This chat on December 2nd is being hosted by Alistair Beverley, @the LDphysio. As a physiotherapist specialising in the care of people with Learning Disabilities, Alistair is keen to spark a conversation amongst the wider physiotherapy community around Learning Disabilities /Intellectual Disabilities.
A Learning Disability affects the way people learn new things throughout their life; it is not a medical condition in itself. Yet, people who have learning disabilities (LD) have between 17-20 year lower life expectancy on average, are four times more likely to die from preventable healthcare conditions and are significantly more likely to experience inequalities in their healthcare. (Source NHS UK, MENCAP)
As Physiotherapists, we have a unique skillset to support people with LD to engage in exercise – the best form of preventative medicine ever known – and yet we have small sporadic teams of professionals doing the best they can with ever decreasing resources to support a growing population who experience poorer health. As one of these professionals, Alistair feels that enough is enough and aims to spread the message that people with LD matter, their health matters and that you, as a healthcare professional can make a difference in your practice by understanding issues that people with LD face.
In spite of legislation designed to support people with LD (The Equality Act) which includes “reasonable adjustments” – a set of adjustments that can be made to practice as part of a reasonably practical approach to supporting people. Some examples of adjustments can be: giving more time for treatment sessions, allowing the person to visit the treatment centre before for an orientation, holding the treatment in a side room that is quieter, allowing family members, staff and support people to attend if required, or giving people information in an easy read format.
Improving your communication skills is one simple step we can all take to help support people with LD. Speaking slower, using simpler words can help improve engagement. Knowing some simple Makaton sign language can really help make people feel at ease. Being better at recognising non-verbal cues people are giving out, whether or not they are making eye contact, their body posture etc all give clues as to how they like to communicate. Alistair feels that everyone has a method of communication, a skilled communicator doesn’t try to find new ways to communicate; they learn the ways the person communicates with you. Simple steps such as these can help breed therapeutic relationships and thus engagement, meaning people are more likely to have a positive therapy session and thus, remain in better health.
Remember we are not working to save days lost from work, we are working to save lives.
Let’s start talking about it shall we?
Questions to consider:
- Have you worked with people with Learning Disabilities in your role? If so, could you share your experience of this?
- Are you aware that there is an area of Physiotherapy Specialising in working with people with LD/ID?
- How well are physios prepared for engaging with this client group?
- Are you aware of the health inequalities people with Learning Disabilities face
- How can address these as clinicians? Or is enough being done?
Your chat host:
Alistair is a physiotherapy manager at a specialist further education college. He was a Physiotherapist for Special Olympics Great Britain at 3x World Games, and is now Clinical Director for Health and Wellbeing for Special Olympics Great Britain.
Alistair describes himself as a straight talking Yorkshire man with a sense of humour (albeit a bad one). His forthright nature is evident when he speaks of his passion for improving healthcare for people with Learning/Intellectual Disabilities (LD/ID). He feels that right now not enough is being done to improve care, and by focusing on the basics, not by over-complicating things, we can build the foundations of great care for people with LD.