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Attention please! Alertness in individuals with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities

20 October 2011

PhD ceremony: Ms. V. S. Munde, 12.45 uur, Aula Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Dissertation: Attention please! Alertness in individuals with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities

Promotor(s): prof. C. Vlaskamp

Faculty: Behavioural and Social Sciences

Tom is lying on the floor and is apparently staring without any focus. A direct support person (DSP) places a toy in front of him: “Look, Tom! I brought a beautiful toy for you! Can you grab it?” Tom keeps staring without any visible reaction to the toy. The DSP repeats her question. Some seconds later, Tom slowly begins to move. He turns his head towards the toy and tries to reach the toy with his hand.

In support and education for individuals with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities (PIMD), DSPs and researchers often face similar situations. While these situations illustrate the importance of alertness for learning and development, the interrelated problems of describing alertness, determining alertness and influencing alertness in individuals of the target group also become apparent. The present study aimed to elaborate our knowledge about the three problems.

The development and initial use of the Alertness Observation List (AOL) showed that alertness can be observed reliably using a small number of observation categories. In addition, physiological measurements (such as heart rate and breath) might be used to validate alertness observations. Based on several observation studies, we conclude that DSPs play an important role in the alertness stimulation of individuals with PIMD. DSPs can promote the alertness of their clients by knowing about the importance of alertness, by observing alertness levels, and by, then, adapting the situation to the individual needs and possibilities of the person with PIMD.

Last modified:15 September 2017 3.40 p.m.

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