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Book clubs to aid nurses with patients who have learning disabilities

Book clubs can help lessen anxiety about healthcare for those with learning disabilities. 
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Book clubs for people with learning disabilities can help reduce anxieties about medical treatment and care, nurses at a conference have been told.

Books Beyond Words training manager Stas Smagala said more than 40 book clubs for those with learning disabilities had been set up in libraries, day centres and hospitals.

Mr Smagala told nurses at the Learning Disability Practice conference: Our books tell life stories about life issues. That could be bereavement, mental health or general healthcare issues.

Narrative and drama

The information is told in a story, and always part of a narrative.

All the books have been developed with people who have learning disabilities, and the stories are told through pictures, rather than text.

There's an element of drama in there, a surprise. Something goes wrong in the story and they have to resolve it, Mr Smagala said.

Book clubs for people with learning disabilities can help reduce anxieties about medical treatment and care, nurses at a conference have been told.

Books Beyond Words training manager Stas Smagala said more than 40 book clubs for those with learning disabilities had been set up in libraries, day centres and hospitals.

Mr Smagala told nurses at the Learning Disability Practice conference: ‘Our books tell life stories about life issues. That could be bereavement, mental health or general healthcare issues.

Narrative and drama

‘The information is told in a story, and always part of a narrative.’

All the books have been developed with people who have learning disabilities, and the stories are told through pictures, rather than text.

‘There's an element of drama in there, a surprise. Something goes wrong in the story and they have to resolve it,’ Mr Smagala said.

Reducing anxiety

‘Using narrative technique keeps people engaged, so the information is more likely to be absorbed. People like to see what happens at the end.’

Mr Smagala said nurses and nursing students could ask service users to come and read a book before appointments to help reduce anxiety prior to treatment.

‘It’s also a nice opportunity to get to know patients,’ he said. 

Titles include:

  • Getting on with cancer.
  • Going into hospital.
  • Looking after my breasts.
  • When somebody dies.
  • Ron’s feeling blue.

NHS England recently commissioned Books Beyond Words to make three books to help support care and treatment reviews. 

These include: 

  • Are my physical health needs being met?
  • Do I feel safe?
  • Am I involved in my care?

Reduction in seizures 

Mr Smagala said a 2014 randomised study, using a leaflet about epilepsy care by Books Beyond Words, showed a reduction in seizures in the group who had used the leaflet.

The study, led by Marie-Anne Durand at Hertfordshire University, ‘consistently showed fewer seizures’ according to Mr Smagala.

‘It found that people were taking their medication more regularly and keeping themselves safe,’ he said.


Further information

Books Beyond Words

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