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This paper deals with promoting wellness and resilience for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). First, a model of wellness and resiliency is presented. Then, recommended intervention activities that promote resilience and wellness are discussed. Lastly, prevention and education activities are proposed.
Wellness and Resiliency Model
Studies on wellness and resilience models among individuals with IDD appear non-existent and very few have been written about counseling methodology. Most focus on a cognitive-behavioral approach to psychotherapy (CBT). Therefore, a paradigm must be created that combines CBT and an evidence-based model of wellness.
Myers, Sweeney, and Witmer (2000) define wellness as “a way of life oriented toward optimal health and well-being, in which body, mind, and spirit are integrated by the individual to live life more fully within the human and natural community. Ideally, it is the optimum state of health and well-being that each individual is capable of achieving” (p. 252). “Resilience refers to positive adaptation, or the ability to maintain or regain mental health, despite experiencing adversity” (Herrman, Stewart, Diaz-Granados, Berger, Jackson, Yuan, 2011, p.
259). Myers and Sweeney (2005) created a model of wellness called The Indivisible Self which is based on Adlerian principles. This model delineates five areas of wellness: physical, essential, social, coping, and creative.
Physical well-being is further divided into two areas: exercise and nutrition. Essential wellness is broken down into four components: spirituality, self-care, gender identity, and cultural identity. Social felicity is divided into two parts: friendship and love. Coping is divided into four aspects: realistic beliefs, stress management, self-worth, and leisure.
Creative fitness is broken down into five elements: thinking, emotion, control, positive humor, and work (Myers and Sweeney, 2005). Recommended Intervention Activities That Promote Resilience and Wellness As the IDD population tends to be of lower socioeconomic status (as adults), placed in residential facilities, and highly medicated, physical health is a vital component of overall wellness. Physical fitness can be maintained through exercise programs. A community-based program described by Lante, Walkley, Gamble, and Vassos (2011) provided health and psychosocial benefits to participants. In the area of essential wellness, spirituality plays an important part in the lives of most.
IDD individuals should be allowed to attend worship services or participate in other activities cultivating the spiritual nature. Watts (2011) proposes utilization of Special Religious Education for People with a Developmental Disability (SPRED), defined as “…symbolic catechesis where formal instruction is supplemented or completely replaced by visual, aural, sensory, and physical stimuli (p. 237). In the area of self-care, individuals can be taught tasks to their fullest level of independence. Gender identity can be explored through modified sex-education curriculums exemplified by The Facts of Life…and More by Walker-Hirsch (lesliewalker-hirsch.com, 2014). Social well-being is a necessary component of wellness among those with IDD. Friendship and love are very possible and should be encouraged.
Community groups, such as The Gathering Place and Pathfinders, provide a venue and activities for the population (welcometowesley.com, 2014; gracenc.org, 2014). Dating sites such as Special Bridge provide access for individuals with IDD a chance to meet and date others with IDD (specialbridge.com). CBT can be utilized to help disabled individuals in the area of coping. Irrational beliefs can be explored and replaced with more realistic views. Stress management techniques can be taught.
Self-worth can be explored and improved (Lee, 2004). Leisure skills and interests can be explored and improved upon through systematic testing and development (Kreiner and Flexer, 2009). Creative fitness can be cultivated through activities that involve thinking, particularly critical thinking. Handling emotions and controlling behavior can be taught via dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) (Rizvi, Steffel, and Carson-Wong, 2013). Work needs can be met through sheltered, supported, and/or competitive employment. In North Carolina, the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation provides services and referrals to service providers (ncdhhs.gov/dvrs, 2014).
Proposed Prevention and Education Activities
Education and prevention can focus on training individuals, families, caretakers, and facility staff. If those who are in contact with the population everyday can be educated as much as possible, the level of wellness and resilience in persons with IDD should increase. IDD clients can learn about healthy eating and exercise through objective plans adjusted for functioning level. For instance, individuals with autism can read a social story (The Gray Center, 2014). Individuals, families and staff can be trained on proper nutrition by registered dietitians who can develop meal plans (American Dietetic Association, 2009).
The importance of gender and sex education, spirituality, and cultural identity can be taught to those working with people with IDD. Gender and cultural identity and sex education can be taught to individuals with IDD through modified curriculums or incidental learning. Social skills, coping mechanisms, and creative pursuits can be taught to individuals. Families and facilities can learn what coping mechanisms are effective for clientele.
Identified Strategies to Promote Community Resources
Families in particular can be directed to community resources. Many resources exist for individuals with IDD. Brochures, information about service providers, and government resources can be given to families and higher-functioning individuals. Providing links to websites for organizations such as The Arc and managed care organizations such as Coastal Care can be a good starting place (thearc.org, 2014; coastalcarenc.org, 2014).
Beange, H., & Lennox, N. (1999). Health targets for people with an intellectual disability. Journal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability, 24(4), 283. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.library.capella.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com.library.capella.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&AN=2731367&site=ehost-live&scope=site The gathering place. (2014). Retrieved May 18, 2014, Retrieved from http://welcometowesley.com/connect/special-needs/ The gray center: What are social stories. (2014). Retrieved May 18, 2014, Retrieved from
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