August 15, 2022

How TASP’s Mental Health Toolkit Can Assist Programs and Professionals Working Directly with Parents with IDD Who Have Mental Health Challenges

Written By Dr. Virginia Cruz

There are many reasons why any individual would seek mental health services.  Individuals with IDD have the same life challenges as others and may be at greater risk for mental health issues.  Why, you ask?  Most adults with IDD have experienced trauma at least once in their lives.  They are often in situations where they have little control, can be overwhelmed by circumstances and may be more easily taken advantage of.  Untreated trauma often results in cognitions, behaviors and emotions that can negatively impact parenting.  As we evaluate parenting skills it is important to acknowledge the trauma history.  Treat the trauma, change the trauma behavior and you increase the effectiveness of the parent program.  You also increase the quality of life for the survivor.

We know from the emerging literature that individuals with IDD respond positively to mental health services that address their individual needs.  However, many mental health centers limit individuals with IDD access to their services because they mistakenly believe that they would not benefit from services.  Parents with intellectual developmental disabilities should never be turned away from receiving mental health services based on their diagnosis, label or IQ score.  The key for professionals is the ability to make accommodations in the treatment approaches they use with the general population.

The Americans with Disability Act (1990) requires agencies and providers to make reasonable accommodations so that the individual can achieve the same outcome as an individual without disabilities.  The Americans with Disability Act (1990) applies to all public entities and agencies that receive public funding (local, state, federal funding) and have clients with physical or mental impairments that limit one or more major life activity.   This applies to clients with documented impairments and those who “are regarded” as having such an impairment.  This includes cognitive impairments.  It requires that modifications be made to policies, practices and procedures.  These modifications are referred to as reasonable accommodations.

How can TASP help?  TASP has created a Mental Health Toolkit to assist programs and professionals working directly with parents with IDD who have mental health challenges.  It provides a roadmap for the case managers/providers/therapists to make reasonable accommodations in the services they provide.  The contents of this tool kit may have a wider application and include other individuals with cognitive challenges.

The aim of this tool kit is to support the case manager/provider/therapist in his/her work with parents with IDD.  The content is informative and encourages creative application of generally accepted approaches to mental health treatment.  It is not exhaustive in presenting evidence-based approaches that have proven successful when working with parents with IDD but is illustrative of how common practices may be used or modified for use with this population that is often underserved by the mental health community.  It includes a case study with activities appropriate for individual, team or class use to apply the concepts and spur a more in-depth discussion.

And its low cost makes it accessible to all providers.  Just $8 for over 50 pages of original content, including:

  • Learning Objectives
  • Parent-Professional Partnerships
  • Strength-Based Perspectives – Overview
  • Strength-based Perspectives – Identifying Strengths
  • Strength-Based Perspectives – Team Activity, Maria
  • Using Active Listening Techniques with PIDD
  • Motivational Interviewing with PIDD
  • Cognitive Behavior Approaches with PIDD
  • Trauma, PTSD and PIDD
  • EMDR and PIDD
  • Developing and Coordinating Supports for Parents with IDD
  • Helping Parents with IDD Prepare for Contact with Mental Health
  • Professionals
  • Lindsay: Interview with a parent with IDD
  • Team Activity: Putting the Pieces Together


American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition.  Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing.

Feldman, M. & Aunos, M. (2010).  Comprehensive Competence-Based Parenting Assessment for Parents with Learning Difficulties and Their Children.  New York: NADD Press.

Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act Project of the DBTAC National Network of ADA Centers

About Dr. Virginia Cruz

Dr. Virginia Cruz is semi-retired from the Metropolitan State University of Denver. She has worked in the area of developmental disabilities for over 30 years. At UCLA Center for the Health Sciences, the Neuropsychiatric Hospital, she was a therapist and had the privilege of evaluating and treating children, adolescents, parents and their families with developmental disabilities as a LCSW. She is grateful to these families who were the best teachers about the ways to support individuals with intellectual disabilities.

She was Chair of the Department of Social Work at the Metropolitan State University of Denver from 1992 to 2011 and added course content on developmental disabilities to the BSW and MSW programs. She was the Director of the MSW Program from 2009 to 2012 and continues teaching, training and researching the intersectionality of child welfare and developmental disabilities.

Ginny holds a PhD in Social Work.