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Diet and exercise: food hygiene, cooking skills, healthy food choices, alcohol consumption, examples of sport and exercise, reasonable adjustments, social benefits of sport and exercise;
Health education: safe sex, sexual health information, sexual health care, smoking cessation, health screening;
Personal care: general hygiene routines, feminine hygiene, appropriate clothing.
There are lots of different factors involved in living a healthy lifestyle. Eating a balanced diet, taking regular exercise, keeping clean, knowing our own bodies and looking after our sexual health all contribute to our overall health and wellbeing. Making healthy choices can help prevent us developing health conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, which can result from poor diet and insufficient exercise. However, achieving and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be harder for people with learning disabilities for a number of reasons.
Information about healthy eating is not readily available in an accessible format. Messages about nutritional value in food marketing and packaging are often conflicting and confusing. A food advertised as being low in fat and therefore ‘healthy’ may in fact have a very high sugar or salt content. Less nutritious and easy to prepare ‘junk’ foods, such as frozen chips and pizzas, can be very cheap. These foods can be appealing to people living on low incomes, who additionally may not have many skills in food preparation and cooking. Whilst ready meals are easy to cook they are normally very high in sugar, salt and saturated fats. In order to eat a balanced diet, people may need support to make informed choices around the foods, they eat and to learn how to participate as far as possible in preparing and cooking nutritious meals.
Exercise is just as important as diet in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Nearly all sport and exercise activities can be adapted and made accessible for people with disabilities. Everyone has the right to be included but it might be useful to meet the instructor or coach before attending the first time to discuss what they can do to help the person you are supporting take part successfully. Sport and exercise is not only beneficial for physical health but can also be a way of meeting new people and boosting self-confidence.
Personal care can be a difficult subject to talk about and should be handled with sensitivity. Keeping clean is an important aspect of keeping healthy: brushing our teeth helps to prevent tooth decay and bad breath; taking regular baths or showers keeps us clean and smelling nice and also gets rid of germs and reduces the risk of infections. Poor personal care is not only detrimental to our physical health but can also lead to social exclusion which will negatively impact on a person’s mental health. It is vital therefore that people with learning disabilities are helped to understand the importance of personal care and are supported to establish good hygiene routines.
Encouraging women to be breast aware and to take up invitations for cervical screening, and encouraging testicular awareness in men with learning disabilities, are another significant way that supporters can help people to take charge of their own health. Tied in with this is sexual health information and promotion. People with learning disabilities are much less likely to have had access to information on this topic because of attitudes around disability and sexuality and because of a lack of accessible information. Access to good quality sexual health information and services is vital to help people to develop positive and healthy attitudes towards sexuality and wellbeing.
Our books help a wide range of people who understand pictures better than words, but their main audience is people with a learning disability, also known as an intellectual or developmental disability in other parts of the world.
This is a lifelong disability that may affect thinking, learning, emotional (adaptive) functioning and independent living skills. This sort of disability is distinct from a specific processing impairment, like dyslexia or attention deficit disorder. In the UK these impairments are typically referred to as “learning difficulties”, but this term is also preferred by some people with developmental disability, so the meaning is becoming blurred as people self-define.
As well as the primary audience, the books are often useful to people with low levels of literacy or specific processing impairment (“learning difficulties”, as per the traditional definition above), as well as people with sensory disabilities, other communication disorders (e.g. associated with dementia), and second language users.
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