Thematic organisation of activities did not improve quality for people with profound intellectual and multiple disabilities.


The idea of organising activities thematically has been developed in the Netherlands. The expected outcomes of this approach have been suggested as the provision of more activities with greater variety along with more attention offered to each individual person.

23 attendees of one day centre took part in a study of this new approach. The study authors collected data on the number, type, and length of activities offered as well as the duration of individual attention each attendee was given during each activity.

The study found that whilst the average number of activities was well above the average found in other centres, 63% of these were care-related activities, activities relating to starting and finishing the day and time spent on waiting and resting.

Less variety than expected was found in the type of activities offered with artistic, creative and “micro-technology” activities being offered less frequently or not offered at all.

The notion of increased personal time was not supported by the data.

The authors make some suggestions about ways to better organise the resources at the disposal of the centre to improve the outcomes suggested by the approach, but not found in this initial study.

Day Services for People With Profound Intellectual and Multiple Disabilities: An Analysis of Thematically Organized Activities, van der Putten, A. & Vlaskamp, C. in Journal of Policy and Practice in Intellectual Disabilities, 8: 10–17

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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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