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Providing meaningful activities for people with learning disabilities

In the latest blog from our Chief and Chair Executive, Peter Kinsey, learn more about how our teams provide engaging and meaningful activities for the people we support

Providing meaningful activities for people with learning disabilities

29th February 2024

I would like to focus this blog on activity planning. I would appreciate feedback to see what people think of my views on the subject.

I’ve managed services for people with learning disabilities for 36 years and have concluded that services which are well structured achieve better outcomes than services which take a more laissez faire approach.

Part of this relates to the contentious issue of choice. Of course, we should be supporting people to make choices; however, some people may have limited capacity and, in my experience, a lot of people with learning disabilities have limited life experiences and need help to broaden the range of activities in which they can participate.

Our services use a bespoke model for helping to develop goals based on the principles of Active Support – Building Better Lives (BBL) – that has had a big impact on how the people we support with learning disabilities plan their activities. BBL is designed to help the people we support set and achieve goals that are meaningful to them, and helps to identify enjoyable, engaging activities that will contribute towards achieving these goals. Whilst working through BBL the people we support use workbooks and activity planners to share their thoughts and feelings, and to track their progress.

I think activity planners are very important in helping structure people’s support so that they can participate meaningfully. Obviously, activities people choose or enjoy should be included. Some people we support have limited attention spans, for example a significant proportion of people with severe learning disabilities and a diagnosis of autism. For those people, I am an advocate of activity planners that are broken down hour by hour.

I don’t like seeing activity planners that are structured AM and PM when the person is probably only going to participate for a short period of time. For example, an AM activity of tidying a bedroom probably means 10 to 15 minutes of meaningful engagement and the rest of the morning being disengaged.

I have been particularly impressed with the detailed activity planner at Ty Brynteg which is extremely comprehensive. It is on the wall of the office and is updated very regularly to reflect activities that people we support have chosen or staff are going to encourage them to do.

It includes everyday household activities which should be an important ingredient of any activity programme, in addition to leisure and work. I have talked about active support in previous blogs and we are doing a lot of work in Iris Care Group to implement it. I am very impressed with the outcomes that Ty Brynteg is achieving with a group of people with very complex needs and I’m sure that their approach to activity planning is an important contributor to this.

Peter Kinsey

Chair and Chief Executive

“In my experience, a lot of people with learning disabilities have limited life experiences and need help to broaden the range of activities in which they can participate”

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