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Study: Many Adults With Disabilities Do Nothing All Day


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A significant number of adults with developmental disabilities have no regular, daily activities, a situation that’s symptomatic of larger problems, new research indicates.

The finding comes from a survey of nearly 800 siblings of adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities from across the country. In nearly 13 percent of cases, siblings reported that their brothers and sisters with disabilities were not involved in any sort of routine vocational or educational activities.

And the number is likely higher than that, researchers said, noting that based on how they solicited responses to their survey, participants likely tended to be higher earners and more educated than the population as whole.

Overall, those with nothing to do tended to be individuals with more emotional, behavioral or health problems and lower functioning abilities, according to the study published recently in the American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.

They were also more likely to have parents who were less able to provide care and be underserved by the community. Strikingly, the researchers said that adults with nothing to do had three times the number of unmet needs for services as compared to those who were working, volunteering or attending school.

“The lack of any vocational or educational activity may itself constitute a marker for those adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities who are most in need of intervention and formal supports,” wrote lead author Julie Lounds Taylor of Vanderbilt University and her colleagues in the study.

Beyond the impact on individuals with disabilities themselves, the researchers point out that siblings of those without any regular activities reported having poorer mental and physical health than other siblings as well as weak relationships with their brother or sister, calling into question their viability as long-term caregivers.

“Ultimately, if we are going to help adults with disabilities (and their loved ones) live more fulfilling lives, we need to work harder to understand the characteristics and effects that occur when adults with disabilities are doing nothing,” the researchers wrote.

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Comments (55 Responses)

  1. Michelle Kruse says:

    I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. I have worked at the same place for 7years. I am always busy and at work very very active. I work at a school for children and young adults that are developmentally disabled. I have mild/moderate Cerebral Palsy. I use crutches to walk and sometimes a scooter. I know I am lucky and have always found a way to work, oddly mostly with children. Only once did I have trouble with parents or staff because of my disability. So for all you out there who have trouble there is hope.

  2. Josef says:

    Wow, this is so on target for our family right now. My son Erich ( he falls under the Autism spectrum} just turned 22 in January, so he maxed out at Elim where he had a awesome structured environment for the last 8 yrs. Our family life has’nt changed so most of the time there is work or other things that don’t allow any of us to devote to keeping him busy all day long. He already wants to spend too much time watching tv, , and has to bee prodded to do things he used to love doing. The state funding for adult daytime care is nill, and the cheapest place we found for him wants $850. a week. I see he has found the value of down time, but because he does thing to the extreme, he seems to be slipping into a less active lifesyle with each passing week. I keep praying for some door to open, and wish i could find a job him and i could do together..Thanks, Josef.

  3. Judith says:

    This is why my legally blind son with cerebral palsy and epilepsy was raised like a regular human being, in regular schools, without an abundance of outside services and therapy, because once the money and the government mandated supports run out, then what?!?! He was a participant in his high school ROTC program, and will be an Eagle Scout by Winter 2013, he has numerous hobbies and interests and is looking forward to college in a few years. Of course, we need to really weigh opportunities more than “sighted” kids without epilepsy, but we have never held this kid back. This summer he is a CAMP COUNSELOR at our local Boy Scout camp. Stop tying your disabled children’s hands, stop leaving the hospital and heading over to collect social security. I DARE America to expect great things and a better happier future from our special children!

  4. Terri says:

    This topic concerns our family as well. I have an autistic son 22yrs old. He has just finished his last year of school at ACC College in Hammond and we are also seeking activities to occupy his time. Besides the monthly dance he will be attending . Is anyone aware of weekly or monthly activities fort the winter months? We are located in hammond indiana . He loves the computer and i would love to try and get a group together . If anyone is interested please email me at

  5. Jay says:

    I have the pleasure of working with a group of wonderful young adult males in a residential setting. Once their children are transitioned into adult services at 22, parents are always so amazed at how quickly the lack of funding for vocational services and available resources drops off. As healthcare workers and advocates, we are expected to stretch each and every penny to $10 or more for our guys, while we struggle ourselves in our own personal lives with limited wages, little or no raises and insane healthcare costs. Even just looking online, the number of websites directed toward children with autism and behavioral issues is 10 to 1 in comparison with those geared toward adults. Are these children supposedly like Peter Pan and never grow up? Truly a shame as my guys are some of the most wonderful people I’ve met in my life…. truly a joy. I wish they were given the attention from society and the financial support they deserve.

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