Trauma, Grief and the Social Model: Practice Guidelines for Working with Adults with Intellectual Disabilities in the Wake of Disasters

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Michelle S. Ballan
Mary Sormanti


intellectual disabilities, social model, trauma


Formulating personal needs assessments and plans for self-protection have been the recent focus of disaster preparedness manuals for individuals with intellectual disabilities and their caregivers. Interventions to address the minimization of psychological ill effects of trauma and grief in the aftermath of disasters for this population, however, remain largely unexplored. In the wake of such events, persons with intellectual disabilities require trained mental health professionals to assist them in identifying and coping with trauma exposure and its associated, often sudden losses.  Intervention should be based on the unique needs of this population within the context of disaster and each individual's cognitive strengths and capacities. Coupled with reviews of research and practice in the area of disaster mental health, the social model of disability served as a foundation for the formulation of best practice guidelines for tertiary interventions with adults with intellectual disabilities.  The guidelines suggest approaches that will enable professionals to identify and minimize acute and chronic responses to disasters as well as foster resilience and enhance the valuable contributions of adults with intellectual disabilities in disaster-affected communities.

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