tips for working with adults with learning disabilities.

28/01/2019

Looking for a role working with adults with learning disabilities? We cover:

  • the roles on offer
  • the settings on offer
  • how to support service users
  • opportunities for career progression

Adults with learning disabilities often face an uphill climb because their families and schools may have suggested that they will "grow out of" the particular challenges that they face.  While it is true that some developmental delays can become less significant with the passage of time, this is by no means the case with many common learning disabilities.  Thus, some adults enter the workforce or other aspects of mature life still facing significant challenges to their personal, interpersonal, and cognitive skill sets.

This situation can lead to high levels of frustration among such adults.  Children, after all, are implicitly taught by the dominant culture that they are supposed to be learners.  That cultural understanding is not nearly so universal among adults.  In the end, this means that those serving in adult care jobs need to be prepared to offer both practical advice and emotional support to adults still struggling with learning disabilities.

Roles on offer.

In the UK, people who are over the age of 18 and meet certain criteria can receive assistance to deal with their learning disabilities.  No one approach, however, is appropriate for all such adults.  Some need only mild forms of support such as help navigating their dyslexia well enough to prepare a professional covering letter and CV.  Others, however, struggle with cognitive problems that make it difficult for them to care for their own nutritional and hygiene needs.

The settings available.

Adult care jobs therefore encompass a wide range of responsibilities and settings.  Some adult care workers serve in a day care facility, taking responsibility for disabled adults during the hours when their usual caregivers are obliged to earn a living.  More severely disabled adults may be more appropriately cared for in a residential facility where they live-in on an on-going basis.

Even these care homes, however, vary in nature.  Some provide highly individualised services to adults whose learning disabilities impact on even the smallest details of their lives.  Others, however, group adults with similar levels of care needs together, providing an environment that fosters a great deal of interpersonal interaction among the residents.

One of the most varied and challenging careers in adult care of all is the provision of respite services.  Social care workers in respite jobs will continually deal with new patients and must be able to handle unexpected situations with confidence, since the nature of their work means that they are providing a much-needed break to the family members who usually provide care for a particular individual.  

Always having a new client is but one part of the challenges inherent in such an adult care job.  Respite workers must also possess the skills needed to assure family caregivers that their loved one will be able to access care in a prompt, courteous, and professional manner.  They must also be able to inspire trust at short notice, since this care setting means providing services inside a private residence.   

Supporting service users.

It is important to emphasise that effective care does not occur in a vacuum. Working as part of a 'interprofessional team' means that the carer has access to the resources and expertise required to deliver an effective service to the client. By extension it also means that the carer is able to share worries and concerns with fellow professionals in the team and work to find a solution.

Career progression.

A career working with learning-disabled adults is not the same as one working with school-aged children, but it can be every bit as fulfilling and rewarding since it means spending one's working life helping those who by many measures are most in need of help.