Residential school placements for children and young people with intellectual disabilities

Gore N, Brady S, Cormack M, McGill P, Shurlock J, Jackson-Brown F, Reid C, Singh R, Legge A, Saville M, Wedge S


Out of area residential placements are associated with a range of poor outcomes for adults with intellectual disabilities and behaviours that challenge. In recent years there has been an increased drive to reduce such placements at as early a stage as possible. In this context the current review collates research and policy regarding use of residential schools for children and young people with intellectual disabilities and transition from these settings to adult services.

The review highlights that relatively little is known about both use of, and transition from, residential schooling for children and young people with intellectual disabilities in the UK. Thirteen articles are identified: 7 examining the child or families’ experiences before placement, 4 examining outcomes during the placement, and 4 examining the process of transitioning from the placement and longer term outcomes.

The methodological quality of articles was often limited. A lack of control groups, independent samples, or adequate sample sizes was particularly notable. Results are discussed in relation to factors that lead to a child’s placement in a residential school, children and families’ experiences of the placement, and outcomes following placement, including the transition process.

A number of research priorities are highlighted based on gaps in the literature. Examples of alternative forms of support from clinical practice are provided, with recognition that a multi-element model is likely to be needed to provide high quality support to this group of young people.

View PDF