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J Intellect Disabil Res. 2014 Jan;58(1):84-98. doi: 10.1111/jir.12013. Epub 2013 Jan 21.

Training support staff to modify fluids to appropriate safe consistencies for adults with intellectual disabilities and dysphagia: an efficacy study.

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  • 1School of Applied Sciences, The University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, UK.



Modifying the consistency of food and drink is a strategy commonly used in the management of dysphagia for people with intellectual disabilities (ID). People with ID often depend on others for the preparation of food and drink and therefore depend on those caregivers achieving the correct consistency to keep them safe and avoid discomfort during mealtimes. Clinical experience and prior research have demonstrated that although training can improve modification, carers often find modification difficult and potentially stressful and recommend additional support for carers. Fluid consistency is often modified through the addition of powdered thickener. This study investigates the efficacy of typical training and use of consistency guides, the Thickness Indicator Model (TIM) tubes, in helping carers to modify fluids accurately.


A 3 × 3 pre-post experimental design with a control group was employed to compare the observed accuracy of modification across three groups and at three time points (pre-intervention baseline, immediately post-training intervention and 3-10 months post-training). Sixty-two paid carers who supported people with ID were recruited to participate in the study and each was randomly allocated to one of the three groups: a control group given written guidance only, a group who received typical training and written guidance and a group who received training, written guidance and the TIM tubes.


Typical training resulted in significantly greater carer accuracy in modifying fluid consistencies when compared with written guidance alone. Use of the TIM tubes also significantly improved accuracy in the modification of drinks compared with the group who modified with the aid of written guidance alone. At 3-10-month follow-up only the group who received typical training alongside the TIM tubes were significantly more accurate than the Written Guidance group. Further research is warranted to ascertain the effectiveness of the training and the utility of the TIM tubes in improving accuracy over a longer time scale and in individuals' usual living environments.

© 2013 The Authors. Journal of Intellectual Disability Research © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd, MENCAP & IASSIDD.


dietary modification; dysphagia; efficacy; intellectual disabilities; training

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