Little is known about public attitudes to people with learning disabilities from current research

There is sparse evidence for the efficacy and safety of antipsychotics in people with learning disabilities.

National policy relating to the support of people with learning disabilities has social inclusion as a key aim. The success of this aim is affected by the response of the general public. The author of this review set out to look at general population based research into awareness, attitudes and beliefs regarding learning disabilities from a review of studies published between 1990 and 2011. Seventy-five studies were identified, the majority of which were descriptive surveys of attitudes.

The conclusions drawn from such studies suggest that age, educational attainment and prior contact with someone with a learning disability were the main predictors of attitude. The effect of gender was found to be inconsistent in the studies found.

Twelve of the studies found looked at the impact of interventions designed to improve attitudes or awareness. The reviewer points out that the evidence is limited by the relatively small and unrepresentative samples used.

The author concludes that “overall, high quality research into general population attitudes to intellectual disability is limited. Public knowledge of intellectual disability and causal beliefs are particularly under-researched areas.”

The author calls for future research to include well designed studies to consider awareness, attitudes and beliefs in relation to stigma theory.

Public awareness, attitudes and beliefs regarding intellectual disability a systematic review, Scior K, in Research in Developmental Disabilities, 32, 6, 2164-2182

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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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