Self-care skills and health education are vital for young people and adults with learning difficulties. However, accessing information which is clear, informative and which promotes these issues can be difficult.
The British Institute of Learning Disabilities (BILD) have recently published a series of nine books with the topics/titles: Eating and drinking, Breathe easy, Exercise, Sex, Using medicine safely, Seeing and hearing, If you are ill, Alcohol and smoking, Looking after your teeth, and Coping with stress. The books contain both pictures and words, which make them useful for readers and non-readers alike. Issues are dealt with clearly and concisely, providing good visual drawings and salient words to get across the important message.
I have used two of the workbooks in the course of individual work with young people—one on eating and drinking, and the other on coping with stress. Both the young person and I liked the clear language used and found that it promoted discussion and allowed the young person to make suggestions on how best to cope in their own situation. It also allowed them to see that they were not the only person with a similar difficulty; this realisation helped them to feel less isolated in their situation.
The pictures were great too, as they clearly illustrated the feelings of a person coping with stress. Talking about and identifying feelings can be difficult for many young people with learning difficulties. Using words alone to express their feelings is often not enough. The visual drawing proved excellent for this and allowed the young person to identify their feeling quickly and to say ‘that’s how I feel’, ‘that picture is like me when I’m sad’.
These books have been used in a group-work setting with young people and the group facilitator found them easy and enjoyable to use. The simplicity of their design promoted discussion by members of the group and allowed them to open up and discuss their own situation and opinions.
I have found these books useful in my own work with young people. I suggest that they would be a useful addition to resources within a service struggling to meet the needs of young people with a learning disability in today’s society.