Overslaan en naar de inhoud gaan

More predictability for people with autism

The 13th European Congress of Mental Health in Intellectual Disability (EAMHID) was held in Berlin, Germany, September 23 - 25, 2021. The central theme was 'From Science to Practice'. To kick off sharing the knowledge we have interviewed some of the keynote speakers. This is an interview with Peter Vermeulen, Clinical Educationalist, Autism in Context from Belgium. 


Research, intellectual disabilities, and mental health (or challenging behaviour). What comes to mind reading these key words? 

That we should make a U-turn in our approach: from focusing on the lack of well-being in people with intellectual disabilities resulting in, for example, challenging behaviour, to focusing on the promotion of well-being.


What is the main research objective/theme/focus of the study you will be presenting? What are the main results from your study?

I am not working at a University, nor doing research, so I cannot answer. What I do is translate scientific research into practical guidelines for professionals and parents.


How might outcomes of your (previous) studies affect daily practice in the support of persons with ID and mental health disorders and/or challenging behaviour? How can daily care improve their support based on your study/work?

What I argue for is:

  • To understand the way people with autism and intellectual disability view the world is a prerequisite for supporting them. We should look beyond the (challenging) behaviour and understand that when you are context blind, the world with its everchanging meanings can be quite stressful and fearful, leading to all kind of stress behaviours, like challenging behaviours. Contextual sensitivity lets the brain predict the world. If a brain is context blind, the world becomes very unpredictable. That is why offering predictability is strategy number one in autism friendliness.
  • We should focus more on well-being and happiness in our daily care. Daily practice can improve when professionals know about the evidence-based strategies that improve a person’s well-being. There are two aspects of happiness: the hedonic and the eudaemonic. Most professionals focus primarily on the hedonic aspects (creating pleasure, joy, safety for their clients), but it is a challenge to create opportunities to enhance the eudaemonic aspects of happiness in people with intellectual disabilities (and autism). How can we make their life more purposeful and fulfilling?


Can you suggest topics for future studies you will be working on?  How can we better implement scientific findings in daily practices?

I would like to see more research studying how we can work on the eudaemonic aspects of happiness in people with intellectual disabilities.