Exploring the meaning of traumatic life events for adults with learning disabilities
Background: There has been a lack of research investigating the concept of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with adults with learning disabilities. Previous research investigating the concept of PTSD assumed that adults with learning disabilities would react to traumatic events in a similar way to adults without learning disabilities. A review of current literature investigating children's reactions to trauma challenged this assumption. Methodology: A two-stage study was chosen using a qualitative methodology. In the pilot study two focus groups were held for staff members working with adults with learning disabilities to talk about their experiences of working with people who had experienced traumatic events. The findings from the pilot study informed the remainder of the study. In the main study semi-structured interviews were used to interview six adults with mild learning disabilities about their experiences of trauma. The transcripts were analysed using an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IP A) methodology. A quantitative measure, the Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale, was used in conjunction with the individual interviews. Results: An organising conceptual principle, whether individuals perceived the world to be a dangerous or a safe place organised the themes into a coherent framework. Five main themes emerged from the data which were labelled: The impact of the trauma, I avoid things that remind me of the trauma, I am prepared for danger in the future, the tension of talking or not talking and the struggle of who to blame. Discussion: The results were related to previous theoretical frameworks and the methodological limitations of the research acknowledged. The clinical implications of the findings for disclosure, assessment and therapeutic intervention were discussed.