Cognitive therapy abilities in people with learning disabilities

Kathryn Sams, Suzanne Collins, Shirley Reynolds

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: There is a need to develop and adapt therapies for use with people with learning disabilities who have mental health problems.

Aims: To examine the performance of people with learning disabilities on two cognitive therapy tasks (emotion recognition and discrimination among thoughts, feelings and behaviours). We hypothesized that cognitive therapy task performance would be significantly correlated with IQ and receptive vocabulary, and that providing a visual cue would improve performance.

Method: Fifty-nine people with learning disabilities were assessed on the Wechsler Abbreviated Scale of Intelligence (WASI), the British Picture Vocabulary Scale-II (BPVS-II), a test of emotion recognition and a task requiring participants to discriminate among thoughts, feelings and behaviours. In the discrimination task, participants were randomly assigned to a visual cue condition or a no-cue condition.

Results: There was considerable variability in performance. Emotion recognition was significantly associated with receptive vocabulary, and discriminating among thoughts, feelings and behaviours was significantly associated with vocabulary and IQ. There was no effect of the cue on the discrimination task.

Conclusion: People with learning disabilities with higher IQs and good receptive vocabulary were more likely to be able to identify different emotions and to discriminate among thoughts, feelings and behaviours. This implies that they may more easily understand the cognitive model. Structured ways of simplifying the concepts used in cognitive therapy and methods of socialization and education in the cognitive model are required to aid participation of people with learning disabilities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-33
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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