Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Social Welfare

Content Description

1 online resource (x, 302 pages) : illustrations (some color)

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Nancy Claiborne

Committee Members

Hal Lawson, Susan Scharoun


developmental disability, dual diagnosis, intervention research, mixed methods, multiple case study, Developmentally disabled youth, Teenagers with mental disabilities, Behavior disorders in adolescence

Subject Categories

Social Work


Given what has been described in the literature about the life circumstances of youth who are dually diagnosed with a developmental disability and a mental or behavior disorder, we know that in the trajectory of their lives they are likely to live out of their homes and communities for lengthy periods of time in order to receive specialized treatment. The Intervention and Supports for Adolescents and Families (ISAF) program, an integrated multi-disciplinary treatment approach, was designed to cross over multiple service systems to address the challenges of delivering services to dually diagnosed youth and their families and reduce the risk for youth to be placed out of their homes, schools and communities. A multiple case study of five youth was employed to look at data from the six years of services delivered in the ISAF program using a mixed methods sequential explanatory design. The dissertation findings indicate that the use of an integrated service approach that taught the youth coping skills related to their mental or behavioral disorder and simultaneously provided support to their parents as being key to successfully reducing maladaptive behaviors and subsequently eliminating the risk to out-of-home placements. This was regardless of the youth's developmental disability, mental health diagnosis, IQ level or family composition. In addition, the findings not only reinforce the importance of the early diagnosis and intervention, but also point toward addressing issues around communication as essential in preventing the co-occurrence of mental or behavioral disorders for developmental disabled individuals. The findings speak volumes for greater integration of child and family service systems because we know that as long as mental health, developmental disabilities, child welfare and education continue to remain in their current administrative and funding silos they will continue to contribute to the burden of vulnerability for all dually diagnosed individuals and their families.

Included in

Social Work Commons