An Exploration of Trauma in Children and Youth with Intellectual Disabilities

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Atkinson, Leanne
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Children and youth with intellectual disabilities (ID) and their families are not currently receiving appropriate therapeutic support to meet their mental health needs. This study looks at the concept of intellectual disability and the impact it has on the family system, siblings and the child with the intellectual disability as whole. The current research demonstrates that children and youth with support needs are at increased vulnerability to experience victimization, social exclusion and abuse in comparison to their typically developing peers. This can lead to early-life exposures to adversities putting them at greater risk for mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder and physical health concerns later in life. The review of the literature determined this population is underrepresented in the research on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), which was transformative in raising awareness of the importance trauma-informed practice in the field of mental health. Better data on ACEs among youth with disabilities are needed to clarify the significance of ACEs among this vulnerable group and to identify opportunities for prevention, protection and trauma-informed clinical therapeutic counselling for this population. The results of this study indicate that more research is needed to identify how adverse childhood experiences affect children and youth with support needs, how they communicate these experiences (i.e. internalizing/externalizing) and evidence-based therapeutic treatment options for post-traumatic stress disorder among the disability population. This study concludes with an overview and discussion of the World Health Organizations (WHO) recommendations of cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) for treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder in adolescents, noting that future research is required on methods of adapting these treatments for children and youth with support needs.
intellectual disabilities , adverse childhood experiences , children , youth
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 United States , openAccess