Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Emerging Rehabilitation Needs of Adults with Developmental Disabilities

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Emerging Rehabilitation Needs of Adults with Developmental Disabilities

Article excerpt

This Special Issue reflects a number of trends for those adults with developmental disabilities that have surfaced within the last decade or so in the United States. For professionals in rehabilitation assisting those with developmental disabilities new demands are being made for community inclusion, autonomous decision making, independent living, supported employment, career development and retirement planning. These are new requirements in some cases for those with developmental disabilities and reflect fundamental changes in how those with developmental disorders are perceived professionally and publicly. However, such changes in "mind set" (Harper, 1991) and emphases on developmental disabilities are reported to be slow to move into graduate training programs (Szymanski et al., 1991) in psychology or medicine. The topics in this Special Call (mental retardation and psychiatric disorders - dual diagnosis, vocational assistance of adults with specific learning disabilities, habilitation of adults with autism, career planning in developmental disabilities, and retirement planning for aging adults with mental retardation) have appeared only within the last decade. Moreover, numerous authors and forecasters (Borsay, 1986; Jongbloed and Crichton, 1990; Harper, 1993) have noted a dissatisfaction with existing static-disease models for viewing disability in adults and children and chronicled the movement from an individualistic conception of disability to a socio-political definition. Disability differences, traumatic or developmental, can certainly be understood from an ecological perspective that includes the reality of the physical differences and their adaptive limitations but as importantly their genesis in social and economic environments. The implicit and explicit messages in each of these manuscripts in this Special Call is that personal growth flourishes for those with developmental disorders in environments that promote increasing autonomy in real life settings. Changes in rehabilitation potential also reflect newer understandings of developmental disorders (e.g., autism as a neurobehavioral communication disorder) and most importantly activism of consumers (Fine and Asch, 1988). The following paragraphs detail some of the key issues and contemporary trends in understanding the emerging needs of adults with developmental disabilities.

Those with developmental disabilities, in particular adults with significant mental retardation are living longer (Walz, Harper, and Wilson, 1986; Harper, 1989, 1991) and residing in community settings in greater numbers (Wadsworth, Harper, and McLeran, 1995). This simple fact has placed more demands on all rehabilitation service sectors. It is likely that this trend will continue and increase in other developmental disorders (e.g., cerebral palsy), (Janicki, 1989). These increases in longevity are in part a function of general growth in longevity for all Americans as well as related to better access to ongoing health care and more healthy and active lifestyles available to all those with developmental disorders now living in community settings.

As part of another contemporary trend having an impact on rehabilitation professionals, the definition of mental retardation as a major component of developmental disabilities is changing and evolving (Luckasson et al., 1992). This current definition "represents a paradigm shift, from a view of mental retardation as an absolute trait expressed solely by an individual to an expression of the interaction between the person with limited intellectual functioning and the environment," (Luckasson, et al., 1992). This definition is described as a move from a "deficiency-model to a support-based-model of mental retardation" (Reiss, 1994, p1). This support-based model is viewed by many as part of the response to and dissatisfaction with science as truth in the "post-modern epoch" (Merydith, 1995). Mental retardation is viewed as a "state" which implies limitations on current functions of the person. …

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