Parents with Intellectual Disabilities

There continues to be a critical need for information about appropriate services for parents who have intellectual, cognitive or developmental disabilities, or who have learning difficulties. Through the Looking Glass (TLG) initiated services for parents with intellectual disabilities and their children in 1983. (TLG and others have chosen not to use the term "mental retardation" as it is considered offensive by many of those so labeled.) A specialized program for parents with intellectual disabilities was established in 1990 and serves 40-50 families annually. Our intervention services to parents with intellectual disabilities have documented significant outcomes: the out-of-home placement rate of children of parents with intellectual disabilities served by TLG is 2-7% compared to a national out-of-home placement rate of 40-60%.

Parents with intellectual disabilities have been a major focus throughout our role (since 1993) as the primary national resource center for parents with disabilities. We have field-tested curricula and adaptations, reviewed materials, annotated articles, research and legal precedents, participated in media projects, and developed model intervention strategies that are channeled into training of professionals. Parents with intellectual disabilities were a major focus of our international conferences. In recent years, we have concentrated on improving practice in the many mainstream systems serving and affecting the lives of these families, such as child protection, and early intervention systems and Early Head Start. Improving practice in legal systems associated with child protection and family courts has been a particular focus. Our expertise has been channeled into legislation developed in three states, to improve practice with parents with all disabilities, including parents with diverse cognitive disabilities. The following articles and linkages reflect some of our work and the resources we have found helpful in this area.

Parents with developmental disabilities who are Regional Center clients residing in Alameda or Contra Costa counties can receive individualized home based services during pregnancy and parenting.

TLG offers a continuum of services for parents and their families from pregnancy through the child’s 18th birthday. TLG can assist parents in becoming consumers of the Regional Center of the East Bay.

TLG services for parents with intellectual disabilities include:

  • Pregnancy and birthing preparation specialized for women with intellectual disabilities
  • Newborn baby care and safety training in the home
  • Parenting support and education
  • Case management, disability resources, community building for more isolated parents
  • Family, play therapy and infant mental health intervention
  • Child health & developmental education through hands-on practical activities in the home/community
  • Child developmental services- assessment & therapeutic intervention

Click here for a copy of Guidelines for Practice with Parents with Intellectual Disabilities and their Children that was developed by Through the Looking Glass.