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How we live: participatory research with six people with learning difficulties

Authors

  • Malcolm Richardson MSc BEd DipN

    1. Senior Nursing Lecturer, University of Sheffield, Department of Mental Health and Learning Disabilities Nursing, Manvers, England
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Malcolm Richardson, University of Sheffield, Department of Mental Health and Learning Disabilities Nursing, Humphry Davy House, Golden Smithies Lane, Manvers, S63 7ER, England. E-mail: m.richardson@sheffield.co.uk

Abstract

How we live: participatory research with six people with learning difficulties

Drawing from the Social Model of disability, six people with learning difficulties participated over 18 months in researching their own lived experiences. The method involved weekly group discussions supplemented by participant observation. The study’s value stems from in-depth inquiry, which included the participants in the data collection, analysis, dissemination and consequences that they found meaningful. The participants lived in nurse managed community homes. They described how they had faced social and economic exclusion, for example, concerning marriage, child rearing and decently paid employment. With the assistance of nursing staff, the participants had overcome many other social barriers and were enjoying a wide range of activities and choices. Consequently, the participants lived varied lives which they described as interesting and worthwhile. Contemporary models of nursing had successfully directed nursing staff to support ‘ordinary living’. However, some disabling assumptions were evident within contemporary nursing. Hence, models of nursing and service delivery were helping both to create lifestyles that the participants valued, whilst simultaneously contributing to their disempowerment.

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