People with learning disabilities can be good parents and provide their children with a good start in life, but may require considerable help to do so.

(Government Consultation, 2007)

Parents with Learning Disabilities have been found to experience more severe, multiple parenting problems when compared to other parents, with their children being assessed as more vulnerable to developmental delay and poor basic care. Evidence from research highlights the disproportionate representation of children of parent(s) with Learning Disabilities within the care system, whilst recognising that the potential of such parents is often assessed inadequately without recognition of their specific learning needs.

There are currently relatively few specialised services in the UK where parents with a learning disability are given the opportunity or the resources to develop their parenting skills and demonstrate that they can parent their children to a good enough standard. For this reason, Serendipity endeavours to provide comprehensive parenting assessments to address this deficit.

With a staff team who have specialist skills in this area, Serendipity provides services to parent(s) with Learning Difficulties which recognise and build on their strengths whilst simultaneously responding to their vulnerabilities. Interventions are flexible and individualised for each family with learning focused on performance rather than knowledge based tasks. The emphasis on modeling, repetition, feedback and praise aims to maximise the parents ability to develop new knowledge and awareness of their children's needs.

Services provided are based upon the best clinical evidence available for working with individuals with learning difficulties, as reported by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) and good practice guidelines for working with parents with learning disabilities. Serendipity's residential service, provides effective assessment, intervention and support to vulnerable parents with learning disabilities with the aim of assisting them to realise their potential as parents.

Assessment tools used to help people with a learning disability progress at Serendipity include video/audio equipment, pictorial aids, parenting skills cards (based on the Portage method), games, booklets and equipment. All information is shared with parents in an ‘easy read’ pictorial format.

The Parenting Assessment Manual (PAMs) written by Dr Sue McGaw is an assessment resource specifically designed to assess the parents skills and ability to meet their child's developing needs. Assessments are based on parental knowledge using the McGaw cartoons, observation and a work book that each parent completes so that gaps in parenting knowledge and life skills can be identified. Both the professional and parent's perception of the family's needs are considered. The assessment incorporates observations, questionnaires (written and visual aids) and structured interviews as well as a parent history.

A longer 12 week assessment is recommended for parents with Learning Disabilities due to the need to ensure these parent(s) have time to assimilate acquired information and thus maximise the potential for sustained improvement.

In some cases, a Long Term Placement may be appropriate following a successful Residential Assessment. In cases where a parents progress provides optimism regarding a their ability to provide effective long term care, support may be required for a further period in order to achieve this long term aim.

Good practice identifies that some degree of long term support is needed after a successful placement has taken place. Serendipity will also evaluate and recommend a realistic support system to help ensure the continuity of skills and practice that have been in evidence at Serendipity, which responds to the need for learning throughout parenthood as parents encounter different challenges during different stages of their children's development.

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Assessment Services

Further information about the services we offer at Serendipity