Positive beliefs held by adolescents about people with learning disabilities may mask underlying hostile attitudes

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

Inclusion is at the heart of national policy relating to the support of people with learning disabilities, but there is little research available into the attitudes of the general public to people with learning disabilities.

The researchers in this study were interested in particular in the how young people from White British and South Asian backgrounds might differ in their attitudes towards people with learning disabilities and to explore how they arrived at their beliefs.

Using a qualitative design they studied focus groups and carried out individual interviews with 61 White British and South Asian adolescents who were aged between 16–19 years. They also used questionnaires to compare the findings of this small study with a much larger one that was being run at the same time.

Using Thematic analysis to study their results indentified five themes. The analysis also suggested there was confusion about the concept of ‘intellectual disability’. The authors suggested that this was not helped by the fact that people with learning disabilities were virtually invisible in the mainstream media that young people might use to get their information.

They found that their participants did have many positive beliefs, but when these were examined in more detail, they found underlying ambivalence or even hostile attitudes.

They suggest there were differences between the two groups and suggest that the findings of this small study add weight to the notion that there is a continuing need for raising public awareness about learning disabilities and in particular to pay attention to the need for culturally sensitive support.

Public Attitudes towards People with Intellectual Disabilities: A Qualitative Comparison of White British & South Asian People, Coles, S. & Scior, K., in Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 25: 177–188

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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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