Reviewed by Isabelle O’Donoghue, Senior Psychologist, Aoife O’Neill, Senior Social Work Practitioner,


Talkabout Relationships is a group-work resource which aims to improve the skills of young adults with learning disabilities to form and maintain relationships.

There is a lengthy introduction, which looks at the nature and development of relationships and the implications for people with a learning disability. The workbook includes a staff rating assessment of the person’s skills and criteria for inclusion in the group. Two separate sections, ‘Talk about self esteem’ and ‘Talk about relationships’, both include a self-assessment process as well as illustrated, photocopiable group activities and worksheets. The activities and worksheets can be used to address issues such as self-image, identity, self-confidence, qualities of friends, dealing with conflict, trust and responsibility and valuing others. In reviewing this resource we found that the staff rating assessment tool would be very useful—it would give a clear visual representation of areas to be targeted for training.

The layout of the manual is very good and makes it possible to concentrate on one or other of the topics as desired, i.e. self-esteem or relationships.

The aims are clearly identified and listed at the beginning of each section. There are a number of activities suggested to help to set ground-rules and develop group cohesion. Each session is then well laid out with support materials provided. Sections are structured to have a clear introduction and closure.

Our reservations about this resource relate mainly to the lack of an identified target group. Whilst criteria for inclusion in the group are provided, the author does not indicate the level of cognitive ability required to benefit from such a programme. On scrutinising the activities, we felt the concepts included and the language used would indicate that this programme, as presented, would not be accessible to people with higher dependency needs. A lot of the activities involve the use of quite sophisticated language and literacy skills.

While we very much agree with the author regarding the need for sex education for people with learning disability, we feel that it may be ambitious to attempt to address such issues in this manual. The scenarios presented to explore sexuality and intimacy presuppose that much of this education has already taken place, which may not be the case for the target population. The scenarios also introduce behaviours which may well be outside the range of experience of many people with learning disability.

Some adaptation may be required in terms of language/names/scenarios to ensure cultural and social congruity.

TALKABOUT RELATIONSHIPS: Building self-esteem and relationships skills, by Alex Kelly (2004), Speechmark Publishing, Bicester, Oxon OX26 4LQ. ISBN 0 86388 405 9. Stg£35.95