The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities (FPLD) has produced a guide on ways to adapt the World Health Organization-endorsed FRIENDS for Life programme to help children and young people with learning disabilities to manage their feelings better.
Although children and young people with learning disabilities have higher rates of emotional and behavioural problems than their non-disabled peers, research shows they have less access to services and support.
Developed in Australia, the FRIENDS and Fun Friends programmes build resilience by helping children and teenagers cope with feelings of fear, worry, and depression by teaching cognitive, behavioural and emotional skills in a simple, well-structured format. Based on cognitive behaviour therapy the programmes enable children and young people to learn about the links between their thoughts, feelings and behaviour.
The FPLD worked with clinical psychologist Rowena Rossiter, in collaboration with Hazel Court School and the CAMHS-LD Family Intensive Support Service in Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust on a small project to enable the FRIENDS for Life programme to be accessible for children and young people with learning disabilities. The FPLD adaptations were planned to consist of simplified materials with high visual and low verbal content to make the sessions more meaningful to those with learning disabilities.
The subsequent guide is based on FPLD’s experiences of trialling some of the FRIENDS for life activities with a group of young people with learning disabilities.
It is aimed at all professionals working with children and young people with learning disabilities in: •Education, such as teachers, learning support assistants, learning mentors, educational psychologists, speech and language therapy assistants •Health, including school nurses, community nurses, clinical psychologists, speech and language therapists, communication assistants, mental health practitioners •The voluntary and community sector.
Jill Davies, FPLD research programme manager, said: “We know that children and young people with learning disabilities have higher rates of emotional and behavioural problems than their peers without learning disabilities yet research shows they have less access to services and support.
“By adapting the FRIENDS for Life programme we hope that more children and young people with learning disabilities are able to better manage their feelings and achieve a greater sense of wellbeing.”