Expressions of stress of people with severe intellectual disabilities and sensitive caregiving to regulate stress: A qualitative study

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Abstract

Background
People with severe to profound intellectual disabilities have particular needs for others to help them regulate stress. Such support may be hampered by difficulties in detecting and interpreting expressions of stress. This study aimed to describe and identify stress-related behaviours and sensitive, stress-regulating responses to these behaviours.

Method
Video recordings of psychotherapeutic interactions between four clients with severe intellectual disabilities and behavioural problems and two attachment therapists were analysed using a stepwise spiral of analysis approach. Stress-related behaviours were identified with a behaviour rating scale for arousal and valence.

Results
Distinct stress-related behaviours were subdivided into stress-specific, non-stress-specific, and client-specific behaviours. Additionally, examples of responsive behaviours to clients’ expressions of varying arousal and valence were found.

Conclusions
A wide variety of expressions indicative of different levels of arousal were found, with few expressions specific for stress. The descriptions of responsive behaviours might support parents and caregivers in external stress regulation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Intellectual & Developmental Disability
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2022

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