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

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Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging

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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Answer

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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Transcript: Video 6

WOMAN 1
Initially, we had to give a lot of support for Daniel and Lily to help them maintain their relationship and develop it further. It would be simply helping to arrange a date, come up with ideas for where to go on dates, and simple things such as driving them there.
NARRATOR
Many people told us that transport was a big problem. Not being able to travel around easily, many people couldn't keep relationships going.
WOMAN 2
It would be difficult to get a boyfriend because he lived too far away.
WOMAN 3
I can't use public transport very easily at all. It's easier now John's got a car. But when we first met, it was very hard.
JOHN
I have travelled on the trains and the buses as well to see Lara as well. And that took a lot of time, that did.
WOMAN 3
And a lot of money.
CHARLOTTE
One more from Manchester and one from from Nottingham. And it's a bit scary getting there and getting back.
WOMAN
Transport was a big issue. So people wanted help to be able to get out to places, to social events or to go on dates. And they often found that really difficult if there wasn't anybody who could help with transport. There were some practical issues about keeping in touch with people. And we heard of people who perhaps had met somebody that they liked and wanted to go out with. But because they didn't have support to kind of maintain that relationship, things just fizzled out.
End transcript: Video 6
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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