Parents demand more help for children with learning disabilities

Report finds suitable child care is not always available for parents.

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Parents of children with learning disabilities are calling for more help from the Scottish Government.

They have spoken out after a report by the Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities (SCDL) found suitable early years care could not always be accessed.

Claire Hodge, from Aberdeenshire, has spent years trying to get the right care for her four-year-old daughter Esme.

Speaking to STV News during Learning Disability Week, she said: “Esme has Down’s Syndrome, but she also has sensory issues and she’s quite adverse to meeting new people, to lots of noise.

“As a result, I wanted to make sure she got into nursery early so she could be exposed to different things, but it was difficult making sure she had the right support.”

Figures suggest more than 13,000 children have a learning disability in Scotland.

Claire wants the system to change to make sure all children have a positive experience at nursery.

She said: “Inclusion is not just about being present, it’s about providing the resources, the skills and the knowledge and understanding to help my daughter achieve the other things that other children are achieving.

“That could mean things like having larger text or a special chair. It’s all about these small things that would help her to do things other children can do naturally.”

The Scottish Commission for People with Learning Disabilities spoke to parents such as Claire about their experiences with early years childcare.

Some said it was “difficult” to find information and support for their children and others said it was a “challenge” to get the right support in place.

Ruth Callander, a data advisor for the SCLD, said: “I think because of the necessary involvement from lots of teams, like occupational therapists and different healthcare professionals, it can be a hard system to navigate and overwhelming.

“Inclusion is important for people who work in early learning and I think part of the problem is it’s difficult to measure how inclusive people are, so I think we need to look again at how we do that.

The Scottish Government said it had provided £2m of funding over the last four years to make sure children with learning disabilities can access their nursery places.