Care staff perceptions of adults with profound learning disabilities: contents and processes

Kenny, Sarah (2000). Care staff perceptions of adults with profound learning disabilities: contents and processes. PhD thesis The Open University.



Background and Aims:This research dissertation attempts to elicit care staff perceptions of clients with profound learning disabilities and the processes involved in these perceptions. There is little research in the area of staff perspectives in this field. Clinical psychologists working in this field often have extensive contact with staff regarding clients, and conflict regarding perception of clients can arise. It is suggested that for psychologists to gain some insight into how staff perceive clients and the processes involved would help to facilitate understanding of, and co-operation, with care staff.

Design and Participants: A qualitative design was employed as the study was seen as exploratory and was investigating the personal experiences and perspectives of participants. Participants were nine direct care staff who worked in a variety of service settings.

Measures: Each respondent completed a written free response description of a client of their choice. This was followed by a semi-structured interview that aimed to explore the processes involved in staff perceptions of clients.

Results: Written descriptions shared some factors in common with free response description within the general population. However, novel categories included communication issues, behavioural difficulties and the disability itself The interviews suggested that there were complex processes operating that made it difficult for respondents to acknowledge the disability and still feel positive about the clients and the work. There was also a marked change over time described by respondents in their perceptions of clients.

Implications: It is suggested care staff need a forum for acknowledging and exploring difficult feelings. Clinical psychologists are well placed to facilitate this but must also be aware of their own problems regarding acknowledging and coping with profound disability. Awareness of the issues might also help psychologists to work more sensitively and productively with staff.

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