Technorati href="http://www.technorProfile Thinking Nurse: Parenting With a Learning Disability

Thinking Nurse

This blog will reflect my interests in learning disabilities, nursing, nursing theory, philosophy and politics and my general interests in the arts and literature. (Nursing is an art as well as a science!) Philosophy and nursing have been intrinsically linked since the days of Socrates, his mother was a midwife, and taught him everything he knew!

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Parenting With a Learning Disability

The other day I was privileged to listen to three mothers with learning disabilities talk about their experiences of bringing up children.

It was inspiring to see how these women had managed, despite all the attitudes and prejudices against them, to bring up children, and to gain the courage to speak about their lives.

I am a firm believer that all should have a voice, because we need to name our worlds in order to change them. These women had been involved in a self-helping support group, for only eight months, and were now going to conferences and speaking publicly, while still managing to get home in time to pick up their kids from school.

They spoke in particular about their difficult relationship with services. In order to succeed as parents, they needed a network of support - which included family, friends and professional input, particularly in times of crisis. However they lived in constant fear that their children might be taken away from them, often making them reluctant to ask for help when they really needed it.

Research by people like Booth and Booth (available from ) found that 14 out of 20 parents with learning disabilities had one or more of their children placed in short-term or permanent care. Can we be confident that in all these cases, everything had been done to give the parents the chance to care for their own children? Services tend to look at parents with learning disabilities with a 'presumption of incompetence', and often have conflicting responsiblities, reacting to crises rather than putting in training in parenting skills (it has been proven that parenting skills of people with learning disabilities can be improved through training) and long term background support - there to be called on when needed - evidence shows that adequate social supports can protect against parenting breakdown.

Such social supports include support from family and professionals, but could also be adequate benefits, decent housing and proper access to health services.

Despite this Cross and Marks (1995) found that 13 children from 18 pregnancies of women with learning disabilities were subject to child protection procedures 7 of these started within 1 week of birth, 6 of those 7 starting at birth itself.

A single minded concern by services with parental inadequacies can lead to self-fulfilling prophecies.

There is clearly a need, if we are to take the principle of 'ordinary lives in the community' seriously, for attitudes to change, and for services to use an enabling approach, that creates opportunities for parents to develop and demonstrate their competence, and that seeks ways to give parents a sense of control over their own, and their childrens' lives.

I asked the women "If you were approached by someone with a learning disability who wanted to have a baby and start a family, what advice would you give them?"

The reply was a unanimous "Go for it, and fight for the right to keep your child".


At 12:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read your article with great intrest. I am a senior social worker in a busy front line childrens and families team. I work a great deal with parents with learning disabilities.

I agree with you in regard to the support networks for these families being of the upmost importance. Also the need to undertake preventative work, in order to support the parents in sucessfully parenting their children.

Howevr what concerns me is the way in which the professionals are judged in excatly the same way in which we are acused of judging parents with LD. My team, put in as much support as possible to ensure the child remains in the care of their parents. However what is missing from your article is the risk to the child.

Working in partnership with adult services is often difficult as they observe childrens teams as a threat to their client. It tends to make me angry when i hear comments like, has enough been done to support parents, when proffesionals have worked above and beyond their hours to do just that. Then if after all support has been exhausted and the child/ren are at risk of significant harm and removed, we are considered not to have worked in a non-judemental manner with the client.

The child's welfare is paramount, and if leaving that child in the home knowing they are at risk, and could come to harm, what do you suggest.

Parents do not have to fight to keep children. We work very closly with parents to ensure that they get all the support they need.

Just on a last note. We get lots of bad press for leaving children in homes that has resulted in injuries. I really feel that we are in a no win situation. Who is ensuring the child is protected

At 5:59 PM, Blogger Thinking Nurse said...

Hi Anonymous, thankyou for reading this post and replying to it.

You are right that the post presents a one-sided view of parenting with a learning disability.

When I wrote the post, I had just heard a group of 3 mothers with learning disabilities explaining how they were bringing up their children, their experiences and the lessons they drew from it.

I could have written a more 'professional' piece, putting all sides of the argument, but I decided in this case to simply report the views of the women themselves, on the grounds that the views of people with learning disabilities themselves are still often ignored, and more commonly not even sought in the first place.

All the points you make in your reply are fair and accurate - I was considering writing something on those lines myself, to 'balance up' the article. Now you have done that for me!

At 10:11 AM, Blogger wlbcpa said...

Parenting - The toughest job in the wrold. Most of us have very little guidance when it comes to Parenting. We are not about to do it the same way our parents raised us. Parenting seems to be on the job training and you get to experiment.
Just two kids are alike.....and circumstances change....see what other parents are doing and saying. Parenting

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At 3:28 AM, Anonymous joel said...

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