Background: Intellectual disabilities often create a state of chronic stress for both the person concerned and their significant others (family, caregivers). The development of stress management methods is therefore important for the reduction of stress in persons with intellectual disability. The aim of this experiment was to investigate the effect of slow-paced breathing on stress symptoms experienced by adolescents with intellectual disabilities during a cognitive task under time pressure.
Method: Fourteen adolescents with intellectual disabilities (Mage = 17.39 years, range 15–19 years) took part in two laboratory sessions – a slow-paced breathing session (experimental condition) and an audiobook session (control condition) – the order of which was counterbalanced across participants. Vagal tone was measured through heart rate variability to index stress management.
Results: No difference in vagal tone was observed at baseline between experimental and control conditions. Compared with the control condition, vagal tone was significantly higher during the experimental condition.
Conclusions: The slow-paced breathing task enhanced stress management to a greater extent than did listening to an audiobook. Slow-paced breathing seems to be an easy to learn stress management technique that appears as an effective auxiliary method of lowering stress in adolescents with intellectual disabilities.
- heart rate variability
- parasympathetic activity