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

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3.1 Barriers to loving relationships

Charlene and Terry’s relationship shows that people with learning disabilities can and do have positive, supportive and long-term relationships. Lots of people with learning disabilities want to date, or have sex, or be in a relationship, but the evidence suggests that it is difficult for them to achieve this.

Activity 6 What makes it difficult to find love

Timing: Allow about 5 minutes

Can you think of two or more reasons why people with learning disabilities find it hard to develop romantic or sexual relationships?

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One person answering this question said:

  • I think attitudes are part of the problem. I’m not sure that everyone thinks people with learning disabilities are capable of being in a romantic relationship, or the idea of it makes them uncomfortable.
  • People with learning disabilities don’t get many opportunities to meet potential boyfriends or girlfriends. People are socially isolated. That’s a big problem.
  • Services and families might feel nervous about this. Maybe they haven’t had training or are worried about legal issues.
  • Perhaps there are fears that it might result in pregnancy?

A report by the National Development Team for Inclusion (NDTi) (Harflett and Turner, 2016) highlighted some of the key barriers to people with learning disabilities enjoying romantic or sexual relationships. These are shown in Slideshow 1.

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Slideshow 1
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Now watch Video 6 from the Tizard Centre at the University of Kent. Their research explored what support people with learning disabilities need in order to have loving relationships. In this video you will listen to people involved in the project talk about what they found out.

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Video 6
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As you heard, the support people need to have relationships is often quite simple – for example, help to arrange a date; transport to get to places; and support to keep in touch. Unfortunately, lots of people with learning disabilities are not getting access to such support.

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