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

New checklist to improve the wellbeing of people with severe learning disabilities

Cerebra, a national charity helping children with brain conditions, has published a ‘Be-Well Checklist’, designed to help parents, carers and professionals improve the wellbeing of people with severe learning disabilities and complex needs.

The checklist can be used to try and workout why someone is showing a particular behaviour, why they may be distressed, angry, upset or appear to have a very low mood.

Since people with learning disabilities and complex needs need support in their daily life and often find it hard to tell others what they want or need, the charity hopes the checklist will help families and professionals to find a reason behind the behaviour and resolve the issue.

Looking for reasons behind challenge behaviour

Research and clinical experience show that when it comes to challenging behaviour and wellbeing, there are important things to consider that are often missed. These are: pain and discomfort, sensory sensitivity, anxiety, sleep difficulties, emotional control, impulsivity, insistence on sameness, and differences in social behaviour.

It is almost important to consider whether the challenging behaviours are a way for the person to access something they need or want. Not having an effective way to access things can therefore cause a person to act in a certain way, which reduces quality of life.

A tool to check for causes and keep track of behaviour and wellbeing

The checklist is in two parts: the Be-Well Checklist itself that describes the items and what to look for, and the Be-Well Record that keeps track of what might be important and how things are going.

In this way, the checklist ensures that the important things are discussed and thought about, so that carers, parents and professionals can decide together which assessments and treatments might be helpful.

Professor Chris Oliver, Emeritus Professor of Neurodevelopmental Disorders, who led the research team who wrote the checklist, said: “Challenging behaviours have many different causes and some of these, such as pain and anxiety, are often overlooked. Making sure that all possible causes are assessed is the first step to improving wellbeing and behaviour but it can be hard to know where to start.

“Carers, parents and professionals need a checklist of all of the important causes to work through together and keep track of someone’s behaviour and wellbeing. The Be-Well Checklist is a tool that will help everyone involved to do this”.

Three new parent guides have also been published

Cerebra is also published three new parent guides to go alongside the checklist. These are:

Beverley Hitchcock, Acting Head of Research and Information at Cerebra, said she hopes the checklist and the parental guides will make it “easier for families, carers and professionals to get the knowledge they need to overcome challenges and improve well-being in children with severe learning disability and complex needs”.

To download a free copy of the Be-Well checklist, visit cerebra.org.uk/download/be-well-checklist/.

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