Increasing demand for speech therapy for parents with learning disabilities


We have posted previously about the evidence relating to support for parents with learning disabilities , with studies suggesting that whilst parents with learning disabilities may experience poorer psychological well-being than parents in the general population, there is evidence that improvements in psychological well-being can be made through improvements in social support.

The researcher in this study was interested specifically in the area of communication and in particular in the patterns of referral to speech and language therapy (SLT) services.

The research was done in northern England and the author set out to identify current referral patterns and quantify the level of demand upon the SLT service from parents with learning disabilities in the area.

The researcher collected data for 24-months. She interrogated the SLT clinical database and carried out a case note audit to identify the reason for referral and number of contacts.

What she found was that more than a fifth of referrals during the period were for parents, including a relatively high proportion of young women.

She suggests that the findings may indicate that the SLT service was seen by referrers as a source of support for people with learning disabilities who are or are about to become parents.

Referrals related to impending court cases as well as the need for support to parents in their communication skills to improve parenting skills.

She concludes that the level of demand found in the study shows that in this area of northern England, there is an increase in people experiencing communication challenges resulting from their lives as parents.

Parents with learning disabilities and speech and language therapy. A service evaluation of referrals and episodes of care, Stansfield J, in  British Journal of Learning Disabilities, 40: 169–176.

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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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