Knowledge Library

Psychological therapies for people with intellectual disabilities: A systematic review and meta-analysis

The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of psychological therapies for people with intellectual disabilities (IDs) through a systematic review and meta-analysis of the current literature. A comprehensive literature search identified 143 intervention studies. Twenty-two trials were eligible for review, and 14 of these were subsequently included in the meta-analysis. Many studies did not include adequate information about their participants, especially the nature of their IDs; information about masked assessment, and therapy fidelity was also lacking. The meta-analysis yielded an overall moderate between-group effect size, g = .682, while group-based interventions had a moderate but smaller treatment effect than individual-based interventions. Cognitive-behaviour therapy (CBT) was efficacious for both anger and depression, while interventions aimed at improving interpersonal functioning were not effectual. When CBT was excluded, there was insufficient evidence regarding the efficacy of other psychological therapies, or psychological therapies intended to treat mental health problems in children and young people with IDs. Adults with IDs and concurrent mental health problems appear to benefit from psychological therapies. However, clinical trials need to make use of improved reporting standards and larger samples.

Factors that Underpin the Delivery of Effective Decision-making Support for People with Cognitive Disability

Over one million Australians have some form of cognitive impairment due to intellectual disability or acquired brain injury and require significant levels of support for decision-making. To date, the range and quality of support available has been poor, often tending toward undue paternalism, with deleterious consequences for the individual’s sense of identity and quality of life. Efforts to rectify this situation have recently been championed by law reform commissions, which have focused on establishing new legal structures for support with decision-making. However, the crucial issue of how decision-making support is delivered in practice  in terms of quality and effectiveness  remains in urgent need of attention. The aim of this article is to describe four empirically based propositions that characterise effective decision making support; orchestration by the primary supporter; commitment to person; support principles; and a repertoire of strategies that can be used flexibly depending on the type and context of particular decisions. These propositions are based on evidence from a series of qualitative studies conducted by the authors. Results of these studies enabled the identification of factors that underpin delivery of effective support and can be utilised to develop capacity-building education programs for people providing decision-making support to those with cognitive disability, either intellectual disability or acquired brain injury, which will substantially improve the quality of support given.

Towards the Prevention of Behavioural and Psychiatric Disorders in People with Intellectual Disabilities

Intervention for behavioural and psychiatric disorders in people with intellectual disabilities often only takes place once these conditions are well established and more resistant to change. As an alternative, this paper promotes a public health prevention model and maps out opportunities for intervention at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. The resulting model is partly derived from generic research into these issues and partly on specific evidence on interventions for people with intellectual disabilities; it also contains more theoretical considerations. The additional research that is necessary to demonstrate the efficacy of the interventions identified is also considered. Central to this proposal is a greater integration of issues for people with intellectual disabilities within much broader policy and research agendas.

Psychopharmacological treatment of challenging behaviours in adults with autism and intellectual disabilities: A systematic review


Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder with a high co-occurrence with intellectual disability. Adults with Autism and intellectual disability have a high incidence of challenging behaviour, defined as repetitive self injurious or aggressive behaviour. We underwent a systemic review of the evidence for treating challenging behaviours in adults with Autism and intellectual disability.


A literature search was conducted using three large databases to extract studies on the treatment of challenging behaviour among adults with Autism and intellectual disability. Papers, which met this criterion, were reviewed and analysed to assess study evidence and quality.


Seven articles were selected which included five agents: fluvoxamine, sertraline, clomipramine, risperidone, and ziprasidone. Randomized control studies of fluvoxamine and risperidone, provided efficacy for the treatment of challenging behaviour in adults with Autism and intellectual disability. Open label trials of sertraline, clomipramine and ziprasidone were also effective in treating challenging behaviours for this population.


Risperidone and fluvoxamine provided the best evidence for treating challenging behaviour, and risperidone was the only medication with multiple trials showing its efficacy. Further studies are required to demonstrate the efficacy of psychopharmacology in treating challenging behaviours among adults with Autism and intellectual disability.