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Parents of LD children with mental health problems could get classes

Parents of children with learning disabilities and mental health problems should be offered training programmes so they can better support them, according to new NICE draft guidance that is open to consultation.

It recommends specialised, communication-focused parent training programmes, which would consist of eight to 12 group sessions aiming to provide support and raise awareness in those families that have children with learning disabilities.

Approximately 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability, and 286,000 of these are children.

Moreover, it is estimated that 40% of adults and 36% of children with learning disabilities in the UK experience mental health problems.

In response to the consultation - which ends in April - Professor Mark Baker, director for the Centre of Clinical Practice at NICE, said: “Absolutely anyone can experience mental health problems at any stage of their life. People with learning disabilities cannot always communicate their distress, and their symptoms can be masked or mistakenly overlooked. This means we need to do more to support them, their families and their care workers.”

This draft guideline covers the full range of learning disabilities, and it also suggests that people should begin their treatment on the lowest effective dose of medication to take into account the potential side effects, and to reflect the difficulties that they may have in reporting these.

Baker added: “I would strongly urge anyone with an interest or experience in this area to really look at the recommendations this draft guideline is suggesting. By working together we can make sure healthcare workers, social care professionals, educational leaders and supporting family members are well-equipped with evidence-based advice.” 

See the full guidance here.