An overlooked, neglected, yet significant problem in the United States today is the use and abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and other drugs by individuals with intellectual disabilities (ID). Increasing numbers of people with ID are living independently in the community with both its benefits and its risks. Many individuals with ID do not understand the dangers of nicotine use, alcohol, and illicit substances, are lacking in important prevention skills (e.g., assertiveness and problem solving), and have limited supportive social networks. Some of the characteristics found in people with I.D. - short attention span, difficulties with abstract concepts, overly compliant personalities, learning and memory deficits -- increase the likelihood of substance abuse and its negative consequences. Given the unique learning needs of individuals with I.D., current prevention programs designed for people without cognitive limitations are too abstract, fast paced, and text-based. The goal of this project is to develop a comprehensive prevention program -- Dangerous Drug Prevention Skills for People with Intellectual Disabilities (DDPS) -- that will be targeted to this population and address their unique learning needs. In Phase I a prototype DVD was developed that covered the first two units. In Phase II the complete interactive, multimedia DVD will be developed for use by people with ID and their learning partner (LP). The final comprehensive DDPS program will consist of nine modules based on research-based prevention approaches for this population. The final product will be commercially packaged and video material will be available on DVD. The completed program will be highly interactive and utilize concrete materials, use video models of appropriate and inappropriate behaviors, provide opportunities for role-playing of the materials, frequently repeat key concepts, and provide visual rather than text-based cues. A unique feature of the program will be the use of a learning partner (e.g., direct support staff, parent, advocate) to help the person with ID learn and practice the information provided in the program.
Research on substance use and abuse prevention is highly relevant to public health given the negative consequences of misuse. Individuals with ID are a population at risk for abuse frequently due to their loneliness and need for social acceptance. There is a pressing need to develop prevention materials for this group. By focusing on these individuals with ID, this program brings needed intervention tools for an underserved population.