This project was a co-operative inquiry group with learning disabled people on resilience. It was based on an equalities approach to resilience. This includes focusing on a group which has not had a great deal of research attention to date. Strengthening the voice of the lived experience of learning disabled people, and on not just beating but changing the odds is core to this study. As such it used a co-directed approach to techniques and activities, many of which were social actions that aim to challenge and change specific parts of the adversity context for those in the group.

The community partner in the research was the Arts Connect Programme of Culture Shift. Arts Connect seeks to reduce social isolation and promote personal development by bringing young people with learning disabilities together to undertake creative activity.

The co-researchers were self selected from the Arts Connect Ambassadors group, who participate in decision making about the wider Arts Connect programme, represent the organisation on other steering groups and promote the activities of Arts Connect. The core research activity was funded by East Sussex County Council as part of their support of the Arts Connect programme.

Project timeframe

The research project commenced in September 2014 and ended in September 2018.

Project aims

The aims of this research project were to:

  • explore together, as co-researchers, specific experiences of adversity and resilience for learning disabled people and how they relate to working with young people with learning disabilities.
  • take actions together to address stigma, discrimination and unequal societal practices.

Project findings and impact

Findings are in the process of being analysed, fed back to the co-inquiry group for confirmation and interpretation and then, reported.

There is an overlap in this research between outputs and impact, represented by the social actions undertaken by the group. These actions include promoting their contribution to the resilience field by jointly presenting the research at academic and practitioner/parent fora as well as to other learning disabled people.

Key outputs of the research have stemmed from the social actions undertaken by the group which (as well as those above in Project Findings and Impact) include:

  • co-producing a game and other resilience promoting tools with members of the Arts School, Health Sciences and Boingboing Resilience CIC, funded through the Arts and Humanities Research Council
  • making a film for HeadStart (a strategic approach to enable co-produced programmes promoting young people’s mental health and resilience, funded by BIG Lottery) on why engagement with young learning disabled is both important and achievable.

Publications on the methodology, findings and contribution to thinking about resilience from an equalities perspective are planned.

Outputs of the group can now be purchased by practitioners and others to use with young people in resilience development interventions. In this way, they directly contribute to resilience knowledge exchange.

The method has been presented to PhD students and at other academic fora as an example of how emancipatory methods can be used successfully with learning disabled people.

Research team and partners

Anne Rathbone
Angie Hart
Carl Walker (School of Applied Social Sciences)

Julia Roberts, Culture Shift
Arts Connect Ambassadors