer considered them disadvantaged in employment and 61.3 % reported that they felt disadvantaged in employment. More than a third (34.6%) believed that they had been refused a job; 31.4% felt that they had been refused a promotion; and 28.3% believed they had been refused a job interview –due to their disability or disabilities. However, this is based on the impact of all disability types that individuals with a developmental disability may have had.

Job modifications

Among those with developmental disabilities who were currently in the labour force or had been within the previous five years, 53.8% reported having some requirement for job accommodations such as modified work hours (30.2%), modified duties (27.5%E) and human support (16.9%). Of those requiring a modification, 39.6% reported that all their needs had been met, 41.1% had some needs met, and 19.3% had none of their needs met.

Hours worked

Employed working-age adults, aged 15 to 64, with a developmental disability worked an average of 26 hours per weekNote 3, less than the average number of hours worked per week by those without any reported disability (37 hours).

Not in the labour force

Among adults with a developmental disability, aged 15 to 64, who were not in the labour force, 75.2% reported that their condition(s) prevented them from working. Of these, 12.6% indicated that there was some type of accommodation that would allow them to work. As well, 22.8% indicated that they would look for work in the next 12 months.Note 4 Respondents who planned to look for work were asked why they intended to do so:

Many of those who were not in the labour force reported barriers that discouraged them from looking for work. Some of the most commonly reported job search barriers for those with a developmental disability were inadequate training or experience (19.7%), a lack of available local jobs (18.7%), unsuccessful past attempts (17.6%), experienced discrimination in the past (12.7%), and a fear of losing additional supports (12.6%).

Supports

Nine in ten adults with a developmental disability required help with some type of everyday activity, and nearly three-quarters (72.7%) of them reported some level of unmet need for at least one of these requirements. Overall, 87.2% of adults with a developmental disability received help with at least one type of everyday activity.

The level of unmet need varied depending on the specific type of support required (Chart 5). For example, 40.6%E of adults with a developmental disability had an unmet need for help with getting to appointments and running errands; 37.4%E had an unmet need with heavy household chores; 34.2% had an unmet need for help with housework; 26.2% had an unmet need for help with meal preparation and 23.9% had an unmet need for help with personal finances.

Chart 5 Met and unmet needs for help with everyday activities among adults with developmental disability, aged 15 years and older, Canada, 2012

Description for Chart 5

The title of the graph is "Chart 5 Met and unmet needs for help with everyday activities among adults with developmental disability, aged 15 years and older, Canada, 2012."
This is a stacked bar chart.
This is a horizontal bar graph, so categories are on the vertical axis and values on the horizontal axis.
There are in total 7 categories in the vertical axis. The horizontal axis starts at 0 and ends at 80 with ticks every 10 points.
There are 2 series in this graph.
The horizontal axis is "percent."
The vertical axis is "Help with everyday activities."
The title of series 1 is "Needed help, not received."
The minimum value is 6.9 and it corresponds to "Medical care."
The maximum value is 40.6E and it corresponds to "Getting to appointment and running errands."
The title of series 2 is "Needed help, received."
The minimum value is 16.0 and it corresponds to "Medical care."
The maximum value is 41.8 and it corresponds to "Personal finances."

Data table for Chart 5
  Needed help, not received Needed help, received
percent
Getting to appointment and running errands 40.6Note E: Use with caution 34.1
Housework 34.2 31.9
Personal finances 23.9 41.8
Heavy household chores 37.4Note E: Use with caution 27.8
Preparing meals 26.2 33.1
Personal care 19.0 23.5
Medical care 6.9 16.0

Help with everyday activities was most likely to come from family members, particularly those in the same household. For example, among those who received assistance, 75.6% received some help from family members living with them, and 35.6% received some help from family members not living with them. As well, 23.4% received help from a friend or neighbour, 30.7% from an organization-free of charge, and 26.2% paid an individual or organization for help.

Income

Personal income for working-age adults

The median personal income (before taxes) of working-age adults, aged 15 to 64, with a developmental disability was $10,800—less than one third that of those without disabilities ($31,200).Note 5 Those with a developmental disability were also more likely to be reliant on government transfersNote 6 as their major source of income compared with those without disabilities; for example, 71.9%Note 7 of adults with a developmental disability relied on government transfers as their largest source of income compared with 18.7% of those without disabilities. Among those who had some income from employment, adults with a developmental disability had lower median employment incomesNote 8 than those without ($12,400 compared with $34,100).

Conclusion

According to the 2012 CSD, less than one percent of the adult population in private households had a developmental disability. The prevalence of developmental disabilities is highest among young adults. Unlike many other disability types, limitations from developmental disabilities are typically experienced quite early in life, often resulting in challenges in school. More than half of this population had less than a high school education; and among those who were in school, there were high levels of requirements for educational aids and supports, most of which were being met. However, the impact of disability on the educational experiences of this group was quite high; for example, over one quarter had left their community to attend school because of their disability. These disadvantages in terms of education follow into the labour market, where less than one quarter of adults with developmental disabilities were employed; and even among those who were employed, there were high rates of part-time employment and low levels of earnings. This population also had high levels of requirements for caregiving supports, with over three-quarters requiring assistance with getting to appointments and running errands. While family members provided most of this support, there were still high levels of unmet need.

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Appendix A

Identification of adults with Developmental Disabilities

The 2012 Canadian Survey on Disability (CSD) identified adults with developmental disabilities as those who have been diagnosed with a developmental disability or disorder as indicated in the following question:

DSQ_29

Has a doctor, psychologist/other health care professional ever said that you had a developmental disability/disorder? This may include Down syndrome, autism, Asperger syndrome or mental impairment due to lack of oxygen at birth, etc.

Although respondents were also asked how often daily activities were limited and the degree to which they were limited, these additional questions were not used to define a developmental disability. As such, this disability type is treated differently than other disability types in the CSD. This question was particularly rigorous in its reliance on a diagnosis since it is intended to identify those with a significant developmental disability. Upon the advice of the Technical Advisory Group, this exception was made since it is extremely important to identify this at risk population which has a low prevalence in the population among those living in private households.

Based on this definition, 160,500 adults aged 15 and older (0.6% of the population) were identified as having a developmental disability. Of these, 15.1% (24,200) indicated either never being limited or being rarely limited (with no difficulty or some difficulty).

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References

Government of Canada, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, Labour Program. 2006. Employment Equity Data Report. Available at: http://www.labour.gc.ca/eng/standards_equity/eq/pubs_eq/eedr/2006/report/page14.shtml. Accessed August 6, 2014.

Statistics Canada. Low-income after-tax cut-offs (LICO-AT). Available at:
http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/nhs-enm/2011/ref/dict/fam019-eng.cfm. Accessed July 30, 2014.

Yona Lunsky and Jonathan Weiss, 2012. Dual Diagnosis, An Information Guide, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health.

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