Is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder a helpful concept for adults with intellectual disability? Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Research using the concept of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) with adults with intellectual disability (ID)assumes they perceive and react to traumatic events in a similar way to non-disabled adults. Reactions to trauma displayed by children may be relevant to adults with ID as well. METHODS: Two focus groups were held with professionals and practitioners to explore the relevance of criteria from child as well as adult literature to adults with ID who experience trauma. Descriptive thematic analysis was carried out. RESULTS: Abuse, parental bereavement, and having children removed were considered common sources of trauma. Similarities identified between disabled and non-disabled adults were flashbacks and nightmares; distressed by reminders; avoidance; hypervigilance and increased arousal. Differences were the frequent occurrence of multiple rather than single events, which were considered significant in generating chronic problems similar to those described as PTSD; also the occurrence of physical health problems and behavioural re-enactments. DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: Experienced professionals and practitioners considered most of the ideas from PTSD research with non-disabled adults to be relevant to adults with ID who experience trauma, but that some behaviour reported in research with children was also relevant. Topics and questions for use in clinical and research practice with individuals who have experienced trauma were proposed.

publication date

  • July 2005