Giving a Voice to People With Learning Difficulties and SEN
As April month is Autism Awareness Month, and today (April 16) World Voice Day, we're focusing on people who often don't get the chance to have their voice heard.
People with learning difficulties and special educational needs (SEN) can have little or delayed speech, and may use different means of communication which may or may not be effective. Sadly, this means that individuals can be misunderstood, or their views ignored.
Failing People with Learning Difficulties and SEN
Sadly, the reasonably recent death of Robin Kitt Callender pays testament to this. Callender was 53 and severely autistic. She suffered weeks of illness and weight loss before she died from undiagnosed bowel disease. An article by the Guardian (24th March 2015) notes how she was 'anxious, in pain and unable to communicate,' and how Callender suffered needlessly. A recent inquest found that Callender died from natural causes contributed to by neglect.
This just one extreme example showing that more needs to be done to communicate effectively with all people to fully understand their needs and how we can help people with any difficulties they may have.
This case is extremely sad and worrying. It highlights the importance that those dealing with vulnerable people must make sustained efforts to ensure that they facilitate effective communication with those they are caring for wherever possible. Organisations responsible for caring for such people must recognise the needs of their workforce and provide relevant training.
Finding a Voice in Different Ways
A report by leading charity Mencap found that using multimedia can be really useful for those who are non-verbal . The report stated that, "Using video and digital photography to develop computer-based personal profiles has helped people to have a voice". From the profiles, you can tell what the person likes or dislikes, and how they are feeling.
Mencap also explain how multi-sensory environments can help with communication. Environments with new colours, smells or textures can be helpful for learning and interaction. A better awareness of the advice available should be used to try and ensure that all vulrnerable people in our society and included and listed to.
We at Simpson Millar are also pleased to see the New Forest Spectrum, a UK summer festival designed for people with learning disabilities and SEN. It is reported to include provision of a 'chill out zone' and offers pampering sessions thos who wish to partake. This event is intended to be fully inclusive and is a great step towards ensuring that those with additional needs are still provided equal opportunites to engage in activities more readily accessible to those without additional needs.
Time for Change
Fiona Couzens, one of our specialist solicitors adds;
"We may hopefully see some progress in the rights of people with learning disabilities and SEN from the development of the 'LB' ('Laughing Boy') Bill. This government consultation (green paper) prompted by the 'Justice for Laughing Boy' campaign followed another preventable death of 18 year old Connor Sparrowhawk at an NHS unit.The campaign, started by Connor's mother has received a great deal of support from various groups, organisations and individuals across the board."
"It remains to be seen what practical impact any future change in the law may have but we continue to be moving forward with the recent introduction of both the Children and Families Act and the Care Act, which also aim at safeguarding the rights of our vulnerable members of society. We still have a long way to go but it is good to see this being identified as an issue."
There are ways in which we can help people with learning disabilities and SEN get their voice heard. We at Simpson Millar LLP specialise in helping both children and adults with disabilities get the right educational provision and support. If you have additional needs and consider that you require support or you know someone who does, do not hesitate to get in contact to see if we can assist you in any way.