Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Books and interactive materials empower people with learning disabilities to access health services

CMG handbookPeople with learning disabilities are being empowered to access health services through a range of books and interactive materials that have been developed by a service provider.

Staff at Alderwood, part of Care Management Group (CMG), which provides 24-hour residential care to users with complex diagnoses of autism spectrum disorders, saw how difficult it was for some of the people it supports to access essential health services. From the everyday, such as going to the opticians, to the more complex like attending hospital appointments, these experiences can be distressing for individuals with complex learning disabilities. This places a potentially life-threatening barrier between these individuals and the services they need.

To address the issue, Alderwood’s expert team has developed a range of visual materials that help to prepare those with learning disabilities for a number of situations.

Staff from Alderwood visit different settings and capture their sounds and images as well as follow the journey those they support will experience. From this they create visual materials and handbooks. This enables Alderwood staff to slowly introduce the individuals they support to these new sights and sounds so they become familiarised enough to be comfortable to attend in person.

The benefits of these materials are huge. For example, when one of Alderwood’s residents was diagnosed with cancer and needed chemotherapy treatment as well as services such as MRI scans, Alderwood created a tailored set of materials that incorporated all the visual and sensory experiences the individual would face throughout their treatment process. The materials helped make a challenging experience more comfortable for the individual and ensured they were well prepared for life-saving treatment.

The team have plans to roll them out to services across the country.

Anita Smart, managing director of Alderwood, said: “A huge amount of work has gone into creating these ever-expanding materials which has been driven by our commitment to empowering the people we support to lead more independent lives.

“There is a real need to address access to healthcare for those with complex disabilities. We approached this in an entirely new and revolutionary way, which has delivered excellent results and improved people’s quality of life.

“The materials have proven vital to the people we support, and we want to share our experience with others.”

Peter Kinsey, chief executive of CMG, added: “We want to ensure all those we support are able to gain access to any service they need and we are committed to delivering this.”

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