Supporting Children with Learning Disability
The Western Trust and Belfast Trust have helped to bring the Annual Child and Adolescent Learning Disability Psychiatric Network (CALDPN) conference to Northern Ireland for the first time.
The conference took place on 10 -11 May 2012, in Riddell Hall in Belfast with over 70 clinical experts attending from across the United Kingdom - all in agreement that children with learning disability need access to specialist services. Recent developments aiming to improve access of Scottish children and young people to mental health services was described by one speaker, Dr Susie Gibbs, Consultant Psychiatrist, NHS Lanarkshire.
The Western Trust has lead the way in Northern Ireland as the first Trust to allocate a dedicated Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist working within the Learning Disability Service to develop specialist mental health services for children and adolescents with a Learning Disability.
For the past year, Dr Heather Hanna, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist for the Western Trust, has provided a dedicated service for children and adolescents with learning disability. She is passionate about how this can improve outcomes for children and adolescents with learning disabilities.
She commented: “Learning disability psychiatry is a speciality within psychiatry and those of us specialising in treating children and adolescents with learning disability are an emerging and enthusiastic sub-speciality within that. We strongly believe that, just as mental health services specifically aimed at children and adolescents have been developed across the region (CAMHS) a similar model can be applied to learning disability services. This is embedded in the Bamford Review.
She continued: “Children with learning disabilities find it more difficult to learn and negotiate the challenges of everyday life than children without learning disabilities. It is important that we promote resilience and maximise their developmental potential across the lifespan, beginning in the early years. Mental health difficulties are more common in young people who have a learning disability and they need access to comprehensive, multidisciplinary supports and specialist interventions. The Western Trust is working hard to develop such a service, drawing on models of best practice from around the U.K.”
Dr Paula McLorinan, Consultant Psychiatrist with the Belfast Trust added: “The Belfast Trust is developing a specialist inpatient service with an integrated school for children with learning disability who have additional emotional or mental health needs. This is based at the Iveagh Centre. This child and family focused service provides a range of multi disciplinary therapeutic interventions to help young people and their families live better lives.”
The event received funding from the Health and Social Care Board and Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety.