Understanding mental capacity
Understanding mental capacity

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Understanding mental capacity

1.1 Learning disabilities and communication

Someone with a learning disability is more likely than other people to have impaired mental capacity for decision making in at least some areas of their lives. However, the legal and age-related presumption of capacity still applies. Assessors of mental capacity need to approach every case with an open mind, although it would be patronising and hurtful to parents and carers for assessors to start with exaggerated and overly-optimistic assumptions of mental capacity where clearly the person has profound mental impairment.

Whatever the level of impairment, establishing the best method for communicating is essential for maximising the possibility of hearing the person’s views, both verbally (if possible) and non-verbally.

Activity 2 Communication and learning disability

Timing: Allow about 30 minutes

1. Watch the video below in which people with learning disabilities give their own advice on how to communicate better with them. The video is produced by CHANGE, a human rights organisation led by disabled people.

Download this video clip.Video player: Communicating with people who have learning disabilities
Skip transcript: Communicating with people who have learning disabilities

Transcript: Communicating with people who have learning disabilities

[MUSIC PLAYING]
TONY
Talk to them. Talk their language.
CRAIG
Some people actually use BSL, so they might need interpreters. Other people, yeah, they can understand it, but it might take a little bit longer to process, as it does with me.
JOANNE
Braille, like if a person is blind. So like if it's in Braille, they can read it and communicate with somebody's who's blind by a different way. And with somebody who is deaf, sign language because then they can understand how to work with that person much better.
JANE
Don't be patronising.
DAVID
If they need more help, maybe draw pictures, if you can or try and explain things in a way that is usable for them.
JANE
They seem to care, instead of just seeing me as a person.
JOANNE
By talking to them, not mentioning speaking fast to them, spending time with them and getting to know them before they communicate.
KENNETH
Pretty much is exactly same as someone without, it just might take longer to understand things and longer trying to explain things. So that person needs to take time to listen to them.
CRAIG
Well, you've got to make time because she's speaking to a person with a learning disability. And if you want my views, you've got to go at my rate of speed.
RACHEL
Well, for me it's important that people are clear, really and that they sort of take the time to sort of make sure that I understand what they're saying because I have trouble with that because my hearing is not great or because they're using a term or phrase I'm not familiar with or whatever. But at the same time, I don't really want people to speak with me very much differently than they would someone else. Because some people when they find out you're disabled do get quite condescending, and that's not good.
TONY
Listen carefully. ask questions. And be more understanding and sympathetic.
BEN
Just take your time. Don't rush it. Just answer slowly questions, because if you rush the questions, they're not going to get in their head properly in time. It's like they're not going to listen in time to the question.
ROBERT
Speaking up to the doctors and saying I can't understand this. Can you talk to me more clearly so I can understand it?
JANE
Communicate to me, not you or my carer. Ask me what do I want.
SHAUN
People with learning disabilities, they are the best people to train because they are experts and they can train other people with learning disabilities and professionals without learning disabilities how to communicate, support, communicate, listening and attitudes, like a snowball effect.
ROBERT
They should be trained up on disability awareness so they can understand the person with disability and they know who they are talking to with a disability.
JANE
Nurses and doctors and the other higher people on top to realise we are more. We are people. We're not just numbers. We're not just things on paper. We are people.
DAVID
You see some people think that people with disabilities can not communicate. But we all can communicate in our own way.
SHAUN
Everybody we learn are different with reading and other way of communication skills. But everybody is different. And that's why professionals need to work with people with learning disabilities for higher, moderate, or low disability at what best way of communication. If they don't do that, they won't know.
ROBERT
Everybody with disabilities has got different needs. There's different cultures.
KENNETH
If you like to be treated with respect from your friend, then treat the person with disability you're working with or bumping into, treat them with respect, as well, and talk to them with respect.
JANE
It could be better. It could be improved.
[MUSIC PLAYING]
End transcript: Communicating with people who have learning disabilities
Communicating with people who have learning disabilities
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2. Now look at one of the resources below and in the text box below, note the non-verbal ways in which communication may be enhanced.

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Comment

Clearly, communicating effectively with someone whose mental capacity you are assessing is essential. It is important to have a respectful, non-patronising and facilitating approach, to take time, to speak at a speed that matches the person’s ability to understand, and, above all, be prepared to use a range of different methods.

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