Learning Disability Week – Equalities


listen to me


Are you facing a problem in your life? Could you limit the cause of your problem to one specific personal characteristic? No?

Often when we face a problem, it’s the result of a culmination of factors. Your problem might be ‘unemployment’. But when you lack self-confidence, face racial discrimination from potential employers, can’t search for jobs because you don’t have an internet connection, and feel mounting pressure to pay bills, care for children and maintain your health condition – it can feel like a lot more than just one problem. So why should people with learning disabilities have to view the problems they face in life through the narrow lens of disability? People are complex – trying to define their problems for them can be unhelpful and discriminatory, and can discourage people from wanting to discuss what’s really happening to them.

SCLD is using Learning Disability Week 2015 as an opportunity to tackle a variety of important and rarely discussed issues, under the theme of ‘Equalities’.

We think it’s important to address the every-day, difficult, unfair and often distressing problems people with learning disabilities face in other areas of life. People with learning disabilities face issues because of their sex, gender, age, sexuality, race, and religious beliefs too, and we want to ensure we provide people with the chance to discuss these problems in a context that is accessible and considerate of their needs.

We have a busy schedule of free SCLD events running across the country, and are also coordinating the central events calendar on the keystolife.info website. Many organisations have grasped the opportunity to get involved; running their own events, and working with SCLD to develop fresh ideas. Partnership working has really broadened our scope, adding a depth and level of expertise to the variety of subjects we’re tackling. While SCLD has organised events addressing issues faced by older people, digital excluded people, women, and people who identify as LGB or T – other organisations are tackling the issues faced by offenders, the BME community, and much more.

We were greatly encouraged to see how passionate, imaginative and eager people can be when given the opportunity to get involved. Clearly, organisations across sectors and issues understand the importance of working with others, and acknowledge that people don’t fit easily into one or two categories.

For example, I am responsible for organising an event for women with learning disabilities, and I have no doubt that reaching out to women’s organisations across Scotland (as well as other disability focused organisations) has enriched the event planning process.

SCLD’s ‘Equal and Healthy Lives’ event for women has been supported by a diverse range of people, including: the Scottish Government, Engender, C-change, dates-n-mates, People First Scotland, Inclusion Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, Zero Tolerance, Down’s Syndrome Scotland, I Am Me Scotland, Project Ability, FAIR, Lung Ha Theatre Company and Common Knowledge. In fact, every SCLD event has been organised with the help of other organisations, ranging from charities such as PAMIS and LGBT Youth Scotland to public sector bodies like Aberdeen City Council.

Working together has encouraged learning from both sides. Just as SCLD has learned a lot from the organisations we’re working with, other organisations have openly told us that getting involved with SCLD has made them think about what more their organisation can do to be inclusive and considerate of the needs of people with learning disabilities. Building this cross-sector, cross-issue awareness is a massive part of SCLD’s goal for an inclusive Scotland. Planning for Learning Disability Week has really highlighted the idea that we can work towards our goals in indirect ways – by sharing and listening to voices from elsewhere.

A big part of Learning Disability Week is raising awareness of learning disability in the wider community. When we begin by acknowledging the complexity of people, it makes sense to reach out for help, and to build a bigger network of professionals who can work together to make things better. While this means we learn more as professionals, more importantly, people with learning disabilities engage with organisations that are better informed, have a bigger pool of resources and contacts, and have experience of dealing with a variety of issues.

While SCLD has definite outcomes for each event, (from reports and easy-read resources to the development of new training courses), I really hope that the spirit of collaboration inspired by Learning Disability Week is an outcome that we can learn from and build on for the future.


Find event and booking information for Learning Disability Week by following this link:

The keys to life event calendar


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The World of Autism Practice

By Susan Forrest, SCLD Learning & Development Manager

It is very difficult to talk about autism without some quotes or clichés slipping into the conversation. One often heard is, “When you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism”. Well, it is a spectrum disorder, and everyone is an individual whether they have autism or not.

I always seem to end up telling delegates on any training course I deliver that I believe we all have autism-like characteristics. Think about the things you like to do, the routines you stick to, the subjects you like to talk about. And who really likes too much change, especially if it’s sudden and unplanned ?

When I facilitate the Introduction to Autism courses for SCLD, I find that practitioners from all types of organisations are nervous about working with people with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They tell me they don’t know anything about autism, or that they are scared of doing something wrong, or making a situation worse.

They seem to forget that many of the skills they use every day will have a positive impact on someone with ASD just as they do with an individual with a learning disability, sensory impairment or dementia.

Take communication for example, one of the Triad of Impairments (the three main areas of difficulty which all people with autism share, as first described by Lorna Wing). I advise practitioners to speak slowly, and clearly to individuals with a communication impairment, presenting one idea at a time and giving the person time to process the information.

However this is not exclusive to ASD practice – I would give the same advice to anyone working with people who need time to take in spoken communication and absorb what is being said. Equally, when working with young people with emotional and behavioural difficulties, it is well documented that trying to communicate verbally with someone who is angry and upset is nigh on impossible and that you should say as little as possible until the person has calmed down.

Temple Grandin, famous as much for being a Professor of Animal Science as she is for being on the autistic spectrum, often commented that she had difficulty picking up social cues, but also in knowing what to do when she did something wrong. Think of all the social skills you have and then try and remember where you learned them. Some of them might have come from your parents and other family members, but mostly we just pick up the rules as we go along. Someone on the spectrum may not have this skill naturally, and so can feel constantly anxious that they are going to make a mistake.

This heightened anxiety level explains why for so many people with ASD, the social world becomes just too uncomfortable, and it becomes easier to avoid certain situations rather than risk doing something which causes distress, either to self or others. So, I would be delighted to see you on one of SCLDs Introduction to Autism courses but before you even arrive in the training room, there are some things you can do.

Firstly, as a member of the social or healthcare workforce, you will already have skills and knowledge which will benefit people on the autistic spectrum so don’t be afraid to use them. Secondly, you can assist greatly by simply empathising with what someone might be experiencing and supporting them accordingly. Can you remember an occasion where you were nervous about doing something new and no-one had really explained to you what was happening ? Well imagine how it must feel for someone who experiences that level of apprehension every day, and try to put yourself in their place even just for a moment.listen to me

Finally, you will hear clichés and myths about autism all the time but do not fall into the trap of assuming everyone one the spectrum will respond to the same interventions in the same way. Many people with ASD can make eye contact, form loving relationships, cope with loud music, thrive in mainstream education – others have difficulties with these. Relationship building which avoids assumptions and focuses on the strengths of individuals is as important for someone with an ASD as it is for anyone.

April is National Autism Awareness month, so let’s all keep autism on the agenda. And if you would like to know more about the theory and practice around the Autistic Spectrum, contact John Somerville at john.s@scld.co.uk for details of our Introduction to Autism one day course.


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Celebrating World Poetry Day – Poems by Lindsay

LindsayI have been writing from the tender age of 8. My love for creative writing bloomed when I was 11 years old – so it took at least 3 years to find out what my talent was!

I have won 3 creative writing competitions, but I am not here to talk about creative writing. I’m here to talk about poetry… well, to write some really!

Here goes, and I hope you enjoy it.

Spring bloom Smiles


Spring blooms awaken.

New born lambs wobble as they walk.

The morning is brighter.

Winter goes to sleep.

Dark mornings start to shut down.

Brighter nights come in.

Again everyone smiles.

The mood in the air changes.

Creating new laughter.



A dream costs nothing.

It tastes like my favourite chocolate.

It’s the place where I had my first kiss.

I gave birth to many ideas in many of my dreams.

An angel who I once knew came to comfort me and told me they still cared and took away the bad energy.

A dream is something we have.

It comes as time goes by.

A dream comes when your heart creates a new wish.

The shoe fits always because in dreams there are no if’s or but’s.


Dis and Ability

support 1

Disability is a barrier that stands before us.

Ability builds and creates a positive journey throughout our life.

Dis is an add-on that creates a label.

But when ‘dis’ is gone, ability is born

Lifting the barrier letting the journey begin.

Happy World Poetry Day from SCLD!


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Person Centred Working with Mainstay Trust


Clare Mills, Learning and Development

I recently spent 3 days delivering Person Centred Planning training to managers and Senior Support Workers alongside SCLD’s Learning & Development Manager, Susan Forrest. The course ran over 3 days at Mainstay Trust in Glasgow, with space between each day to allow the staff team time to put their new skills into practice, and to share their experiences the next time they met.

The team hoped the training would help them to include the people who use Mainstay Trust in their planning process. This would result in support plans that reflect the independence, rights and personalities of service users. It would also help staff to build better relationships with the individuals they support.

The team also hoped the training would help to set up organisational structures and processes that took full account of their service user’s views and experiences and promoted choice and independence.

The training allowed the group time to explore their own values and to relate those to the values of inclusion. Everyone demonstrated a clear understanding of how to apply what they had learned, and developed their approaches throughout the course, promoting inclusive and respectful practice.

We spent 1 day focusing on the MAP process. The MAP process provides a platform to make plans where changes needs to happen, but where individuals (and their support teams) are unsure of what that change might be.  It demonstrates a way of helping individuals to understand their own gifts and talents and to think about their hopes and dreams. As well as the serious tools, we had fun along the way – learning how to use drawings on a large scale (graphic facilitation) to support person centred planning processes.

We also spent time looking at smaller tools. ‘Solution circle’ and ‘4 + 1 questions’ were particularly well received tools.  ‘Solution circle’ is a tool which aims to help you solve problems with the help of others in just 20 minutes. ‘4 + 1 questions’ is a tool which supports learning in different situations and works particularly well with teams who support individuals.

The training finished with a ‘Team PATH’ for Mainstay Trust.


The group decided on a vision and planned towards it. Margaret Ann Robinson, Personalisation Manager at Mainstay Trust told us:

“The MAP and PATH training has certainly influenced how I look at putting together support plans, but also to see the whole person’s life and make the most of their talents and abilities. Using the MAP and PATH tools allows staff a valuable insight into a person’s needs that can sometimes be missed using conventional methods. It allows staff to ask the questions that make a difference.  Simple outcomes can sometimes make such a major difference in people’s life and don’t just tick boxes on pieces of paper.

I am now in the process of putting together a training plan (based on the work we did with MAP and PATH) which outlines our ambitions for the next few months.  It is a motivating tool as well as a useful tool for outlining goals and objectives, and its principles are realistic. The MAP and PATH training is an excellent tool for bringing the best laid plans to fruition!”

We wish Margaret Ann and the Mainstay Trust team all the best with their newly learned skills. The only way is up!

what have we learned

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Dates-n-mates interview on STV

This blog was written by Holly Millar from dates-n-mates Scotland. dates-n-mates is Scotland’s national dating and friendship agency, run by and for adults with learning difficulties. They have approximately 150 members across the country.

Dates-n-Mates new logo jpeg

On Friday 13th  Liz, John Paul and I went to the STV studios to be interviewed about dates-n-mates and what we do. When we arrived we were made to feel welcome and Liz and the person who works for STV news explained what to do.

Before we were interviewed, Liz explained what the news reader would ask us: how dates n mates got set up and why, how many members there are, how we got the idea in the first place, what the barriers to finding love and friendship are, and what is stopping people with learning disabilities having the same as everyone else. We did not have time to have our hair or make up done by the STV lady but I put some on myself!

The news reader came out and introduced himself to us and explained that the interview would be recorded as live TV but wouldn’t go out until 8.30pm and 10pm that night. This meant that we couldn’t stop the recording – we just had to answer the questions as best as we could!

The studios were smaller than I thought they would be when we were shown onto the set. We took our seats and a lady came and put a microphone on each of us. The news reader asked us about Dates-n-mates and about tonight’s event – our Masked Valentine’s Ball. After 5 minutes, the newsreader then cut to a film about dates-n-mates that they had recorded during the week.  Hughie, Liz, Nicola and Derek were interviewed. Hughie talked about finding love, and Liz talked about what we do – it was great! I felt nervous at first, but it was exciting and it was great to be in the STV studios.

You can watch the feature here:



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I’d like to teach the world to draw!

Clare Mills, our Learning and Development Co-ordinator, blogs about bringing graphic facilitation skills to teachers…

At the moment I’m working with Children in Scotland  to design a graphic facilitation course tailored just for teachers. It’s largely, but not exclusively, aimed at those who work with learners with additional needs. The course is about listening, thinking, organising information and drawing (yikes!) but mostly it’s about making our communication better.

What is graphic facilitation?

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Changing places…changing lives

Our trainer Lindsay Kinloch reflects on the campaign that recently led to the 100th Changing Places toilet being opened…and what might be next.

Changing Places LogoFor those of you who don’t know, Changing Places are fully accessible toilet facilities for people with profound and multiple disabilities. Our partners at PAMIS have been working very hard from the first ‘Changing places, changing lives’ campaign conference back in 2009 at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, which I was lucky enough to go along to. Lots of people came to hear about the campaign, listen to inspirational speeches and sign the charters.

I was also part of the Changing Places Steering Group where we got the chance to contribute ideas and think about where the campaign might go in the future. The group was well attended and we talked about things like the kind of places Changing Places toilets should be installed in and how best to promote them and inform people about the campaign.

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Supported Employment: Home and Abroad

Picture of Cameron at reception Cameron Smith, Receptionist at SCLD, talks to us about a visit he made to the Czech Republic to find out how supported employment works there…


Supported employment is about helping people with learning disabilities and/or autism get and keep a job. It is also about supporting people to choose what jobs they want to do and find out how they can learn new skills.

My trip to Prague started with a phone call from Maura, the Deputy Chief Executive of SCLD, asking me if I wanted to join some of the Values Into Action Scotland (VIAS) team on a visit to the Czech Republic. The company who organised the trip were called Rytmus, a Czech supported employment and inclusion organisation. Previously they had come to Scotland to see how we offered supported employment services – and now they were inviting us to come and see how they do things. Continue reading

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Speak out, be heard…beat bullying

My name is LindsayLindsay2 and I am part of the learning and development team at the Scottish Consortium for Learning Disability. I would like to talk to you today about bullying and hate crime and tell you about the reasons why I decided to write a course for people with learning disabilities and autism about this.

A crime happens when a person breaks the law. A disability hate crime happens when someone commits a crime against you because you have a disability.

There are lots of different types of disability hate crime. It can mean having your personal things taken or being hurt. It can mean someone threatening you or calling you names. Continue reading

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Agnes’s Story: My life as a carer

AgnesMy name is Agnes and I am a wife, a daughter, a mother, a sister, a granny and (although I didn’t realise it at first) I am also a carer.

I am employed as an Inclusive Living Advisor with Take Ctrl (South Lanarkshire). I enjoy working as it is rewarding and it gives me time to get out of the house and feel I am helping others through sharing my personal experiences.

So now to tell you a little about our family and how caring has impacted on our lives…
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