Parental Learning Difficulty

Many parents with learning difficulties feel doubly discriminated against and feel they are seen as a failure all their lives: services do not understand them, do not listen to them and do not expect them to succeed.

Parents with learning difficulties may justifiably believe that the odds are stacked against them when it comes to successfully raising their children without the involvement of a range of professionals from health and social care agencies. More adults with learning difficulties are becoming parents and approximately half of them will have their children removed, usually as a result of concerns about their care and upbringing. For professionals, the challenges can feel equally daunting. How can they advise and support the parents whilst at the same time fulfilling their responsibilities to safeguard the day-to-day care, safety and development of the children?

Often parents are only referred to specialist services much too late – at crisis point when court action is considered and may not have previously received learning difficulty services. Often they have not had much contact with professionals in universal services and many workers have little understanding of how much support is required. A general lack of coordination and consistency between services compounds the difficulties.

Professionals often do not fully understand the impact on parents of having a learning disability and can hold negative, stereotypical attitudes, with fixed ideas about what should happen. Many have extremely high expectations and often want a concrete outcome which removes all risk. They also have differing ideas about parenting, often intervening without giving the parent the space to work their way through challenges or providing support when circumstances do become difficult.

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