Case Studies

The Arc of Massachusetts

Sam Donaldson of New Zealand with the First Medal of the Summer Games for 800m Freestyle Swimming in Athens, Greece, June 2011


People with intellectual disabilities experience health disparities as the result of difficulty accessing health care services. Implicit bias contributes to non-person first thinking and assessment, as well as diagnostic overshadowing, which is the process in which health professionals wrongly presume that present physical or emotional symptoms are a consequence of the patient’s intellectual disability.


The Arc of Massachusetts understands the need for further education regarding looking beyond behaviors or stereotypes to accurately diagnose and treat conditions for this population. Operation House Call (OHC) is a program of The Arc of Massachusetts. OHC partners with medical and health professional schools to educate students on how to enhance care for people with intellectual disabilities. The program has grown to over 600 students and over 200 families participating. The following medical schools have OHC programs: Boston University School of Medicine, Tufts University School of Medicine, and University of Massachusetts Medical School. OHC programs are also provided at Simmons College of Nursing and Health Science and Yale School of Nursing. OHC’s program begins to address the fear, bias and lack of knowledge at the early stages of a young doctor’s education. The program provides experiences with families and individuals where they learn first-hand about the challenges that come with medical care.


The students are provided with foundational and experiential learning through a four component program, which begins with a 2-hour parent instructor lecture with a half hour of co-teaching from an individual with an intellectual disability. To learn more read the entire case study here.