Oral Liquid Medicine for Patients with Intellectual Disabilities
Information for People with Disabilities
Understanding the state of the evidence regarding dysphagia in people with intellectual disabilities.
Dysphagia (difficulties in eating, drinking or swallowing) is associated with serious health complications and psychosocial sequelae. Dysphagia is a key concern in relation to people with intellectual disabilities. 
Dysphagia in General Population
- 5.0% of patients with a learning disability also had a diagnosis of dysphagia, with the highest prevalence recorded in patients aged 75 and over (11.7%).
- Dysphagia is more common in people with more severe learning disabilities, in people with learning disabilities who have cerebral palsy, and is also associated with motor impairment. Specific syndromes associated with learning disabilities can result in both anatomical and neurological precursors for dysphagia, including Down syndrome.
There is very little research evidence available on current practice in relation to supporting people with learning disabilities and dysphagia. Individualised interventions include altering positioning, modification of food and drink consistency, giving advice on equipment, and working on the physical environment through carer training. Numerous barriers to compliance with eating and drinking recommendations have been identified. Education to increase knowledge of dysphagia and its associated risks amongst caregivers can increase adherence to dysphagia management guidelines. There is an urgent need for research on improving the management of dysphagia in people with learning disabilities including positioning, dietary modification and long-term postural care. which may prevent changes in body shape that can cause problems with swallowing.
The quality of caregiver support provided to people with learning disabilities and dysphagia can have an influence on health and ultimate risk of death. Despite dysphagia being identified as a key risk area for people with learning disabilities, less than 20% of inpatients with learning disabilities were found to have received a swallowing assessment.
ROS000051-010 DOP November 2023
- Robertson J, Chadwick D, Baines S, Emerson E, Hatton C. People with intellectual disabilities and dysphagia. Disability and rehabilitation. 2018 May 22;40(11):1345-60. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28286961/ (Accessed 07 November 2023)
- Holdoway, A & Smith, A. Dysphagia, A healthcare professional factsheet
- Dysphagia and eating, drinking and swallowing needs overview. Available at: https://www.rcslt.org/speech-and-language-therapy/clinical-information/dysphagia/#section-1 (Accessed 07 November 2023)
- EMA CHMP Reflection Paper: Formulation of choice for the paediatric population (2006).
- Health inequalities: Dysphagia