Sharing of specialist knowledge, skills and updates on relevant research and service development.
The development of mental health services for children and young people with Learning Disabilities in the UK has been sporadic and ad hoc, and indeed in many parts of the country this provision was, until very recently, completely lacking. The last couple of years have seen more attention directed to service provision in this area by the Department of Health, and by mental health commissioners and providers, but the availability of specialist knowledge and skills in assessing and treating children with moderate and severe learning disabilities and mental health problems is still rather limited (Pote & Goodban, 2007; A Mental Health Care Pathway for Children and Young People with Learning Disabilities. CAMHS Evidence Based Practice Research Unit).
- provide a learning, professional development and peer support forum for CAMHS clinicians who are delivering mental health and psychological services to children and young people with moderate and severe learning difficulties and their carers
- share and promote specialist skills, and assisting attendees update themselves on clinically relevant research and service developments, learning more about evidence based practise in the field and discussing complex cases
- foster active links with other networks, academic departments and services
The group meets three times a year and currently has a circulation list of well over 100 people drawn from a wide range of professional disciplines and teams across the South East region. The typical format incorporates a formal presentation followed by discussion of key points raised, service issues, developments and complex cases. Presentations so far have included:
- services and strategies to prevent residential placement for children and young people with learning disabilities and challenging behaviour
- the high risk patient (encompassing risk assessment with people with learning disabilities)
- safeguarding legal provision and transition to adult services for children with learning difficulties
- helping parents see the world through their child's eyes
- interventions with young people with learning disabilities and sexually harmful behavior
- learning difficulties: evidence-base, definitions and delinquency
- family links: the nurturing programme for parents and carers
- behavioural phenotypes
- treatment with intellectually disabled adolescents displaying sexually harmful behaviour
A recent evaluation of the group, its forum approach and selection of presentation topics, yielded extremely positive feedback from all respondents, confirming its value, relevance and usefulness in supporting professional development and providing peer support. In terms of going forward, the SIG plans to continue meeting in its current format every four months and, in particular, consider how best to disseminate the expertise and knowledge resident in its members, to a wider audience, whether by way of a conference, paper or newsletter article.