Tips to Deal with Adults with Learning Disabilities

Dealing with adults with learning disabilities isn’t a job that everyone can do. It takes some very special skills that can’t be taught, making it the ideal career path for anyone with empathy and patience. Service users often struggle to communicate their needs and wishes effectively and that can sometimes lead to challenging behaviour.

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach when you’re dealing with an adult with a learning disability. Everyone is unique, so what helps to calm one person down might not work with another person. But here are some general pointers to consider, which are likely to make life easier.

Be positive

Adults with learning disabilities don’t need any reminder that life can be hard. But that’s no reason not to seek out the positive in every interaction. There are plenty of reasons to be cheerful, so keep them to the forefront and aim to make each day as upbeat and happy as you possibly can. Positivity is infectious, so be sure to spread it around!

See beyond the behaviour

It’s easy to get caught up in the moment when tempers escalate, but you need to remember that the behaviour is a symptom of the person’s frustration. So it’s down to you to deescalate the situation, by reducing external stimuli, focusing in on the person and enabling them to convey their message.

Help with communication

Words might be tricky, so perhaps pointing at pictures or photographs might be easier? Or drawing a picture would be more helpful? Gestures and sign language can be incredibly effective communication tools, with Makaton being widely used and understood. The essential thing is to think outside the box using any suitable methods to aid communication.

Consistency is key

Most of us can cope with a certain amount of disruption and upheaval in everyday life, but for someone with a learning disability, changes to routine can be extremely distressing. So it’s really important to create a stable routine in which service users know and understand what happens next.

Celebrate every achievement

Everyone likes to feel they’ve done well, and who doesn’t enjoy some praise now and then? It’s no different for an adult with a learning disability, so make sure every achievement, no matter how apparently minor, is acknowledged and rewarded.

And perhaps even more importantly, take the time and trouble to encourage service users to discover their talents. Everybody is good at something, so it’s important to spend time helping others to find out what that might be.

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