Learning Disability Week 2023

Published: 19th June 2023
This Learning Disability Week (19-26 June), Look Ahead's Head of Growth and Service Development for Learning Disabilities, Anna Cameron writes about the importance of listening to young people with a learning disability as they transition from college into life as a young adult.

It’s #LearningDisabilityWeek and the theme this year is about busting myths about living with a learning disability.

Summer is truly upon us and by the end of July, thousands of young people will be finishing college, looking to take the next important step in their lives. This includes young people who also happen to have a diagnosed learning disability and/or Autism.

It is always intriguing to me that some treat this great milestone differently for young people with a learning disability and Autism. Why?

As far as I can tell these young people (certainly the ones I work with) want the same things as other neurotypical young people want. So one myth I want to bust this LD Week is that young people with a learning disability and/or Autism can’t have the same choice as other young people!

So what do they want?

  • Freedom to explore who they want to live with and where
  • Greater levels of independence over their life choices
  • Exploring careers and employment opportunities
  • Socialising a lot with friends and family
  • To travel
  • To try new experiences and new activities
  • To develop intimate relationships
  • To find their purpose in the world around them

In my role as Head of Growth and Service Development for Look Ahead, it is key to us that we consider all of the wants and needs of the young people we are supporting. Yes, it is true that often this will include ensuring that we have the correct support in place to manage trauma, to manage behaviours of distress and to ensure that basic daily living tasks are considered; we have a great reputation for doing so. However, we understand that great support is about supporting great lives.

This means that we consider everything. One of the biggest challenges can be housing, and the question of where you want to live, and with whom?

At Look Ahead we are fortunate in that we can develop homes in many different ways depending on the circumstances. We can purchase homes and lease them to individuals sometimes utilising grant funding from Homes England, or we can support individuals to buy their own homes through ‘My Safe Home’.

We are also a housing association, so we are able to ensure safe tenancies and provide homes for life.

We encourage young people to choose who they live with as well. I know when I was 18, I wanted to be with my friends. Young people with a learning disability/and or Autism should be free to choose this option too if they so wish.