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Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging
Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging

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Session 6: Health and wellbeing

Introduction

In this session you will consider the health and wellbeing of people with learning disabilities.

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As you learned in Session 1, a learning disability is not, in itself, an illness. The definition is dictated by people’s need for support in managing their lives successfully. But people with a learning disability do face particular challenges when it comes to health and wellbeing.

Statistics show that people with learning disabilities die on average more than 20 years earlier than the population of the UK (University of Bristol, 2018). Rates of obesity are also higher than average (Heslop et al., 2013) as it can be difficult for people to understand messages about healthy eating and exercise, and why they matter. Many people also have additional health problems such as epilepsy or diabetes, cerebral palsy or swallowing difficulties.

Despite all this, people often struggle to get good quality healthcare, even in the NHS.

In this session you will explore:

  • situations where making independent choices may conflict with a healthy diet and lifestyle
  • changes that can enable people to receive improved healthcare
  • ongoing weaknesses in delivering good healthcare and how failures have resulted in serious harm and preventable deaths
  • how health risks can be reduced if well managed
  • why people with learning disabilities can be vulnerable to loneliness.