Parents who have a learning disability face a range of challenges or difficulties that other mums and dads may find easier to cope with. It was once said “these parents have learning difficulties not loving difficulties”. Equal Say has a lot of experience working with parents and we are pleased this has been recognised by a major grant from the Big Lottery Fund.
The parents we support often face lots of different issues all at the same time. Some of these could be poor housing, living in poverty, child protection concerns, managing children’s behaviour or poor reading and writing skills. Having an advocate to assist with some of these can make a huge difference to the life of a whole family.
We have three main ways of helping parents and their children.
Many of the parents we work with feel isolated and find it difficult to get the help and support they need. They are likely to experience lots of different difficulties, such as problems with housing or benefits as well as having difficulties bringing up their children. Some parents may find there are child protection concerns and Social Workers become involved. When this happens, many parents need the support of an advocate to support them to speak up at meetings and try to resolve some of the other difficulties they face.
For parents with very young children (below the age of 5) we run a parenting programme called Mellow Parenting.
Some features of the Mellow course are:
- All the families who attend have children ranging in age from birth to 5 years old.
- A crèche is provided for the children, staffed by qualified childcare workers.
- In the morning the children are looked after in the crèche and the parents attend a personal group where they discuss issues that may affect their parenting.
- At lunchtime, everyone; staff, parents and children have lunch together and then participate in an activity.
- In the afternoon the children return to the crèche and parents participate in a parenting workshop
- Parents are encouraged to share their experiences so that they can learn from each other.
- At the end of each session, parents are given a ‘have a go’ parenting task to try at home, with the help of their mentor.
This group aims to support parents to develop their self-advocacy skills; to become more confident about speaking up for themselves and their families. Parents meet together regularly to discuss a range of topics such as being assertive, problem solving or coping with stress and to give each other support.