News

The conquering anxiety guide

The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities (FPLD) is about to launch a revised guide on working with children and young people with learning disabilities on strategies for tackling anxiety.
Anxiety in children

The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities (FPLD) is about to launch a revised guide on working with children and young people with learning disabilities on strategies for tackling anxiety.

FRIENDS for Life: building resilience and emotional well-being: practical guidance on adapting FRIENDS for Life to increase participation for children and young people with learning disabilities focuses on the World Health Organization-endorsed Australian programme of the same name.

The programme helps children and young people build resilience and emotional well-being by learning to identify and manage anxiety-increasing thoughts and feelings, and overcoming problems rather than avoiding them.

Adapted content

The revised FPLD guidance draws on a project it led working directly in two schools, exploring ways to adapt content and delivery using simplified pictorial material and multi-media

The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities (FPLD) is about to launch a revised guide on working with children and young people with learning disabilities on strategies for tackling anxiety.

Anxiety in children
Anxiety is affecting the well-being of young people with learning disabilities. Photo: iStock

‘FRIENDS for Life: building resilience and emotional well-being: practical guidance on adapting FRIENDS for Life to increase participation for children and young people with learning disabilities’ focuses on the World Health Organization-endorsed Australian programme of the same name. 

The programme helps children and young people build resilience and emotional well-being by learning to identify and manage ‘anxiety-increasing’ thoughts and feelings, and overcoming problems rather than avoiding them.

Adapted content

The revised FPLD guidance draws on a project it led working directly in two schools, exploring ways to adapt content and delivery using simplified pictorial material and multi-media resources. Rather than provide a session-by-session breakdown, it gives an overview of ‘what we did’ and ‘what we learned’, with the most useful conclusions for how to make this programme work more broadly.

It is important to note, however, that the guidance is not intended to work in isolation; anyone using it does need to attend a licensed FRIENDS for Life training course as well. 

Practitioners need to:

  • Decide whether to deliver FRIENDS to a whole class or a targeted group.
  • Meet parents in advance, if possible.
  • Establish a good knowledge of the children and young people’s communication levels and strategies, and of how the school supports this.
  • Create a staff team to support their work.
  • Get a good feel for individual pupils’ knowledge of emotions, the degree to which they recognise them and how they express them.
  • Decide at what level they are going to target their work but also tailor support to individual children.
  • Use concrete, visual props.
  • Make use of Makaton and other communication supports.
  • Maximise the usefulness of role-play to bring complex concepts across.
  • Plan, but do not plan too rigidly: it is very important to retain some flexibility and adapt the programme if this is necessary.
  • Repeat activities.
  • Make sure that activities that are done at home are as simple as possible.

Adapt and accept

It may prove necessary to extend FRIENDS beyond the usual 12 sessions, and in practice, some children may not grasp – or indeed need – all the elements of the programme. However, they should have learned to identify the feelings they experience and developed ways to handle them; and that alone will enable them to deal with anxiety in a way that has not been possible before.

 

Expert comment

Ro Rossiter is a clinical psychologist and researcher who has been working with FPLD on the FRIENDS programme. 

‘It’s widely acknowledged – and most professionals working in the field certainly know this – that children and young people with learning disabilities have higher rates of anxiety and other emotional and behavioural disorders than their peers in the mainstream.

'At the same time, they have less access to interventions to tackle this. That in itself isn’t surprising; it’s part of the whole range of health and social inequalities they experience.

‘The UK has been leading the world in trialling and evaluating the use of FRIENDS with children and young people with learning disabilities and neurodevelopmental conditions. It’s still early days, but we are seeing some concrete benefits already.

'Teachers report that children’s behaviour has changed at home and at school; they have new coping skills, they are showing less challenging behaviour, they’re walking out of lessons less, and they are using the methods they’ve practised for dealing with anxiety.

'And the children and young people tell us that they have learned new strategies and they are doing things differently: using breathing exercises in stressful situations (one young person, for instance, used them in order to be a ring-bearer in their sister’s wedding) or to help them in interviews – and using the FRIENDS skills to help them calm down at home, rather than getting to fights with siblings.’


Find out more

For those interested in running FRIENDS for Life training courses facilitated by a licensed FRIENDS for Life trainer visit www.thepsychologytree.com

More detail about the guide and background is available at www.learningdisabilities.org.uk/our-work/health-well-being/friends-for-life

 

Sign up to continue reading for FREE

OR

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to learningdisabilitypractice.com
  • Bi-monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs