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Dr Deborah Morris, the lead for the Centre for Developmental and Complex trauma was invited to guest edit, a special edition of the Advances in Mental Health & Intellectual Disabilities journal.

Dr Morris brought together researchers and trainees who have been carrying out work from within the world of trauma.

She wrote: “While the pervasive and life changing impact of trauma exposure on psychological wellbeing, neurological development, physical health and educational and workplace outcomes, are well-known, considerably less has been documented relating to the experiences of people with intellectual disabilities.”

Dr Morris wrote that the volume she has edited “provides a platform for highlighting the trauma needs of people with intellectual disabilities and the positive contributions of clinicians and researchers in this area of practice”.

The research papers Dr Morris chose for the journal, look at trauma and many different psychologic models and concepts that have been found within different intellectual disability populations.

Dr Morris said: “Specifically, we explore the experience of exposure to trauma and trauma related needs through the experiences of the individual, their family and professional systems and through different theoretical perspectives.”

Being asked to guest edit a widely-read journal is a huge accomplishment, but Dr Morris said she could not have done it without her colleagues who continued with their work during one of the most challenging periods of time in healthcare history.

She said: “I am mindful that the current special issue was nurtured through the height of the pandemic by clinicians who continued to work on the frontline as well as find the time to complete studies and research.”

“While exclusion and marginalisation from mainstream trauma may exist, the commitment shown to developing the papers in this volume is reason to be optimistic that practitioners in this area will continue to grow and influence the national trauma agenda and improve the lives of the people we strive to support.”

Deborah was not the only St Andrew’s member of staff to appear in the publication as Trauma Consultant Psychologist Dr Annette Greenwood and Senior Research Assistant Elanor Lucy Webb had their paper published.

Deborah has already received positive feedback since posting the publication on LinkedIn with the link being shared by the RADiANT group, which is a national profile Intellectual Disability forensic research group.

One of their members wrote: “As the brother of a traumatised intellectually disabled sibling, I thank you for this publication. Back then, there were no supports to help us move forward.”

Here is a summary of the papers included in the publication:

This paper aims to systematically review the available evidence that explores adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in people with intellectual disabilities (PwID). It is important to systematically review this literature as, to date, there is little known about the number of studies in this area, despite the World Health Organization declaring ACE prevention and support as a global public health priority.

The purpose of this paper is to present a case study using a systemic team formulation approach, in the context of supporting a women with intellectual disabilities with a history of trauma.

This paper aims to provide a description of a trauma sensitive intervention for men who have committed sexual offences. The intervention aims to support men to process and make sense of their own experience of trauma before inviting them to acknowledge their role in causing harm to others. The intervention draws on compassion focussed therapy (CFT) as the overarching therapeutic modality. 

Many referrals to our mental health of learning disability service focus on concerns about behaviours that present risks to the referred person and to those around them, including support workers. If the referred person has good verbal ability, psychological therapy may be requested and offered, but the person may find it too difficult to engage for a number of reasons. Even when they do engage in therapy, the authors recognise the importance of helping staff better understand their attachment needs. This paper aims to demonstrate an innovative approach to helping staff provide Trauma-Informed Care (TIC). 

Forensic health-care workers are frequently exposed to behaviours that challenge and traumatic material, with notably high levels in developmental disorder (DD) services. The provision of support is key in alleviating distress and improving work functioning. This paper aims to incite clarity on whether staff in DD services are more likely to access trauma support. The prevailing needs and outcomes for this population are also explored.

 A survey of complex trauma in families who have children and adults who have a learning disability and/or autism

There is an established literature supporting the idea that families who have children and adults who have a learning disability and/or autism have a greater vulnerability to mental health problems or poor psychological health. There are shortcomings in this literature in that there is a little consideration of the impact the families interaction with services has on their well-being. It is argued that complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD), with its focus on prolonged chronic exposure to trauma experiences and the recognition that this can occur in adulthood, may well be an appropriate framework to enable a better understanding of the experiences of families. 

To view the edition and read Dr Morris’ editorial, click here.

To view the selection of research papers included in the journal, click here.