Mindfulness in learning disabilities services

At Sussex Partnership there is a small group of clinicians trained to provide mindfulness interventions, who work across learning disability services for children and adults.

Our aim is to make mindfulness accessible to people with a learning disability. There is a growing evidence base for this and accessible mindfulness is growing slowly nationally. However, as there is no set curriculum or a one-stop shop for resources and ideas on how to do this we have developed our own.

We have created our own resources for explaining what mindfulness is and the underlying principles and foundations. We have adapted practices so that they are simpler, easier to follow and understand but importantly they are underpinned by the teachings and foundations of the Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy curricula. We use supplementary visual resources and other creative activities to support our teaching.

Some of our groups are co-facilitated by someone with lived experience of having a learning disability. Our aim is to develop skills and training for group participants who would like to go on to teach and facilitate groups.

We offer limited face-to-face and virtual groups for children and adults. We have two established weekly drop-in sessions for adults and are piloting an eight-week course. You can hear some of our practices below.

It’s still early days for mindfulness interventions which try to address the particular needs of people with learning disabilities/intellectual impairment. Many of the published papers have focused on helping people learn a ‘Soles of the Feet’ practice to cope when they find life difficult. A recent podcast describes this practice and gives a very clear explanation of current literature in this area. A short video shows members of a Self Advocacy group who share their knowledge about mindfulness

The University of Bangor has produced some helpful guidelines for people working in this area  ‘Good Practice Guidelines: mindfulness based programmes for people with learning disabilities’

We have recruited a local self-advocate with an interest in and experience of mindfulness. She has participated in an eight-week course and helped to lead subsequent courses and weekly mindfulness practice times.

We have liaised with partners working in other areas of the country. Plans for the future include further liaison with others, delivering more 8-week courses and training other self-advocates with learning disabilities to support future work. We would also like to find ways to evaluate our work.

Celia Heneage and Nicola Smith, self-advocate, gave a talk about Mindfulness for People with Disabilities at the Sussex Mindfulness Centre conference in September 2021. It covers the work we have been doing to share mindfulness ideas and practices with people who have learning disabilities. (Film credit: Sonam Nguyen Temple). You can see the recording below.

Mindfulness with people with learning disabilities from SMC on Vimeo.

Also please see a film which had been produced by the L’Arche Community in Bognor Regis (Film credit: Ferdinand Claveria).

Mindfulness for people with Learning Disabilities with L’Arche, Bognor Regis, Film credit: Ferdinand Claveria, from SMC on Vimeo.

We have made available a series of practices, including body scans, mountain breathing, sitting meditation and soles of the feet. You can listen to them by clicking on the links below:

For further information please contact smc@spft.nhs.uk.