Trauma Informed Care for Individuals with Intellectual and Other Developmental Disabilities

Individuals with Intellectual or Developmental Disabilities (IDD) experience abuse, neglect, institutionalization, restraint and seclusion, abandonment, bullying and other forms of maltreatment at higher rates than the general population.  

“Trauma-informed care” refers to the ability of care providers to recognize the impact of past trauma on a child’s development and behavior, and appreciate the significance of trauma histories for the populations they serve. Failure to recognize the impact of trauma on children and adults with IDD, and incorporate trauma-informed practices into their supports and services, can exacerbate past trauma or cause new trauma compromising the individual’s ability to thrive. 

This initiative close in the fall of 2018. The grant funded a two-year initiative using trauma-informed care to reduce restraints at two state supported living centers, the development of a comprehensive toolkit addressing trauma-informed care for children with IDD. The toolkit, called The Road to Recovery: Supporting Children with Intellectual Disabilities Who Have Experienced Trauma, was developed in partnership with the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN), and three years of statewide trainings using the toolkit. 


The grant period included three phases, as follows: 

Phase 1: Training and Technical Assistance 

The first phase of this project provided two years of trauma training and technical assistance for staff at state supported living centers in San Angelo, Texas and Mexia, Texas, as well as community-based providers that serve individuals with IDD. This was provided by Karyn Harvey, Ph.D. with the Arc of Baltimore, and Laura Buckner of Texas Center for Disability Studies. The training focused on trauma-informed care and person-centered practices. 

Phase 2: Development of Curriculum 

The second phase included the development of a comprehensive curriculum (toolkit) addressing trauma-informed care for children with IDD. It was developed in partnership with NCTSN.  

Phase 3:  Statewide Trainings 

The Hogg Foundation awarded a grant to The SAFE Alliance  (Austin, Texas) to conduct trainings across the state using the toolkit. Training participants included IDD providers, family members, educators, direct care workers, social workers, state agency staff, local authority staff, and more. 

Questions:  Contact  Colleen Horton, Director of Policy 

Those interested in related training may contact Michelle Schwartz at The SAFE Alliance, or Laura Buckner at the Texas Center for Disability Studies.  

Related Content


Trauma-Informed Care, and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
In this podcast episode, we speak with Dr. Karyn Harvey who has decades of experience working with adults with IDD. She gives her perspective on what it would mean for both caregivers and the system as a whole to be more “trauma-informed.”

When Disability is a Disguise
The mental health needs of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) are often overlooked or ignored. There are many reasons for this, but the primary one is that the disabilities overshadow the possible mental health conditions. In this informative pamphlet, the case is made for a sharpened focus on the mental health needs of individuals with IDD.