Nutritional inequality

Inequality of nutritional education and intervention in learning disabilities is of grave concern. This inequality leads to reduced health, independence and reduced quality of life. Shocking evidence1 of reduced life expectancy in those with learning disabilities – men dying 13 years and women 20 years sooner than those without a learning disability – demonstrates this concerning gap in healthcare.

It is imperative that this health gap is reduced. Nutritional concerns need to be identified and treated in those with learning disabilities to provide equality of care and education, prevent nutritional co morbidities and mortalities and to enable life in all its fullness. Thereby optimising the nutritional, general and mental health of everyone (and for all).

The nutritional needs of learning disability, neurodisability and neurodiverse clients

As those with learning disabilities, neurodisabilities and neurodiversity are often nutritionally vulnerable, it is important that they have access to tailored education and opportunities to make their own healthcare decision and choices.

learning disabilities

Adults, children and their parents’ experiences need to be valued to ensure their unique sensory preferences are prioritised, reducing anxiety and optimising food intake. Nutritional input needs to be delivered in a sensitive manner that encourages an awareness of the importance of food and drink for social and psychological wellbeing, ‘feeding quality of life’.

Siân Riley, the dietitian at Red Pepper Nutrition, prides herself in identifying these nutritional concerns and provides individual dietetic support and communication to enable her clients to maximise their nutritional health and wellbeing. Siân meets clients ‘where they are at’ with an accepting, respectful and engaging delivery of dietetic support and education. Please contact sian@redpeppernutrition.com for terms and conditions and discussion of your client’s nutritional needs.

A note about terminology

Red Pepper Nutrition uses the words learning disability, neurodisability and neurodiversity. In the UK there is no clear definition of these terms and many choose to identify with different terminology to describe themselves and/or to access the support they require.

Red Pepper Nutrition uses these terms as described below for clarity and consistency, at the same time recognising that each of the terms are quite broad in their meaning and that there may be overlap between them:

Learning Disability

“a significantly reduced ability to understand complex information, to learn new skills (impaired intelligence), with a reduced ability to cope independently (impaired social function) which started before adulthood”  UK Department of Health

Learning disabilities may have congenital causes (e.g. Down’s Syndrome), problems in brain development in the neonatal period (e.g. Cerebral Palsy) or be caused by an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) before the age of 18.

Neurodisability

“Neurodisability describes a group of congenital or acquired long‐term conditions that are attributed to impairment of the brain and/or neuromuscular system and create functional limitations. A specific diagnosis may not be identified. Conditions may vary over time, occur alone or in combination, and include a broad range of severity and complexity. The impact may include difficulties with movement, cognition, hearing and vision, communication, emotion, and behaviour”  UK Delphi Study

This is an umbrella term for conditions associated with impairment involving the nervous system and may include conditions such as cerebral palsy, autism and epilepsy.

However, not everyone with these conditions would identify as having a neurodisability.

Neurodiversity

“The diversity of human brains and minds, the infinite variation in neurocognitive functioning within our species” AutisticUK

Those diagnosed with Autism, ADHD, Asperger’s and Dyspraxia may identify as neurodiverse. Nutritional vulnerability may be present due to selective eating, sensory issues, gastrointestinal complaints and/or difficulty accessing health care systems and support.

References
1 – Department of Health, Premature Deaths of people with learning disabilities: progress update, September 2014