by William Van Ornum, Ph.D. on
There is an especially fine organization to help persons who, in addition to developmental disabilities, also have a psychiatric diagnosis from the DSM IV-TR. Some examples of dually diagnosed persons would be a Down syndrome person that is also diagnosed with major depression, a mildly retarded person that is also diagnosed with bipolar disorder, or a person with Prader-Willi syndrome that is diagnosed with panic disorder.
Treatment for these individuals has always been extremely difficult since persons with psychiatric impairment are usually served by a state Office of Mental Health, and those with developmental disabilities are served by an Office of Developmental Disabilities. Frequently, the training of professional staff in each system is very different. Psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and others in the developmental-disabilities system learn about psychiatric diagnoses and treatment in school and during internships or early work experiences. Some may never have worked with a person that has accompanying developmental disabilities by their time of licensure.
Professionals working in the developmental-disabilities system may have been trained specifically in that system. Although they may have great knowledge and expertise in areas such as behavior modification or program planning, their background has not emphasized working with psychiatric or psychological conditions.
You can see how difficult it must be to find a professional who has intensive work experience and training within each system.
has as its mission “advancing mental wellness for persons with developmental disabilities through the promotion of excellence in mental health care.” They sponsor meetings in the United States and throughout the world. They sponsor a line of books. Their group understands the special problems involved in parenting when a child suffers from this condition. One parent stated: “Being a member of NADD and coming to the NADD Conference gives me a chance to recharge my batteries. I feel that it is extremely valuable to be able to meet with other parents that are going through the same thing.”
The Web site, which includes membership information, is