Week two of the British Institute of Learning Disabilities’ Greater London Community of Practice Blog!
Written by Clare Melvin
Following last’s week’s blog on mental and physical health, this week looks at wellbeing, including staff and carer burnout and loneliness. Two very important areas which are often neglected and affect us all.
There is a current focus on loneliness and the drive to address increasing social isolation despite technology creating easier ways of connecting people. The erosion of local communities and increase in online communication has left many groups vulnerable to being ‘left out’. This includes individuals with smaller social networks, such as those with learning disabilities and autism as well as older adults. There is now also recognition that the pressures of social media have led younger generations to feel more isolated and lonely.
In their report looking into the impact of loneliness in children, young people and families, Action for Children identified disabled children and young people (including those with learning disabilities and autism) as being at greater risk of social isolation and loneliness, as well as their parents being at increased risk. You can read the full report here which includes advice and guidance on how to recognise and address loneliness, as well visiting their website which has other resources and support for parents.
The Jo Cox Campaign to End Loneliness has presently focused on the elderly, cancer survivors and those with physical disabilities, however they have a number of resources and reports which are applicable to individuals with learning disabilities or autism, particularly for those living in care homes or who have experienced mental illness. There is also guidance for local commissioners and strategies to tackle loneliness.
The government is currently developing a strategy to address loneliness and recent research by the National Autistic Society has identified individuals with Autism as being four times more likely to experience loneliness than the general population. The NAS is therefore calling on the government to make sure the new strategy specifically addresses the needs of those with autism spectrum conditions. You can read more about their research here and here.
The government strategy will take some time before policy is established and national guidance provided however, many charities and organisations are taking the initiative and producing their own self-help and advice . Although very few, if any, are directed specifically at individuals with learning and developmental disabilities (which needs to be addressed and rectified!), many of those currently available require only minor adaptations or are appropriate for younger and older adults with learning and developmental disabilities. For example:
Stress and carer burnout, important can be relentless, on
Emotional resilience online courses, help:
Holidays and Summer Days Out
With Holiday season fast approaching, days out can be good for the soul but might prove difficult in practice with many attractions and events being unsuitable or not friendly towards individuals and families with additional or complex needs.
Whilst there is still a way to go on this front, , in France, Foundation CultureSpaces allows free access to a number of heritage sites across the country for families of children with autism (see website for terms), and in the US, Sesame Street has opened the first autism friendly theme park. Closer to home, there have been some developments with the National Trust working alongside to make more autism friendly and Windsor Castle is recognised as Autism Friendly and have a guide for those visiting. In addition to this, the Isle of Wight has just held it’s first music festival specifically for people with learning disabilities, which has been described as a “resounding success”. You can read more about the festival here and see some great photos from the event.