Wilkinson, K. (2011, November 22). Answers to Your Biggest Questions About Services for People With Severe Disabilities. The ASHA Leader. [Full Text]
Significant advances in social, legal, vocational, technological, and educational domains have improved the quality of life of many people with severe intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs). Thanks in large part to parent advocacy and government and legal mandates, most of these individuals have been transitioned out of large residential institutions. All have the right to access clinical, educational, health, and other services (see ASHA, 2005, for an account of these changes, and Wilkinson, 2006, for a historical overview).
A critical component of service provision for people with IDDs is communication intervention (see section on “Communication Tools for Helping People With Severe Disabilities”). Unfortunately, gaps persist in the provision of effective, evidence-based communication services for this population. Indeed, people with IDDs often are excluded from these services due to their poorly understood learning support needs. Particularly in the case of older individuals, services often are not considered after a certain point, perhaps because of a history of failed interventions and because significant change seems more difficult to achieve. This practice is suspect, however. Prior failure may be largely irrelevant to whether or not a contemporary approach can impart communication skills efficiently and effectively.
The remaining clinical challenges in service provision are evident in the ever-growing section of frequently asked questions (FAQs) on the website of the National Joint Committee for the Communication Needs of Persons With Severe Disabilities (NJC), an interdisciplinary group of professionals working to optimize services for individuals with severe disabilities. A few questions from each area are presented in this article to illustrate some of the most critical challenges — as well as their solutions — in contemporary practice.