MHDD Fact Sheets​

Plain Language Summary: Policy and Advocacy Policy and advocacy are important for improving the lives of people with and without ...
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Factores que afectan el cuidado auditivo de las familias hispanas / latinx Resumen en lenguaje sencillo: Factores que afectan el ...
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Plain Language Summary: Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Plain Language Summary: Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a ...
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Grief and Loss in Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Plain Language Summary: Grief and Loss in Individuals with Intellectual ...
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Featured Resources​

SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions: Screening Tools

SAMHSA-HRSA Center for Integrated Health Solutions: Screening Tools is a webpage with several screening tools for a variety of mental health concerns. All of their information is for public use.

Self-Determination & Dignity of Risk

Plain Language Summary: Self-Determination & Dignity of Risk

Plain Language Summary: Self-Determination & Dignity of Risk

Self-determination is a right that all people have. It means that they have a right to make their own choices and set their own goals. People with developmental disabilities (DD) also have this right, and should have support in achieving self-determination.

Dignity of risk means being able to make a choice even if it could have negative consequences for you. Negative consequences could be things like getting injured, getting lost, and being heartbroken. Experiencing negative consequences helps all of us to learn. It is natural to want to protect someone that we care about, but it’s important to not take away someone’s dignity of risk. When someone has both self-determination and dignity of risk, they are more likely to become independent.

When someone with DD has control over their lives, their quality of life improves and they are more independent. Oftentimes, loved ones limit this by making decisions for them. This is because they want to protect the person with DD and comes from good intentions. It’s important to not make assumptions about someone’s ability to make their own choices.

To help someone with DD have self-determination and dignity of risk, they should be in charge of the choices made about their lives. Even if they have legal guardians, people with DD should be included in all decisions made about them. This is called person-centered planning. We are the experts of ourselves and people with DD are no different. Person-centered planning looks at the person’s strengths, goals, needs, and wants. This type of planning helps people with DD feel more confident in themselves and in their choices.

Another way to help someone with DD have self-determination is to use the best communication style for them. Different styles of communicating can include picture exchange systems, adaptive devices, assistive technology, or sign language. This is important to consider so that the person with DD can express what their goals and desires are.

To learn more, read the MHDD Self-Determination & Dignity of Risk Fact Sheet.

SMART Goals & Mental Health

Plain Language Summary: SMART Goals & Mental Health

Plain Language Summary: SMART Goals & Mental Health

Goal setting can be used as a therapeutic tool to improve mental health. It can be a helpful intervention if other therapeutic tools are difficult to adapt to meet client needs, especially for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD). Goal setting is a form of self-determination. Self-determination means that an individual makes decisions and acts for themselves according to what they want. Opportunities for this type of independence is especially important for people with IDD because their independence is often limited in many ways. Mental health can improve through setting and achieving personalized goals.

Goal setting can be more beneficial with certain details included. The person setting the goal should consider how they will benefit from the goal and write their goal down. As they develop the goal, it helps to make it a SMART goal. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

S – Specific

A goal should include exactly what the person wants to achieve and how. It might include a time frame, other people who should be involved, needed preparation, or location.

M – Measurable

The person should be able to monitor their progress as they work on the goal. They should make a plan for how they intend to do so. This can include smaller tasks, due dates, or collecting other forms of information about their efforts.

A – Attainable

A good goal should be challenging, but something the person can realistically achieve. They should consider whether they have enough time, resources, and skill to make it happen as planned.

R – Relevant

Goal setting is more beneficial when the person feels connected to it. The goal setter should make sure the goal is helping them in some way. They should also consider how they can incorporate their personal preferences or desires into their plan.

T – Time-bound

Setting a goal should include a clear and realistic time limit. There should be enough time to complete the planned task while still creating a challenge.

SMART goal setting can be used for making personal achievements, and it also improves mental health. It can be beneficial as part of a therapeutic plan or done on an individual basis.

For more information, read the MHDD SMART Goals & Mental Health fact sheet.

Social Work Today: Co-occurring Mental Illness and Developmental Disabilities

This article describes the gap in education and services for professionals who could be serving persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental health conditions.

START National Online Training Series

The START National Online Training Series is designed to build capacity of IDD-MH professionals by providing innovative, evidence-based online training. Presentations are pre-recorded and released once a month, September through April. Presentations are typically 50-60 minutes in length. A live Q&A session with each month’s presenter is held on the 3rd Friday of the month from 1-2pm eastern/10-11am pacific. CSS often offers additional Special Presentations to the START Network as part of their subscription to the Training Series.

Stress and Coping

Plain Language Summary: Stress & Coping

Everyone experiences stress. Difficult situations can bring on negative emotions and sometimes feel like too much. People do not always know how to deal with these emotions. We can all learn to improve how we handle stress. 

Stress is natural. It is a physical and mental reaction to life experiences. Stress can be triggered by everyday responsibilities from work or family. It can also be brought on by serious life events such as death, a medical diagnosis, or a new job. Everyone experiences stress from time to time, but it can become unhealthy if it affects your daily functioning. However, if our stress levels are too high for too long, it can affect our health. It is important to manage stress in order to keep our bodies healthy.

Coping strategies are specific efforts people use to manage stressful events. These efforts can be things we do or thoughts we tell ourselves. Coping strategies can help people adjust to stressful events while maintaining their emotional well-being. There are two kinds of approaches to coping strategies; problem-solving or are emotion focused.

Problem-solving strategies are active efforts made to reduce feelings of stress that target the source of stress. For example, making a to-do list and prioritizing tasks can help manage work or school related stress. Problem-solving strategies can be effective because they deal with the cause of our stress and can provide a long-term solution. 

Emotion focused coping strategies are efforts to regulate feelings that happen in response to stress. These strategies can help reduce unhelpful responses to stress like embarrassment, fear, and frustration. Emotion focused strategies do not work to change the situation itself, but it helps us to manage our emotions. Examples of emotion focused coping strategies are exercising, meditating, praying, or journaling.

Resilience is the process of adapting to stressors in life. It is often described as “bouncing back” from difficult experiences. Being resilient does not mean a person will not experience stress or difficulty. It means that a person can adapt to whatever comes their way. Resilience is not a personality trait that only some people are born with. Certain factors can help some individuals be more resilient than others, like a support system or spirituality, but everyone can become more resilient. You can become more resilient by improving qualities like confidence and self-esteem. Improving coping strategies and being more consistent can also build resilience. 

Currently, most available research and resources focus on the resilience of parents, family, and caregivers of individuals with developmental disabilities. However, there is not much research or resources available that focus on the individual. One useful resource is the Trauma-Informed Toolkit for Providers in the Field of Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities. For more information about coping strategies and building resiliency, visit the American Psychological Association (APA) website. This website has useful suggestions for managing stress. The American Institute of Stress (AIS) offers some online courses that are also helpful.

You can find resources and trainings to develop mental health care and supports for people with developmental disabilities on our website, Also, the MHDD blog highlights personal experiences with building resiliency that can be helpful to review.

Read the full Stress and Coping fact sheet

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