The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy


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Laura Goodare

Pledge: Raise awareness of the role of physiotherapy within learning disabilities. 

What inspired you to make a pledge?

My current post is within learning disabilities even though when making career choices when at university it wasn’t a speciality I had considered. While I have been working within learning disabilities it became really apparent why there is a need for physiotherapy. Some of the physiotherapy work I do is the same that you would do with every other person and some of it is more complex. It involves a certain amount of crossover of all areas such as neurology, musculoskeletal and respiratory. People don’t realise what our role is and how much we can help, so I wanted to raise awareness around this, especially to other physiotherapists who maybe daunted by treating patients with a learning disability

When did you start enacting on the pledge?

I had actually started working towards my pledge prior to the Physiotherapy Works Event. In my post I had taken on a new area and the team didn’t understand the role of physiotherapy or when to refer for physiotherapy. The other side to my pledge was around raising awareness of learning disabilities in generic services and working alongside generic services to help improve access to services for people with learning disabilities, for example completing joint sessions with inpatient physios on hospital wards, and acting as an advocate for my patients in orthopaedic clinic. 

What impact has it had?

There is more clarity of the role of physiotherapy within the team, increased number of referrals to physiotherapy and improved confidence of the wider MDT of when to refer or ask for physiotherapy advice.  We try to educate service providers in how we can help in working with people and their mobility.

How has it affected patient care?

There is an example of a client who had been going to orthopaedics for a while but was not progressing. I went to one appointment and now there is a real clear management plan and next steps, which is something she wasn’t getting on her own.

What was your contribution in getting the management plan?

I explained to her why she was going and what they might talk about.  She didn’t understand what was being said so I simplified it.  I’ve written up what was said and added a diagram she can view to help her understand. This way the client and her carers can self-manage better.

How has your contribution changed you?

My communication skills have improved, such as understanding how to present information in a simplified format.  I have also learnt a lot about how to effectively liaise with care providers, hospitals and GP’s to promote equal access for my patients to generic health services. It has increased my confidence when communicating in other areas, and helped me understand the importance of clear communication and how to use this with other groups of people.

Could you share what have you learned?

Making reasonable adjustments for learning disabilities isn’t that hard. It amazes me that people are apprehensive of treating people with learning disabilities due to a lack of knowledge on how to approach them. The approach can make the difference in treatment being effective or not.

Is there anything you would do differently?

If I would go back now, I would be more relaxed. Let your guard down, get to know them a little bit and learn how they best respond before bombarding them with physiotherapy.

Have you used any CSP resources?

I’ve used CSP resources to reflect on certain things. However there is not loads out there in this specific area.  I created my own resource by writing a short document on our role in the community, which was circulated within our team.

Is there any support from the CSP you would like?

In the future the CSP could look into producing more about engaging with people with learning disabilities.

What message would you give to someone taking something on?

Physiotherapists don’t shout out about what we do. We’re just doing our job. My advice would be to be open about what you do, be willing to talk about it and be enthusiastic about it. This will raise awareness as much as giving information. Be approachable and help promote your profession.

What will you do at your new job in neurology?

I will concentrate on raising awareness in others to think about how they are presenting their physiotherapy plans to people with learning disabilities. But also raise awareness about the massive divide/ health inequalities that exist and the lack of equal access to generic services. I will raise awareness within the physiotherapy team and acute hospital about what support is out there. I can help them with my knowledge in services that cover the area. This would help make the discharge process from the hospital more seamless.

Is there anything else you would like to cover?

Clients with learning disabilities are like you and I, they just need information presented differently and a bit more time to comply or might progress a bit slower with their treatment. You can’t just give them one assessment as you will need to spend more time with them. Don’t be scared to ask the carer how to best work with them. It’s everyone’s job to promote access to services and to get it right.


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Last reviewed

22 March 2016
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