Children with learning disabilities lack information and support

BMJ 1997; 314 doi: (Published 05 April 1997) Cite this as: BMJ 1997;314:993
  1. Jacqui Wisea
  1. BMJ

    Many parents of children with learning disabilities are not getting enough information and support, according to the mental health charity Mencap.

    Mencap's report Left in the Dark calls for families of people with learning disabilities to be offered a dedicated adviser to offer support, empathy, and information. It says that such a service should be supported by statutory funding.

    The report is based on a survey of 1000 parents of children under 11 who were attending 126 special needs schools across Britain. The survey shows that diagnosis of a disability can take many years. Many parents thought that they were “fobbed off” by doctors and health visitors when they first suspected that something was wrong. Sometimes the diagnosis does not become definite, which can prevent parents getting the services and benefits they need.


    Diagnosis of learning disability can take many years


    The parents thought that medical professionals sometimes gave the news of a child's learning disability in an unsympathetic or even dismissive manner. Only a third of parents surveyed said that the doctors were supportive, most doctors describing the disability in terms of what the child would not be able to do rather than what he or she would be able to achieve. Those surveyed also thought that many professionals have only a limited knowledge about learning disability and that they tend to work along “tram lines,” knowing little about issues outside their particular subject.

    Another common complaint was that information and support was not offered. Parents often had actively to seek out every piece of advice and information from many different sources. Mencap says that there should be someone to liaise between the various professionals in the health, social services, and education sectors for the benefit of the child.

    View Abstract