A descriptive investigation of dysphagia in adults with intellectual disabilities

J Intellect Disabil Res. 2009 Jan;53(1):29-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2788.2008.01115.x. Epub 2008 Aug 28.


Background: Dysphagia has rarely been investigated in adults with intellectual disabilities (ID) despite being a serious condition affecting health and quality of life.

Method: This study collected information about 101 adults with ID, living in community settings, referred for an assessment of their eating and drinking. Ninety-nine people were classified as having dysphagia from clinical and videofluoroscopic assessments. This information was used to give an indication of the prevalence of dysphagia in adults with ID and identify the co-occurrence of physiological and anatomical indicators and associated negative health conditions.

Results: Details of the characteristics and conditions associated with dysphagia are provided. These include cerebral palsy, increased physical disability and cognitive impairment. A tentative indication of the current prevalence of dysphagia was found (8.15%).

Conclusion: Findings indicate that dysphagia is a significant issue for people with ID warranting further investigation. Practice implications detailed include increasing awareness of 'at risk' groups, changes in dysphagia with ageing, medication use and illness, and how findings can inform assessment and training.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Cerebral Palsy / epidemiology
  • Cerebral Palsy / psychology
  • Cognition Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Comorbidity
  • Deglutition Disorders / diagnosis
  • Deglutition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Deglutition Disorders / psychology
  • Disabled Persons / psychology
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Intellectual Disability / epidemiology*
  • Intellectual Disability / psychology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Young Adult