How To Care For An Adult With A Learning Disability

Coping with a learning disability can be challenging, both for the person with the disability, and those around them that support and care for them on a daily basis.  Learning disabilities can affect more than just reading, writing, and doing simple arithmetic.  Some learning disabilities, especially those on the autism spectrum, can make it difficult for people to cope with day to day chores, and to deal with strangers and new situations in the outside world.

Moving Towards Supported Living
If you know someone with a learning disability, and want to help them gain independence, then you should start by learning as much as you can about their disability and how it affects them.  Someone who needs, for example, autism care, would have rather different needs to someone with dyslexia.  Once you understand the extent and scope of their disability you will be better equipped to help them.
Keep Things Simple
Don’t rush in to trying to change everything in one go.  Even if the adult has expressed an interest in supported living arrangements, you can’t reasonably expect them to go from a situation where they are “cared for” to full independence virtually overnight.  Start by making small changes – removing clutter and distractions, helping them get their living environment tailored to their needs, and putting together a routine for them to follow.  Once they’ve adapted to a simple routine, you can add new tasks – perhaps paying their own bills, or doing their own laundry, until they’re fully independent.
Building a Support Network
One thing that many people in autism care find beneficial is having a support network of people that have similar conditions.  It’s easy for someone on the autistic spectrum (and the same holds true for many other conditions) to feel isolated if everyone around them is neuro-typical.  Spending time, even just a few hours a week, with people in similar situations can help a lot.
Encourage Challenges
Many adults with learning disabilities find it difficult to push their boundaries because they lack the confidence to put themselves in difficult situations.  It can be beneficial to encourage those adults to test themselves by reassuring them that if they fail, there is a support network available to back them up.  Start by having them set simple goals, and each time they succeed in a goal encourage them to aim a little higher.  Make sure they set reasonable short term and long term goals to begin with, but that they understand that everyone makes mistakes, and everyone occasionally fails to achieve what they set out to do.  The important thing is that they try in the first place, and rebound from failures.
Remember They Are Adults First
An adult with a learning disability is still an adult.  They may struggle with some parts of their life, but that does not mean that they are stupid, or incapable of making adult decisions.  Your role as a carer is to support them with certain aspects of their life, not take over or tell them how to live their lives. It’s important to remember this and treat them with respect at all times.
This article was written by Crispin Jones on behalf of Voyage Holdings, providers of supported living and autism care services. For more information on supported living or autism care, visit their website.