Suggestions for Therapy


1. Slow down your speech

2. Use visuals whenever possible to reinforce your verbal messages:

  1. Draw pictures, and
  2. Write down suggestions for change in brief, outline form

3. Present information one item at a time

4. Ask for feedback after each item to ensure clear comprehension

5. Be specific in making suggestions for change.

6. Practice different ways of handling tough situations the client is likely to encounter.

7. Format your therapy session so that several repeats of key information occur. For example

a. review information covered in the previous meeting,

b. discuss how week has gone,

c. work on specific ways of handling various troublesome events that occurred,

d. review the key things you want the client to work on during the week, and

e. write the homework assignment out and review it with the client to be sure it is clear.

8. Work on building coping skills rather than insight.

9. Remember that with these clients change will occur more slowly than with others. Be content to measure change with a micrometer rather than a yardstick.

10. Remember that effective treatment for people with developmental disabilities must also include a variety of support and education services for families and caregivers.


Avrin, S., Charlton, M., & Tallant, B. (1998). Diagnosis and treatment of clients with developmental disabilities. Unpublished manuscript,  Aurora Mental Health Center as cited in Charlton, M., Kliethermes, M., Tallant,B., Taverne, A., & Tishelman, A. (2004). National Child Traumatic Stress Network: Facts on Traumatic Stress and Children with Disabilities .  http://www.nctsn.org/sites/default/files/assets/pdfs/traumatic_stress_developmental_disabilities_final.pdf