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Department of Human Services Highlights Role of Relationships and Social Support Systems for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Autism and Mental Health and Behavioral Challenges


Harrisburg, PA - The Pennsylvania Department of Human Services (DHS) today released the latest issue of the Positive Approaches Journal, which aims to provide the most recent research and resources for people with mental health and behavioral challenges, intellectual disabilities, autism, and other developmental disabilities to live an everyday life. This edition focuses on the importance of social connectedness and outlines ways of supporting people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism in forming healthy and long-lasting relationships.

“While the past year has proven incredibly difficult for everyone’s relationships and social life, the pandemic has revealed major disparities in this regard for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism. These disparities hurt everyone,” said DHS Secretary Teresa Miller. “People with dual diagnoses often face challenges for true inclusion in their communities; historic segregation, inadequate education, and, on some occasions, abuse have made developing healthy relationships difficult. It is our hope that this edition of the Positive Approaches Journal will shine a light on ways to address these issues and ensure an everyday life for the people we serve.” 

This edition features research and guidance on the following:

  • Lessons from COVID-19: The Importance of Social Networks: This article examines importance of strong social networks to overall health and how those networks have served – or failed – individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Our Contribution to Healthy and Unhealthy Relationships: This article outlines best practices in sex education for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and autism.
  • Building Healthy Relationships Together: Healing the Past to Promote a Positive Future: This article explores the societal challenges that people with disabilities face in forming healthy, long-lasting relationships and explores how this has a detrimental impact the community.
  • Toward the White Picket Fence: Experiences Providing Education on Sexuality and Healthy Relationships to People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities: This article outlines how to implement a healthy relationships & sexuality curriculum with groups of self-advocates and details the best practices and barriers to implementation.
  • Sexuality, Social Connectedness, and the Internet: This article details ways to ensure people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are safely included on social media and in digital communities without victimization and exploitation.

The journal is a collaboration of DHS’ Office of Developmental Programs and Office of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and collects resources, observations, and advancements in mental and behavioral health in order to better serve people with dual diagnoses in their communities. 

“Our goal at DHS is to serve more people in their communities, and we hope that by publishing these resources and advancements to professionals and supporters, we can foster more research and improved services to the people who need them,” said Secretary Miller.

Read this edition of the Positive Approaches Journal.

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