A CUMBRIAN charity has hailed the success of a major programme that aims to help parents of young children with learning disabilities.
Carlisle Mencap has been right at the forefront of EPAtS – Early Positive Approaches to Support – which has the full support of the NHS and is set to be rolled out nationwide.
EPAtS sees parents of children, aged from a few weeks to five, come together in a group with trained tutors to learn practical strategies over a period of seven or eight weeks to help them with their child’s development and identify their needs.
Carlisle Mencap’s Grace Little Centre at Kingmoor Park, Carlisle, has been the venue for this pioneering scheme which followed a seven-year study that went into the E-PAtS programme by the universities of Kent and Warwick along with the Challenging Behaviour Foundation and Cerebra, the charity for brain-injured children.
Carlisle Mencap has also organised similar courses in Workington and Ulverston and another will take place in Penrith later in the year.
Kirsty Aitken from Brampton is a parent of a 22-year-old with learning disabilities and also a support worker at The Grace Little Centre, and has been on the seven-week course. She said: “I wish this EPAtS programme had been around when I first had my child. This course helps you to see light at the end of the tunnel and come out the other side. It is really good as it ties in professional and family care.”
Speaking at the launch of the scheme at The Grace Little Centre earlier this summer, Jill Bradshaw, senior lecturer in Intellectual and Development Disabilities at the University of Kent, said: “Parenting any child is hard – it is even more difficult if you have a child with learning difficulties.
“There has been a lot of research into learning disabilities but a lot of it doesn’t get to where it is needed. This is where EPAtS comes in. We need to get to parents of learning disability children early on so that problems don’t mount up later, and to help these parents make the most of the joys of parenthood and to minimise the challenges.”
Along with those in Cumbria, the only other areas of the UK to pilot the EPAtS schemes are Belfast and Barnet in north London.