A new animation produced by the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists for People with Learning Disabilities (ACPPLD) provides advice for physiotherapists on making reasonable adjustments for people with additional needs.
Most people with learning disabilities can access mainstream physiotherapy services, and healthcare professionals have a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments to achieve the best possible outcomes.
However, many physiotherapists do not specialise in learning disabilities, and may require additional training to learn how to provide the best possible care.
Why might people with learning disabilities need physiotherapy?
According to the ACPPLD, there are a number of factors that predispose people with learning disabilities to developing physiotherapy related problems.
These include associated physical impairments and conditions; premature ageing; increased risk of injuries and falls; poor health literacy; and leading sedentary and unhealthy lifestyles. As a result, many adults with a learning disability will require access to physiotherapy at some point within their lifetime.
While there are specialist learning disability physiotherapists, these specialists may not always be available and people with learning disabilities often access mainstream physiotherapy services.
It is therefore vital that all physiotherapists are confident in providing reasonable adjustments to people who need them.
Physios should ensure patients have accessible information to take away from the appointment
The animation breaks down the advice into three categories: before the appointment, during the appointment and after the appointment.
Before the appointment, physiotherapists should plan and prepare. They should find out about their patient, ask a family member or carer to support the appointment and arrange a location where the patient feels relaxed and comfortable, allowing for extra time where necessary.
During the appointment, physios should remember to be flexible, think creatively and communicate effectively. This includes involving the carer or family member in conversations about the patient’s care.
After the appointment, it is vital that parents and carers have accessible information to take away. If necessary, physios can speak to a specialist physiotherapist and/or the local community learning disability team for further advice.
The new animation follows on from the successful 2020 campaign ‘So your next patient has a learning disability – A guide for physiotherapists’, which offered simple but practical advice and suggestions on how to improve the physiotherapy outcomes for people with a learning disability.
Accessing healthcare services
The ACPPLD are encouraging all physiotherapists to share the animation with colleagues, patients and their care networks and the multidisciplinary team.
While the animation is designed specifically for physios, the Association says the messaging applies to all healthcare services and aims to help “people with a learning disability access the healthcare they need.”