Family support and responsive services critical for parents with learning disabilities


There are many barriers to people with learning disabilities becoming parents. Published research describing the experience of parents with a learning disability suggests that these include planning for both pregnancy as well as for parenthood.

Studies have also shown however that the provision of the right support at the right time can enable parents with learning disabilities to provide a secure and loving environment for their child.

This study describes the experiences of six parents to illustrate a range of issues relevant to informed decision-making about parenthood. These issues include: knowledge of contraception, the development of parenting skills and the importance of social support.

The authors’ analysis of the issues raised identified some key themes – for example, the combination of family support and responsive services was identified as critical to the development of a positive parenting context.

The authors suggest that the stories highlighted in the study reinforce the need for professionals and support staff working with young people with learning disabilities to ensure that good quality information is available about contraception, pregnancy and parenting, and that this is made available in the context of a supportive environment.

Planned pregnancy, planned parenting: enabling choice for adults with a learning disability, Conder, J et al., in British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 39: 105–112.

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John Northfield

After qualifying as a social worker, John worked in community learning disability teams before getting involved in a number of long-stay hospital closure programmes, working to develop individual plans for people moving into their own homes. He worked for BILD, helping to develop the Quality Network and was editorial lead for the NHS electronic library learning disabilities specialist collection. This led him to found the Learning Disabilities Elf site with Andre Tomlin as a way of making the evidence accessible to practitioners in health and social care. Most recently he has worked as part of Mencap's national quality team and also been involved in a number of national website developments, including the General Medical Council's learning disabilities site.

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