ABSTRACT

2Approaches that explore the past experiences of individuals are usually viewed as being carried out predominantly with older people, often with those suffering from dementia, in order to enhance communication and social interaction and to stimulate cognitive functioning. This book sets out to demonstrate how, for similar reasons, it can also be used effectively with people with learning disabilities, enhancing social skills and enabling clients to gain a sense of the value of their own experiences. To see memory work as an appropriate activity only for older people betrays a limited understanding of its many benefits and the great enjoyment that we can all gain from talking about and reviewing the past. Throughout this chapter we consider the benefits of exploring memories of the past, in addition to describing ways of making memory work as fruitful as possible with people with communication and intellectual disabilities. Many of the techniques used in memory work with people with learning disabilities are very similar to those used with other client groups. However, there are some key differences-chiefly in terms of the pace of the sessions and the need to make sure that group members are empowered through being given choice and opportunities for self-direction. Those readers familiar with working with people with dementia or other disabilities will recognise that this is similar to approaches used to empower these groups. In Chapter 2 we will look at why people with learning disabilities require additional input in terms of autonomy and choice, by considering the history of how this group have been treated by society, often leading to their disempowerment and social devaluation.