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Publication Detail
Changing attitudes to learning disability: A review of the evidence
  • Publication Type:
  • Authors:
    Scior K, Werner S
  • Publisher:
    Royal Mencap Society
  • publication date:
  • Status:
  • Commisioning body:
    Royal Mencap Society
  • Addresses:
    Hebrew University of Jerusalem
    Jerusalem, Israel
Executive Summary Improving attitudes to people with learning disabilities* is a key priority for Mencap. This review was written to help Mencap and other bodies to define this area by providing an overview of attempts to change attitudes to individuals with learning disabilities, identifying gaps in the evidence and making suggestions for a way forward. Our conclusions can be summarised as follows: • Increased community inclusion in countries such as the UK appears to have led to more positive attitudes to people with learning disabilities. Nonetheless, children and adults with learning disabilities are still frequently excluded from various fields of life, activities and opportunities, regularly have to face name-calling, bullying and being stared at, and are frequently the targets of hostility. • There is very limited representative** general population data to draw on as baseline of attitudes that interventions can be measured against. • Confusion as to what ‘learning disability’ constitutes, and about different terms in use, appears widespread, as do misconceptions about the capabilities of people with learning disabilities. • Attempts to change attitudes and counter discrimination have targeted children and adults in the general population, as well as specific groups more likely to come into contact with people with learning disabilities (care staff, teachers, health care providers), or those that have a potential role in countering negative attitudes and discrimination (the media, the police, employers, legislators). Most such interventions have been small-scale, used unrepresentative samples, and have not been rigorously evaluated, making it difficult to draw firm conclusions. • Evidence from the learning disability field and others suggests that contact with people with learning disabilities has an important role in changing attitudes and reducing prejudice. At present we do not know what quality, quantity and type of contact is most likely to change attitudes. • It is likely that contact needs to occur alongside education about learning disability, the range of abilities and needs of individuals with learning disabilities, and their capabilities to counter misconceptions and challenge negative stereotypes. • The effects of attitude change interventions on real life behaviour are very under-researched. • In this report, we present a multi-level model that may help in planning and integrating future work that can do justice to address the complexity of changing attitudes to individuals with learning disabilities.
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