Call for culturally sensitive services for people with learning disabilities from South Asian communities

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People from ethnic minorities in the UK are likely to face inequalities, discrimination and disadvantage. From the late 1990s, studies began to document examples of racist attitudes being shown towards South Asian children with learning disabilities, There were also suggestions that South Asian parents received later diagnosis of learning disability in their child, with the suggestion that this may be because their concerns about their child’s development were not being taken seriously

The researchers in the current study were looking at the cultural context of care-giving amongst South Asian communities caring for a child with learning disabilities in the UK.

They worked with a number of focus groups of parents from Sikh and Muslim support groups. Their children were all receiving support from learning disability services.

They analysed the transcripts of the focus groups using interpretative phenomenological analysis, a qualitative technique used to offer insights into how people make sense of a given phenomenon, usually one relating to a significant major life event or important relationship. They hoped to develop a culturally sensitive account of Sikh and Muslim parents’ experiences of caring for a child with learning disabilities.

They found three major themes from the analysis:

  • Making sense of the disability
  • Feeling let down by services
  • Looking to the future

The authors suggest that these findings reinforce those from previous studies, especially the difficulties making sense of the disabilities and problematic interactions with services.

The authors make a number of recommendations for developing culturally sensitive support for ethnic minority groups including the need to be aware of intra-group variations in interpretations and responses of South Asian parents. The recommendations are likely to be significant in the future given the expected increase in multi-ethnic populations.

The cultural context of care-giving: qualitative accounts from South Asian parents who care for a child with intellectual disabilities in the UK, Heer K et al., in Advances in Mental Health and Intellectual Disabilities, 6, 4, 179 -191

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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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