fbpx Abi Hart, Author at Leeds Mencap

Latest News and Info

Disability History Month

By Orla Conway,

November 16th to December 16th marks UK Disability History Month. Disability Month is a longstanding initiative created and led by disabled organisations. This month aims to create a platform to honour the historical challenges faced by disabled individuals.. It’s crucial to recognise that when we talk about disabilities, we’re not just referring to physical challenges but also embracing the spectrum of learning difficulties. 

The history of Mencap, rooted in addressing the needs for individuals with learning difficulties underscores the significance of acknowledging and advocating for this diverse community.  In 1946, Judy Fryd, a mother of a child with learning difficulties, took a significant step by establishing, Mencap. She connected with other parents facing similar changes and laid the foundation for an organisation dedicated to supporting individuals with learning difficulties. This paved the way for increased activism for disability rights which resulted in significant milestones such as the launch of the disability discrimination act in 1995. 

Today, individuals with disabilities are active contributors to various facets of life, from media to sports and art. Disability history month not only allows us to reflect on disabled individuals’ hardship, but it also celebrates the progressive change made in the UK. It encourages conversations about the optimistic prospect of a more inclusively abled society.  

This year’s theme ‘Disability, Children, and Youth’, holds particular significance for Leeds Mencap, given our dedicated focus on this demographic. It presents a valuable opportunity for individuals to reflect on their interactions with disabled children and youth. Shedding light on the unique challenges faced by disabled children, who are 2.5 times more likely to be bullied than their non-disabled peers. By doing so, we strive to create an environment where all children and young people with disabilities can escape exclusion, overcome negative attitudes and eliminate stereotypes.  

Find more information about UK Disability History Month here

Trustee Week 2023

Trustee Week is all about celebrating the brilliant work of charity trustees. This year’s theme is “Many Voices. Working Together. With purpose.” At Leeds Mencap we are incredibly lucky to have a lovely team of dedicated trustees who lend their expertise in a range of areas and work together to ensure our charity is the best we can be!

Earlier in the year, as part of our ongoing 70th anniversary celebrations, our volunteer Shuyue, sat down with Kate, on of our trustees to find out more about her motivations behind joining Leeds Mencap.

What motivated you to join Leeds Mencap’s Board of Trustees and how does your professional experience help you be a good trustee?

In 2006 I applied for a job as a Fundraiser. I had no experience in fundraising but as a tenacious 20 something felt I could give it a go. I have always been passionate about supporting charities and have a strong sense of social justice, so it felt like the aqvenue for me. Somehow, I got the job and that job was with Leeds Mencap.

Fast forward 17 or so years and I have built a career in the voluntary sector, now leading a large Income Generation team at Yorkshire’s largest Hospice. This was all thanks to Leeds Mencap taking a chance on me and showing me just how important charitable causes are.

I am still in touch with many of the families and supporters I met during my time at Leeds Mencap and it has always held a special place in my heart. To return as a Trustee is a real privilege and I hope that my experience in the sector brings value to the board.

What kind of tasks do you do as a trustee and how do you balance your responsibility?

As a Trustee at Leeds Mencap, I have been involved largely in supporting the Fundraising and Marketing teams, who, with limited resource do an absolutely sterling job! As someone who works in a charity, there is a fine line I am careful not to cross (sometimes unsuccessfully) in becoming too operational. My role is very much to guide, offer advice and challenge where appropriate.

I was also involved in the recruitment of a new CEO which was an interesting process. In our 70th year a new CEO is a great thing and can take forward all the hard work of their predecessor, launching Leeds Mencap into the next chapter.

As a board we work well together, bringing different skills and experience, both professionally and personally. The common denominator is that we are all hugely passionate about Leeds Mencap and the work it does.

My key challenge is juggling responsibilities and making sure I dedicate enough time to my duties as a trustee. I don’t want to be there in name only and hope that despite a young family and a challenging job, I bring my whole self to the role and do as much as I can to support this fantastic cause.

What have you gained whilst working as a trustee?

While working as a trustee I have gained a real sense of responsibility in a way you perhaps don’t as a charity employee. We are ultimately accountable for the safe running and sustainability of this important cause and that is a responsibility I don’t take lightly.

When people find out I am a Trustee, they think of it as a nice thing to have on your CV. It is much more than that though, it’s about playing your part in community and doing something good. I am so fortunate to have had the career in the VCSE I have had so far, it’s great to be able to put it to good use.

What do you think of Leeds Mencap’s work and our impact on the local community?

Leeds Mencap’s story is incredibly rich, from where it started and the impact it has had on so many families over its 70 year history. From Challenge Anneka in the 90s, to relaunching the Hawthorn Family Support Centre in 2007, to the incredible community building we have created now. Leeds Mencap is part of the fabric of the LS9 community as well as supporting those from across the city and I couldn’t be more proud to be involved.

As a trustee, I want to say thank you to everyone who sustains the charity, our children and families using the nursery, those who rent our rooms, people accessing our services, donors, funders, volunteers and staff. Everyone is part of our history and I look forward to them being part of the story for the next 70 years!

Inclusive Winter Activities

by Mia Stewart

With the nights drawing in and the temperatures dropping, it’s time to get in the festive spirit! There are many winter activities across Leeds and many of them are suitable for those with additional needs!

Christmas Family Crafternoon – M&S Archive at the University of Leeds, Micheal Marks Building

11th November, 10am – 4pm

Get Involved with local Yorkshire crafters and chose from a range of workshops to make something and take home. Screen printing, Collaging, Decoupage and knitting! Food is available and food brought from home is also welcome! This is a free event and doesn’t require any booking.

Christmas at Thackray (Relaxed experience) – Thackray Museum of medicine

Sat, 25 November 2023 – Sun, 26 November 2023

Have magical Christmas experience that involves an activity trail around the museum, festive crafts and visit Farther Christmas! On the 25th and 26th of November a relaxed experiences is also offered for children with sensory needs, meaning the environment will be quieter environment and a lower capacity.

International day of Disabled people – Leeds City Museum

Thursday 30th November, 11am -3pm.

For the 5th year running Leeds for All are celebrating International Day of Disabled People with a marketplace event at Leeds City Museum.

A great place to meet and connect with other groups as well as take part in workshops and discussions.

Christmas Market Stall 2023 at Leeds Kirkgate market

Wednesday 6th December, 10-3.30

Visit the festive Christmas markets and check out the stall ran by Leeds autism services who have a stall with a wide variety of festive items on sale! More information here: https://www.leedsautism.org.uk/Event/christmas-market-stall-2023

Meet Santa in the North Pole and decorate gingerbread with Mrs Claus (Relaxed Visit) – Lotherton Hall.

Families with children who have additional needs can book to visit Santa and his elves and enjoy the snowy north pole and partake in a key making workshop in the elves’ workshop! You can also book to decorate gingerbread with Mrs Claus on the same dates! Book tickets here: Relaxed Santa Visits – Christmas Experience (thechristmasexperience.co.uk)

A glitzy Day of Christmas Family Discos with DJ Jonny Strangeways – Left Bank Leeds

Sunday 17th December

At Left Bank Leeds, enjoy a Christmas Disco for the whole family with DJ Johnny strange way! Thy would love you to dress fancy dress but of course that is optional. Childrens tickets are just £4! More information and tickets fund here : https://www.leftbankleeds.org.uk/events/a-devillishly-spooky-family-disco-with-dj-jonny-strangeways-copy

For more information visit : https://archive.marksandspencer.com/events/family-crafternoon/

Festive Grotto (sensory friendly sessions) at White rose

Come and meet Santa Claus on his vintage train on his way to the north pole! This Grotto offers sensory- friendly sessions from 10am – 10.30am every Tuesday in December, during White Rose’s weekly Quiet Hours from 10am – 12pm! More information found here : https://yorkshiretots.com/event/festive-grotto-at-white-rose/2023-11-12/

World Mental Health Day

The 10th of October is World Mental Health Day. The Day is all about raising awareness of mental health and helping those to make positive changes for their mental health.

Having a good mental health is very important as it influences the way we behave in every aspect of our lives. It impacts the way we think, feel and interact with one another. Having positive mental health allows us to make good decisions, create strong relationships with and enjoy the things we love.

The theme for 2023’s World Mental Health Day is ‘Mental Health is a universal human right’. This means that positive mental health is crucial for everyone, no matter who you are.

But what does mental heath mean for those with learning disabilities?

Firstly, it is important to understand that a learning disability is not a mental health issue, as the two are often confused. A learning disability affects someone’s ability to learn and understand things for the whole of their life. Mental health issues, on the other hand, can affect anyone and can arise at any point in someone’s life. Mental health issues can be overcome by treatment but learning disabilities cannot.

However, this does not mean the two are not linked, in fact a study found that 54% of people with a learning disability have a mental health problem compared to 25% of the general population. There are many reasons as to why those with learning disabilities disproportionality suffer from ill mental health:

· People with a Learning disability often need more social support which is often not met, increasing stress.

· Societal stigma can often lead to bullying and negative behaviour directed towards those with a learning disability, which can also be internalised leading to psychological distress.

· Those with learning disabilities understand things differently, meaning they are often misunderstood, leading to negative feelings.

By identifying the link between learning disabilities and mental health issues this only further highlights the need for Leeds Mencap. By providing services that aim to mitigate the reasons that lead to poor mental health, through our support groups, schemes and advice services.

Negative mental health also can affect those close to someone with a learning disability. Leeds Mencap ensure that parents have the correct support and also run a support group for siblings. By offering a safe space that understands those with learning disabilities and their families, Leeds Mencap aims to have positive effects on mental health for everyone, emphasising this year’s theme of World Mental Health Day. – ‘Mental health is a universal human righ

Volunteer Spotlight- Orla

With a new academic year, comes new volunteers! Last week we welcomed our new Marketing and Communication Volunteer Orla. Here’s a bit more about Orla and what encouraged her to volunteer for us:

“My name is Orla Conway, and I am from Belfast, Northern Ireland. I am currently in my final year at the University of Leeds studying Media and Communications. Although I enjoy learning about the theoretical side of communications through my degree, I am excited to get hands on experience working with Leeds Mencap as their marketing and communication volunteer.

From a young age I have always found great fulfilment working with charitable organisations and contributing to both local and global communities. When living in Ireland I actively participated in the St Vincent de Paul Society and my local parish’s society ‘GIFT’. Through these charitable organisations I got the opportunity to aid a range of disadvantaged groups in my local community. Additionally, in the summer of 2019, I travelled to Ohio, America where I collaborated with both charities and businesses committed to intentionally hiring individuals with learning difficulties where I got the opportunity to meet and support some unforgettable characters.

During my time at University, I have been an active member in a few societies such as the Leeds Surf Society and the Leeds Art Society, I enjoy organising and attending weekly socials and feeling part of a small community of likeminded people with similar interests. During my school years, I enjoyed getting involved in many creative endeavours such as designing the sets for our school’s theatre productions, designing the school’s annual yearbook and being a journalist for the schools’ newsletter. I continued to pursue my passion for creativity while in university and served as the assistant director of the university’s production of High School Musical. I am eager to develop my creative skills within Mencap by assisting with the creation of new marketing materials and communications and I am excited to be part of a team that has such a positive impact on people’s lives.”

We can’t wait to have Orla on our team supporting us with all things marketing this year!

If you’re interested in volunteering for Leeds Mencap then please get in touch with us on info@leedsmencap.org.uk or 0113 235 1331

Leeds Mencap x Tomoro

To continue our 70th Anniversary blog post series, we chatted with our corporate partners Tomoro all about their journey with Leeds Mencap:

“Here at Tomoro Agency we are based in Leeds city centre. We specialise in digital marketing and creative advertising. We have worked with brands such as Haier, Thermos UK and Flamingo Land. We are corporate partners with Leeds Mencap and work directly with them in fundraising for the charity.

We got involved with Leeds Mencap as Joyce Fieldhouse (Founder member and honorary president of Leeds Mencap) is a family member of Hannah Crampton who works at Tomoro Agency. With Leeds Mencap being a charity close to our hearts, we decided we wanted to support them in any way we can. We visit Leeds Mencap every couple weeks to provide our digital expertise in assisting them to expand and grow as a charity.

Last November we took part in the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge and raised £1145 for Leeds Mencap. The hike was done in treacherous conditions and took 9 hours, it was tough however we pushed through. Some of our clients took part in the hike too and raised a lot of money for us. In August we completed our second event, our Leeds Agency Football Fundraiser and we are now looking at future fundraising events to help raise money and awareness for Leeds Mencap. Although Leeds Mencap are affiliated with National Mencap, Leeds Mencap is an independent and local charity, and they need to secure their own funding to continue to offer their valuable services. Support from individuals, businesses and events is extremely important to them.

Joyce Fieldhouse was one of a group of parents of children with learning disabilities or autism who set Leeds Mencap up back in 1953 when there was very little support available for children or families. Over the years Joyce gave an enormous amount of time and energy to the organisation, influencing local policy, particularly around education for children with learning disabilities, and setting up and improving services. Joyce was particularly dedicated to Leeds Mencap’s Holiday Home (1968 – 1991) at Bridlington, arranging breaks for families and the upkeep of the house.

Joyce’s unstinting service was recognised in 2013 when she was awarded the British Empire Medal (BEM) for service to people with learning disabilities. In the same year she became Honorary President of Leeds Mencap as she retired (aged 83) from more active involvement in the day to day running of the charity.

Supportive throughout, Joyce was pleased to join Anneka Rice on a trip down memory lane in 2015 when Anneka, who had transformed the burnt-out shell of Leeds Mencap’s ‘new’ building in East End Park in 1992, came to help Leeds Mencap launch the last leg of their fundraising campaign for their current home, The Vinery Centre.

Without Joyce and others who had the vision, commitment and determination to found Leeds Mencap 68 years ago, Leeds Mencap would not be the organisation they are today. Joyce has touched the lives of so many people who have benefitted from her dedication and hard work over the years.

Since Joyce’s passing Andrew, her son, is still happy and healthy in his new home, making friends everyday and keeping up with his regular routine of going to HollyBush every week. He plans on visiting Leeds Mencap soon for their 70th Anniversary for a trip down memory lane.”

Legacy Fundraising: The basics


Legacy fundraising, also known as legacy giving, is an growing component of charity fundraising efforts. By encouraging individuals to include a charitable bequest in their will or estate plan, organizations can secure long-term financial support for their mission. In this blog post, we will discuss the basics of legacy fundraising, its significance and various types, and what money from a legacy could go towards.

What is Legacy Fundraising?

Legacy fundraising refers to donations that supporters plan to give to non-profits after their passing. Legacy fundraising is also commonly referred to as planned giving as donors often plan these gifts years before they are distributed to the designated parties. 

For many donors, legacy fundraising will consist of monetary donations, but some donors will give real estate or choose to set up a charitable annuity or trust rather than make a direct donation. While the specifics of each gift and how it is distributed will vary depending on the charity and donor these gifts can have the potential to supply charities with meaningful funds for years to come and honour the legacy of the donor who made the contribution. 

Why is Legacy Fundraising Important?

Legacy giving can benefit both nonprofits and donors. Donors who choose to participate in legacy giving can experience positives, such as:

  • The ability to cement their legacy. 

Legacy giving ensures donors will be remembered for their generosity and commitment to the nonprofit’s purpose long after their passing. This can be especially important to donors who may lack the funds to make a donation during their lives but can make the impact they want through a legacy gift.  

  • Tax breaks. 

Many wealthy donors join a legacy giving program both out of their commitment to their favorite nonprofit and the numerous tax benefits that participating can bring their families. 

  • Control over their donation’s use.

Often, donors hesitate to give to nonprofits if they are unsure what impact their contributions will make. With legacy giving, donors can add stipulations in their wills for how their gift will be spent. This can help donors feel rest assured that their legacy will be preserved the way they would have wanted. 

For nonprofits, why is legacy fundraising an important revenue source? It is because it:

  • Adds an additional revenue source for organizations to secure their fiscal stability
  • Builds an endowment to provide an ongoing source of income each year in perpetuity
  • Broadens your donor base to allow donors to make impactful gifts by providing a diverse way to give assets

Different Types of Legacy Fundraising

Legacy fundraising can take many different forms, providing flexibility for donors to choose the option that best aligns with their personal circumstances and philanthropic goals. Here are some common types of legacy fundraising:

Residuary legacy

The whole (or a specific portion or percentage) of an estate left over after making other specified legacies (typically to benefit family members, friends and other charitable causes). For example, you could choose to leave 99% to your family and donate 1% to charity. This type of legacy is the most valuable, as its value is unaffected by inflation.

Pecuniary legacy

The gift of a specific sum of money, for example £20,000.

Specific legacy

The gift of a specific item which might be used by the charity either in its original format (for example – fine art, collection items or rare books) or that could be sold and any proceeds used to support the charity (for example – property or land.

Reversionary legacy

Either a specific or pecuniary gift, or a residuary gift, that is left to another beneficiary in the first instance but will revert to the charity absolutely, usually after the initial beneficiary has passed away. This is a very common type of gift that couples or parents often consider, where a gift is set up as a Will Trust. The interest goes to the surviving spouse (or children) for their lifetime, and the charity benefits from the gift on the spouse’s (or child’s) death. Occasionally, there can be second intermediary beneficiaries (children or grandchildren), too.

Contingent legacy

A gift dependent on the occurrence of an event that may or may not happen. For instance, a legacy which only applies if other beneficiaries named in the Will die before the person who made the Will.

What money from a legacy could go towards?

Here are some examples of what larger amounts of legacy fundraising could fund here at Leeds Mencap.

£2,000 could pay for a year’s worth of activity workshops for all of our youth clubs, which enable young people with learning disabilities to try new skills and build confidence.

-£5,000 could pay for a year’s worth of development and communication activities that give very young children with learning disabilities the chance to improve their language and social ski

-£10,000 could pay for an entire year of our Friday Club, a club for 18-30 years olds with learning disabilities where they can try new activities and prepare for the difficult transition into adulthood.

-£15,000 Could pay for an entire year of our sibling’s support club which provides siblings of those with learning disabilities a safe space to have fun, try new things, and to make friends who understand what they are going through.

-£50,000 could pay for a year’s worth of nursery developmental play session, which gives the opportunity for very young children with learning disabilities to develop their personal, social, and educational skills.


Legacy fundraising plays a critical role in the sustainability and growth of charities. By cultivating long-term relationships with donors, charities can secure reliable, long-term financial support for their mission. Whether it’s through bequests, charitable trusts, or life insurance policies, legacy gifts provide opportunities for donors to make a meaningful impact while leaving a lasting legacy.

If you’re interested in leaving a legacy gift for Leeds Mencap please get in touch by emailing fundraising@leedsmencap.org.uk or by calling 0113 235 1331

Leeds Mencap’s History with Challenge Anneka!

*Photo shared with Leeds Mencap by Integra Buildings

Welcome to the latest instalment in our 70th anniversary series, where we reflect on the remarkable milestones that have shaped Leeds Mencap into the organization it is today. In this blog post, we delve into the inspiring story of Challenge Anneka’s involvement with Leeds Mencap and how it played a significant role in our history.

What is “Challenge Anneka”?

Challenge Anneka was a popular television show hosted by the dynamic Anneka Rice. The series captivated audiences as Anneka raced against the clock, orchestrating ambitious building transformations and completing incredible challenges within tight deadlines. These endeavors not only showcased Anneka’s determination but also highlighted the power of collaboration and community spirit.

Challenge Anneka’s Impact on Leeds Mencap

In 1993, Challenge Anneka brought its transformative magic to Leeds Mencap, leaving a permanent mark on our journey. At that time, Leeds Mencap desperately needed a nursery for individuals with learning disabilities. Anneka Rice and her team arrived, to convert a burnt-out schoolhouse into a nurturing space for those in need.

With the dedication and tireless efforts of the Challenge Anneka crew, the schoolhouse underwent an incredible metamorphosis. Walls were rebuilt, interiors redesigned, and a new lease of life given to the space. The nursery emerged as a beacon of inclusivity, providing a safe and stimulating environment for individuals with learning disabilities to grow, learn, and thrive.

The Journey Continues: The Vinery Centre

Fast-forward to 2016, and Leeds Mencap reached another milestone in its journey by moving to The Vinery Centre, our current home. Although Challenge Anneka’s involvement had occurred years earlier, the spirit of the show lingered as Anneka Rice paid a visit to the site of our new centre. This visit demonstrated just how far we’ve come since the transformative days of Challenge Anneka.

The Vinery Centre stands as a testament to our commitment to providing exceptional care and support for individuals with learning disabilities. Within its walls, we house a range of specialist facilities, including a sensory room, a soft play area, an outdoor playground, and a changing places toilet. These spaces enable us to create inclusive experiences, promote well-being, and facilitate personal development for all those we serve.

The partnership between Leeds Mencap and Challenge Anneka holds a special place in our history, representing a powerful collaboration that transformed lives. From the days of the nursery project to the present, we have come a long way, constantly striving to provide exceptional care and support for individuals with learning disabilities. Let’s continue to build a more inclusive and compassionate society.

Trustee Spotlight-Tim

As we continue our series of blog posts to celebrate our 70th anniversary we are delighted to share the stories of some of our excellent trustees, who have generously supported our work over the years.

What is a Trustee?

Trustees Oversee everything a charity does. They ensure that their charity has a clear strategy, and that its work and goals are in line with its vision. A trustee’s role in a charity is to be the ‘guardians of purpose’, making sure that all decisions put the needs of the beneficiaries first. 

They safeguard the charity’s assets – both physical assets, including property, and intangible ones, such as its reputation. They make sure these are used well and that the charity is run sustainably. 

Trustees don’t usually do the day-to-day running of the charity. They delegate this to the staff, led by the Chief Executive. Instead, they play the role of a ‘critical friend’ to the Chief Executive by giving support and by challenging – in a supportive way – to help them manage effectively. However, in smaller charities with few staff, trustees may take hands-on roles too.

Tim’s Story

We are starting off the series with Tim. Tim kindly took the time to sit down with us and chat more about his role as a Trustee and what inspired him to get involved:

Tim is the chair of our fundraising and marketing sub-committee, where he works closely with our staff members to maximize our fundraising efforts and raise awareness of our work. Working as a trustee, he enjoys seeing the positive results of our charity work.

Tim was a volunteer our Tuesday Youth Group before becoming a trustee in 2019. As a professional solicitor, he uses his skills in reading, problem-solving, and decision-making to help our board of trustees run the charity more effectively.

Being a trustee for a charity is not an easy task. Tim admits that sometimes he faces tough decisions or complicated spreadsheets, but he never runs away from them. Instead, he works together with other trustees, who have different backgrounds and expertise but share the same goal: making sure that Leeds Mencap operates well and achieves its charitable goals.

Tim manages to balance his responsibilities as a trustee and other commitments, with good time management skills. He says that being a trustee has enriched his knowledge of the charity sector, as well as his passion for helping young people with learning disabilities.

One of the things that Tim loves most about Leeds Mencap is the impact that it has on the local community. He says that the work Leeds Mencap does is incredible, although sometimes hard to be quantified or measured. Tim invites anyone who is curious about the impact of our work to visit us, to see the smiling faces of the people we support, and to witness the dedication of our staff and volunteers. He says that all these things demonstrate how Leeds Mencap makes a difference for each child, their family, and the wider community.

Tim is very grateful for all the hard work of the staff and volunteers at Leeds Mencap, and he looks forward to celebrating our 70th anniversary this year. He says that being a trustee for Leeds Mencap is a meaningful way to get involved with the charity and to make a positive contribution.

Become a Trustee

We are currently looking for new trustees to join us in our mission of supporting young people with learning disabilities and their families across Leeds. If you would like to join Leeds Mencap’s Board of Trustees you can find further information and how to apply here

Leeds Mencap’s New Playground!

We are thrilled to announce the grand opening of our brand new playground, made possible by a generous £22,384 grant from The Morrisons Foundation. This exciting project has transformed our space, providing children with enhanced play opportunities and an environment that fosters creativity, exploration, and endless fun. In this blog post, we will take you on a journey through our newly developed playground, highlighting the incredible features that have been added.

The Morrisons Foundation Grant

The Morrisons Foundation, renowned for their dedication to supporting local communities, has played a pivotal role in the realization of our playground. With their generous grant of £22,384, we were able to acquire a diverse range of equipment that will surely captivate the imagination of every child who steps foot in our play area.

The Masterful Craftsmanship of ESP Pay

The construction of our playground was entrusted to ESP Pay, a renowned company with a wealth of experience in creating innovative and inspiring play spaces. Their expertise and attention to detail have resulted in a well-crafted playground that meets the highest safety standards while fostering creativity and fun. 、

Innovative Features

  1. Bug Hotel: Our playground now boasts a captivating bug hotel, allowing children to explore and appreciate the fascinating world of insects. This unique feature will encourage children to observe and learn about the natural environment while fostering a sense of responsibility towards nature.
  2. Role Play Hut: Imagination knows no bounds in our new role play hut. Equipped with interactive props and a safe environment, children can unleash their creativity and engage in various imaginative scenarios, from playing house to pretending to be their favorite superheroes.
  3. Buggy Shelter: Ensuring the comfort and convenience of both children and their caregivers, the addition of a buggy shelter provides a safe place to park strollers and prams while the little ones enjoy the playground.
  4. Play Cabin: Our play cabin offers a world of wonder, inviting children to explore and invent their own stories. Complete with cozy corners for reading and areas for interactive play, this space is a sanctuary for imaginative adventures.
  5. Canopy: To ensure our children can enjoy the playground come rain or shine, a sturdy and protective canopy has been installed. This versatile addition provides shade during sunny days and shelter during drizzles, allowing uninterrupted playtime throughout the year.
  6. Wet Pour Bike Area: Adventure awaits on wheels! Our new wet pour bike area is an ideal spot for children to ride their bicycles, trikes, or scooters. With a smooth and safe surface, they can confidently explore their mobility while honing their balance and coordination skills.

The playground has been a hit already and we can’t wait to see how much the children enjoy it throughout the summer and beyond!

Celebrating the Extraordinary Spirit of the Special Olympics

What are the Special Olympics?

The Special Olympics, a global movement that celebrates the abilities and accomplishments of individuals with intellectual disabilities, took place last week (17th-25th June 2023) This exceptional sporting event not only showcases the remarkable athletic talent of participants but also highlights their incredible spirit and determination. In this blog post, we will delve into the significance of the Special Olympics, explore the impact it has on athletes, and shine a spotlight on a remarkable Bradford-born athlete, Ella Curtis.

The Special Olympics: Empowering Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities

The Special Olympics is an international organization that provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for people with intellectual disabilities. Through its programs, the organization promotes inclusivity, acceptance, and empowerment. Athletes of all ages and abilities are given the opportunity to engage in sports, develop physical fitness, and form lasting friendships. The Special Olympics strives to create a world where everyone is celebrated for their unique abilities and is afforded equal opportunities.

Ella Curtis: Inspiring Hearts and Minds

Among the many inspiring athletes participating in the Special Olympics, Ella Curtis stands out as a true symbol of determination and resilience. Hailing from Bradford, Ella, a talented cyclist with Down syndrome, has inspired the Special Olympics community. Her passion for cycling and unwavering commitment to her sport has propelled her to new heights, and she has represented Great Britain with pride.

Ella’s journey to the Special Olympics has been filled with dedication and hard work. Through her participation in various training programs and competitions, she has honed her skills and developed into a formidable cyclist. Ella’s incredible achievements not only inspire those around her but also challenge stereotypes and misconceptions about individuals with intellectual disabilities.

The Impact of the Special Olympics

The Special Olympics has a profound impact on the lives of athletes, their families, and the community at large. Beyond the thrill of competition, the games foster a sense of belonging, self-confidence, and social integration for participants. The Special Olympics provides a platform for athletes to showcase their abilities and helps break down barriers, promoting a more inclusive society.

By raising awareness and changing perceptions, the Special Olympics promotes a culture of acceptance and inclusion. It encourages communities to recognize the unique strengths and contributions of individuals with intellectual disabilities, allowing them to thrive both on and off the field.

As the Special Olympics continues to captivate hearts and minds, let us celebrate the incredible achievements of all the athletes involved. By supporting and embracing this movement, we can create a more inclusive society that recognizes and values the unique abilities and contributions of every individual.

Learning Disability Week 2023!

What is Learning Disability Week about?

The 19-25th of June 2023 marks this year’s Learning Disability Week. The week is important as it allows us to celebrate the achievements of those with learning disabilities while simultaneously raising awareness and educating others, allowing others to have a greater understanding of what learning disabilities are and develop greater empathy towards those that are affected by them. 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability, so it is important that their experience is heard and marking this week is  a way of making that possible

Myth Busting

This year, the theme is all about busting the myths surrounding learning disabilities and ending discrimination that may be fuelled by common misconceptions. For example, a common misconception is that those with learning disabilities can’t learn. However, we see this myth disproven everyday at Leeds Mencap as we see the young people who attend grow and develop their skills, showing us how incredible they really are. Someone with a learning disability learns in a different way than others so may require different support. This is what we do at Leeds Mencap, help those with learning disabilities in the way that is best for them!

Learning disability week in previous years

Each year the awareness week focuses on different issues that those with learning disabilities face. In 2010 it focused on getting the NHS to improve their treatment of those with learning disabilities. In 2017 it focused on employment and last year in 2022 the week’s theme focused on the experiences of during and the aftermath of the pandemic.

What are we doing?

To celebrate the week, we are doing many fun activities to raise money! Our nursery will be doing a sponsored Pram Push which involves pushing prams whilst avoiding obstacles! Our Youth club will be taking part in a variety of sports challenges such as trying to get as many balls as possible on target in the net, shooting as many bean bags as possible through the hoop, who can build the highest brick tower and lastly how many jumps can you do on the trampoline? To sponsor these fundraisers for Learning Disability Week you can donate on our just giving page = https://justgiving.com/campaign/ldw2023

Additionally, to raise awareness in schools, we have created an assembly and lesson plans about Learning Disability Week, to teach students about some of the challenges those with a learning disability may have to face. These can be requested by emailing fundraising@leedsmencap.org.uk

We are hoping to raise £1,500 throughout the month of June for our Learning Disability Week Campaign. This money will go directly towards supporting young people with learning disabilities and their families to be included and to achieve their aspirations.

We understand that the current cost of living crisis makes donating harder, but any contribution, big or small, helps us to make a huge difference.

🌙Just £5 could empower a parent to attend a workshop on healthy sleep routines, supporting their child with a learning disability

😀Just £10 could provide a sensory jigsaw that enhances problem-solving abilities for children with learning disabilities.

We have set up a Just Giving Page to make donating easier than ever- https://justgiving.com/campaign/ldw2023

emember, it’s not just about the donation amount; it’s about coming together as a community and showing our support. Spread the word, encourage your friends, family, and co-workers to contribute, and let’s use the power of social media to make a lasting impact.

Together, we can create a world where every individual’s abilities are recognized and celebrated!

Inclusive Summer Activities!

Summer is here and it’s time to enjoy the sunshine and have some fun. Whether you’re looking for outdoor adventures, cultural events, or relaxing activities, there’s something for everyone in Leeds this summer. Here are some of the inclusive and accessible summer activities that you can join in Leeds.

Born to be Wild Child Family Rockstars Party

Sunday, 4 June, 1pm-3pm

  • For accessibility needs and enquiries please contact the venue via their website: https://www.belgravemusichall.com/info/
  • A day of dancing and rocking out for children and their families.
  • Everyone is welcomed to dress up as your favourite rock n roll stars!

Tickets link: https://www.skiddle.com/whats-on/Leeds/The-Belgrave-Music-Hall-And-Canteen/Born-to-be-wild-child-family-rockstars-party-/36356288/

Jazz on the Farm

Sunday, 11 June, 1pm – 7pm

Kirkstall Valley Farm, Kirkstall Rd, Kirkstall, Leeds, LS4 2DD

  • Accessible by Wheelchair
  • Enjoy a day of live jazz music and delicious food at the farm!
  • The event starts at 1 pm, featuring The Tom Sharp Jazz Orchestra, Music from the Attic, and other local bands. There will be a BBQ, Indian food stall, ice-cream van, and a bar. You can also test your skills at the farm games and activities.

Tickets link: https://bookwhen.com/kvdt/e/ev-sbfd-20230611130000

Breeze x Lotherton Outdoor Cinema

Sun 25 June

Lotherton Hall, LS25 3EB

  • Accessible by Wheelchair
  • Enjoy a classic movie under the stars in the beautiful grounds of Lotherton Hall!
  • The Lion King: 10am
  • Moana: 12.30pm

Tickets link: https://museumsandgalleries.leeds.gov.uk/events/lotherton/breeze-x-lotherton-outdoor-cinema/?occurrence=2023-06-25

The Big Harewood Garden Party

Sat 8 Jul, 10am

Harewood House, LS17 9LG

  • Accessible by Wheelchair
  • Grab your hamper, pick a sunny spot, bring your friends and family, or just stretch out on the grass and take in the spectacular view of this!

Tickets link: https://leeds2023.co.uk/whats-on/the-big-harewood-garden-party

Riverside Food and Drink Festival Wetherby

Riverside Food and Drink Festival Wetherby

Saturday 5 August & Sunday 6 August, 10am

The Ings, Lodge Lane, Wetherby, LS22 5FN

  • Get your taste buds ready for a mouth-watering celebration of all things FOOD on The Ings, Wetherby!

For more information: https://www.familiesonline.co.uk/local/leeds/whats-on/riverside-food-and-drink-festival-wetherby-2023-a-feast-on-the-ings-194992

Tiny Tigers – museum crafts for under 5s

Tiny Tigers- Museum Crafts for under 5s

Every Friday from 10am

Leeds City Museum, Millennium Square, LS2 8BH

  • Accessible by Wheelchair
  • Come down to Leeds City Museum for our creative, messy sessions for under 5s and their carers.
  • Babies, toddlers and preschoolers welcome!
  • Sessions are free, drop in, and there is no need to book.

For more information: https://www.leedsinspired.co.uk/events/tiny-tigers-museum-crafts-under-5s

Behind the Microscope

Sat 11 Feb 2023 – Thu 31 Aug 2023 10am

Thackray Museum of Medicine, Beckett Street, LS9 7LN

  • Accessible by Wheelchair
  • Behind the Microscope follows the story of real-life pathologists as they examine bodies, organs, and disease at the smallest scale. These stories are brought to life by artist Molly Pukes, providing a fun and friendly introduction to the work of a histopathologist for those aged 7+.
  • Be inspired by the colourful world found under a microscope during our regular series of holiday activities for all the family.
  • The exhibition is included in the price of admission to the museum.

For more information: https://www.leedsinspired.co.uk/events/behind-microscope-0

Ghosts of Abbey House Museum

Saturday, 28 October, 7pm – 10pm

Abbey House Museum, Abbey Walk, Kirkstall, Leeds, LS5 3EH

  • Not suitable for children under 16
  • Explore the spooky side of the museum and hear stories of its haunted past!
  • Accessible by Wheelchair
  • The event starts at 7 pm, featuring a guided tour of the Victorian streets and rooms, where you might encounter some ghostly visitors. There will be a buffet, hot drinks, and a licensed bar. You can also join in the paranormal investigation and use equipment to detect any supernatural activity. 

Tickets link: https://museumsandgalleries.leeds.gov.uk/events/abbey-house-museum/ghosts-of-abbey-house-museum/?occurrence=2023-06-05

Herd farm Activity Centre

  • If you’re feeling adventurous, why not visit the Herd Farm Activity Centre, a Grade 2 Listed converted barn that offers a range of outdoor activities for children and adults.
  • You can try archery, climbing, zip wire, orienteering, and more.
  • The centre is fully accessible for wheelchair users and has a sensory room, a games room, and a dining hall. You can book a day visit or a residential stay at the centre. The centre is open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

To book your visit, call 0113 378 3088 or email herdfarm@leeds.gov.uk.

For more information, visit https://www.herdfarm.co.uk/

Volunteer Week 2023!

In a world where acts of kindness and selflessness often go unnoticed, Volunteers Week takes the time to honour the invaluable contributions of volunteers. This annual celebration, observed in various countries during the first week of June, serves as a reminder of the remarkable impact volunteers make and the crucial role they play in supporting charities and communities. Join us as we delve into the essence of Volunteers Week, its significance, and why volunteers are important to charitable organizations.

What is Volunteers Week?

Volunteers Week is celebrated between the 1st and 7th of June every year. It is a week in which the UK celebrates volunteers and says thank you to them for the contribution that they make. The week also raises awareness about the benefits of becoming a volunteer and the diverse volunteering roles that are available.

First established in 1984 by Volunteering England, the event is now coordinated by NCVO (the National Council for Voluntary Organizations). During the week stories about volunteering are shared on social media and hundreds of celebrations and events take place. Every Volunteers Week has a different theme which is designed to help organizations think about how they can successfully open up volunteering opportunities to all and increase diversity in their volunteer base and trustees. This year’s theme is: Celebrate and Inspire.

Why do we celebrate Volunteers Week?

Volunteers are always active at the heart of every UK community. So, taking the time during Volunteers’ Week to celebrate and recognize their efforts and all they contribute to our local communities, the voluntary sector and society as a whole have never been more important.

Every year hundreds of events, both online and in–person, take place to celebrate Volunteers’ Week and the huge range of ways in which volunteers give their time. This year will be no different.

The Importance of Volunteers to Charities

  • Volunteers: The Backbone of Charitable Organizations

Charitable organizations rely on volunteers to ensure the smooth operation of their programs and services. In fact, a staggering 91% of charities in the United Kingdom are run entirely by volunteers, according to a study by the National Council for Voluntary Organizations. Volunteers become an integral part of the organizational structure, driving the mission forward with their dedication and enthusiasm.

  • Cost-Effectiveness and Resource Optimization

One of the most tangible benefits of volunteers for charities lies in the cost savings they provide. By utilizing volunteers, organizations can significantly reduce operating expenses that would otherwise be allocated to employee salaries and benefits. Volunteers offer their time willingly, often working on holidays or outside regular business hours, providing valuable support without additional financial burden. This allows charities to allocate more resources to direct services and programs, maximizing their impact within the community.

  • Enhanced Quality and Diversified Services

Volunteers bring unique skills and expertise that complement the capabilities of in-house staff. Their specialized knowledge in areas like technology, law, counseling, or socialization can elevate the quality and diversity of services provided by charitable organizations. Volunteers enable charities to expand their offerings, fill gaps in service provision, and meet specific community needs that may otherwise go unaddressed. With volunteers onboard, charities can provide more tailored and comprehensive support to their beneficiaries.

  • Personalized Attention and Human Connection

Volunteers have the time and dedication to offer personalized attention to the individuals and communities they serve. Unlike busy professionals, volunteers often choose specific roles aligned with their interests and passions, enabling them to devote their undivided attention to the task at hand. Their genuine care and commitment foster a sense of human connection, building trust, empathy, and rapport with beneficiaries. This personal touch makes a significant difference in the lives of those who seek support from charitable organizations.

  • Empowering Communities and Volunteer Recognition

Volunteers not only benefit charities but also contribute to their personal growth, well-being, and skills development. By volunteering, individuals become active participants in their communities, empowering themselves and those around them. It is essential for charities to recognize and appreciate the ongoing contributions of volunteers, expressing gratitude and acknowledging their crucial role. Regular feedback, appreciation events, and highlighting volunteer stories can foster a culture of recognition and encourage continued engagement.

From a Volunteer’s Perspective:

“When I saw Leeds Mencap hiring at a volunteer fair, I applied immediately, thinking it was a great opportunity to contribute to society and get more experience and skills at the same time. Since I started volunteering at Leeds Mencap, I have been enjoying it a lot. I love the atmosphere and people here. Everyone is so kind and helpful, which makes it a lovely place to work in. Through volunteering at Mencap, I get to learn a lot of new things like how a charitable organization works and meet more new people who can give me guidance, which I am very grateful for. Moreover, it brings me the opportunity to take on different tasks and responsibilities which can exercise my skills and put what I learned into practice. For example, I have created designed marketing materials, written informative blogs, and written beneficiary case studies. In a sentence, I just love volunteering in Leeds Mencap and adding my effort to the work to help people with learning disability live better life.”- Zijing Zhang- Marketing and Communications Volunteer

From a staff perspective:

“Volunteers are an incredibly important part of Leeds Mencap. We are lucky enough to have volunteers who offer their time and expertise in many ways across the organization from playscheme support, to marketing, to fundraising. Their support means that we can help as many young people with learning disabilities as possible and we are so grateful for all that they do. We not only benefit from their skills and time but from their presence too. All our volunteers are such a joy to work with and having volunteers means we get to work alongside people from all different walks of life and have a diverse range of opinions informing our work.”- Abi Hart, Senior Fundraiser

Volunteers’ Week shines a spotlight on the incredible contributions of volunteers and their indispensable role within charitable organizations. This annual celebration not only acknowledges their dedication but also serves as a catalyst to inspire others to join the ranks of volunteers. As we recognize the power of volunteerism, let us express our gratitude to the countless individuals who selflessly give their time and talents to make our world a better place. Together, we can create a society where acts of kindness and service are cherished and celebrated year-round.

If you’re interested in Volunteering for Leeds Mencap then check out our available volunteering positions here

The Impact of the Cost of Living Crisis

The cost-of-living-crisis is a devastating, ongoing issue facing everyone in the UK. The cost-of-living crisis refers to the fact that the cost of many essential items such as food, gas and electricity and petrol are quickly increasing, whereas wages and benefits aren’t going up as quickly. This makes paying for essentials and non-essentials much more difficult.

  • During October 2022 the annual rate of inflation reached 11.1%, a 41-year high (Gov UK)
  • Food prices have risen by 19.1%, a 45-year high (Gov UK)
  • Gas Prices have increased by 129% (Gov UK)
  • Electricity prices have risen by 67% (Gov UK)

Unfortunately, households where one or more members have a learning disability or disability have been disproportionately impacted by this crisis.

Before the cost-of-living crisis, parents of disabled children were already worse of financially. It is difficult to balance the demands of caring for a person with a disability with full time work and statistics show on average, disabled people faced an extra cost of around £583 a month and 24% of families with a disabled child were spending more then £1000 a month (Scope 2022)

Unfortunately, due to the crisis prices have been rising across the board and this has pushed many families to their limit. The time that parents and carers need to spend supporting and caring for their disabled children means that many are unable to increase their income to meet spiralling costs. Not only do families have to increasingly pay for specialist items such as sensory toys and therapies but they also often must pay more for clothes and food due to extra wea and tear and specialist dietary requirements. One study showed that due to the cost of living crisis, household expenses have now  increased by around £1,500 a month for families raising a disabled child


  • 9/10 families raising disabled children are falling behind with bills.
  • 4/5 families are in debt and debt levels are rising for the majority.
  • 1 in 4 families raising disabled children report not having at least one vital white good such as a fridge, freezer or washing machine.
  • 4 in 5 families raising disabled children cannot afford to replace worn out of broken furniture.

To try and combat these skyrocketing extra costs families raising disabled children are forced to cut back on both non-essential and essential items.  54% of parents have said they have gone without food or water themselves, 30% have gone without heating and more than half have gone without equipment and toys. In families facing the worst hardship, 36% have pawned their possessions and 32% have had to resort to borrowing money from family or friends.

The rising cost of living is giving me more concerns than anything else. We already sacrifice everything for ourselves. Me and hubby don’t buy anything for ourselves or go anywhere. I already buy used clothes and sell on the children’s outgrown items to afford other things for them. There’s not much more to give.”- Parent (Cost of Caring report 2022)

The cost of living is going up much faster than my income and I am not able to earn more as my son needs 24/7 round the clock care”- parent (Cost of Caring 2022)

There has not been enough support for these families.

 And there have been detrimental knock-on effects.

  • 83% of families say their disabled child’s health and well-being has declined.
  • 68% of families say their disabled children’s mental health has declined.
  • 74% of families say their disabled children’s behaviour has worsened.
  • 46% of families say that their disabled child’s development has worsened.

Unfortunately, not enough is being done to combat this crisis. The United Nations along with the public have urged the UK government to do something about the current living costs, especially for families with disabled children where parents may be carrying financial burdens.

There needs to be a focus on ensuring more families can access respite, care and support, so parents and carers have the chance to improve their quality of life, personal development and ability to bring in additional income. Partners along with Government must address the underlying issues that leave families raising disabled children worse off.

Where to get help:

  • Call Mencap’s specialist cost of living advisors on 0808 808 1111
  • Visit Royal Mencap#s website for easy-read guides about saving energy, energy bills and energy price caps- https://www.mencap.org.uk/help-with-food-energy-and-money
  • Contact us. Whilst we are not cost-of-living experts, our friendly family support team are always on hand to be a non-judgemental listening ear and point you in the right direction of any help, 0113 235 1331
  • We do also offer a hardship scheme for our youth clubs and playscheme activities if you are struggling. Please speak to our activities coordinator about this by emailing info@leedsmencap.org.uk.
  • Extra cost of living payments-The government has announced that they will make more cost-of-living payments to people who receive certain types of benefits in 2023 and 2024. People who receive certain types of means tested benefits will receive up to £900. This will be made in more than one payment. The first 2023/24 cost of living payment will be paid automatically between 25th April and 17th May. People who receive certain types of benefits to cover the extra cost of disability will receive £150 between 20 June and 4 July. 



Can you offer your support?

Now more than ever, families if a child with a learning disability need your help! If you are in the fortunate position where you can help:

  • £20 could pay for a family support session for a parent in need.
  • £125 could pay for a child to attend one of our play schemes during the school holidays where they can develop confidence, try new skills and have fun
  • £250 could pay for one of our weekly youth clubs for children with learning disabilities where they can make friends and try new activities.

Luca’s Story

We are continuing our 70th Anniversary series of blog posts by focusing on Hawthorn, our specialist nursery playroom for very young children with additional needs. We sat down with nursery staff and Shelby, whose son Luca attends Hawthorn, to hear Luca’s story and to find out how Leeds Mencap have helped his Family.

Luca’s Story:

Luca is a three-year-old boy who lives with his mum and his one-year-old sister. He joined Leeds Mencap’s mainstream nursery Jimbo’s when he was one year old and has attended Hawthorn specialist playroom since he was two years old. Luca has developmental and communication difficulties, but despite this, he is a happy, energetic, and affectionate child who loves to play outside and dance to all his favorite songs. Luca also has Pica, which means he has an urge to eat everything, even non-edible items, and a tendency to bite objects when experiencing a sensory overload. Luca also struggles with social awareness and understanding, and he often escapes and can undo locks. Despite this, he is a free spirit and is happiest when he can run free and explore.

Luca’s mum Shelby first contacted Leeds Mencap after Jimbo’s nursery was recommended to her by friends. She has also previously attended some Leeds Mencap Chats and Tots coffee mornings with other parents of early years children learning disabilities.

When Luca first started in the specialist Hawthorn room at the nursery, he seemed to enjoy it more than the mainstream toddler room that he had previously been in at Jimbo’s. He became more excited when arriving at nursery and seemed much more at ease. Luca has now developed a strong relationship with the Hawthorn staff due to the staff-to-child ratio, and he spends a lot of time with them.

Luca has made lots of improvements since starting Hawthorn. Before attending, he would not use any sort of communication, but now he pulls people to what he needs and places their hand on things to make it easier to understand what he wants. Luca also enjoys playing with others more whereas he used to prefer playing on his own. He is also sleeping much better now, and he no longer naps during the day. The staff at Hawthorn ensure they know how Luca slept the previous night and stick to no naps unless necessary so that Luca’s mother does not struggle at home.

Working with Amy, the SENCO, has also helped with Luca’s improvement. She ensures that Luca has a similar routine at home and school, to keep consistency and structure and the staff at nursery tell Luca’s mum Shelby what he enjoys at nursery so she can do the same at home. Amy also prints PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) cards for home that are the same as those used to aid communication at nursery. This makes it easier for Luca to get used to using them.

When we spoke to Shelby about her experience with Leeds Mencap this is what she had to say:

“I love the staff at Hawthorn, and I would recommend Leeds Mencap to any parent with a child with disabilities. The staff have helped me liaise with Luca’s health visitor, have begun the process of being assessed for an EHCP. They have also provided evidence and character statements about Luca to DLA, housing and offered support when going through Luca’s complex communication assessment. The staff have gone above and beyond for me, and Luca. I don’t think I would have got this far into the process of Luca’s diagnosis and getting the right support and help for Luca’s needs without the help from the Hawthorn staff.”

At Leeds Mencap we are proud that we have been supporting families like Shelby and Luca’s for 70 years and it is heartwarming to see the positive impact that our services have.

If you would like support with your child with learning disabilities then please see the “What we offer” section of our website, email info@leedsmencap.org.uk or call 0113 235 1331.

If you would like to donate to Leeds Mencap, to give children like Luca the best start in life you can do so here. https://leedsmencap.enthuse.com/donate#!/ A donation of just £20 could fund a one-to-one https://leedsmencap.enthuse.com/donate#!/ parent support session where a parent in need can receive practical advice and emotional support.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2023

The 15th May to 21st May is Mental Health Awareness Week. It is important to understand that mental health issues and learning disabilities are not the same thing, as they are often confused for one another. Whilst learning disabilities and mental health are not the same, people with learning disabilities statistically much more likely to suffer from mental health issues, so it is important to raise awareness about this.

What is mental health awareness week?

Beginning in 2001, Mental Health Awareness Week is a yearly awareness day that provides the opportunity for the whole of the UK to focus on mental health. After years of being ignored and hidden away, Mental Health Awareness Week brings mental health back to the spotlight of public life and aims to tackle stigma by helping people understand and prioritise mental health of everyone.

The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness week is Anxiety and what can be done to prevent it. In previous years, Mental Health Awareness Week focused on different topics such as loneliness, nature, kindness, and body image.

Mental Health problems and learning disabilities, what’s the difference?

A mental health problem is a term used to cover a range of emotional, psychological, or psychiatric distress experienced by people. Mental health issues can effect anyone and mental health issues can often be improved through treatment. In comparison, a learning disability is a reduced intellectual difficulty with everyday activities which affects someone for their whole life.

People with a learning disability do not always have mental health problems. However, they are more likely to have mental health problems, compared to people without a learning disability.

Mental health problems among people with a learning disability, an overlooked issue

People with a learning disability are experiencing higher prevalence of mental health problems. However, due to poor understanding, awareness, evidence in this area and symptoms mistakenly attributed to the person’s learning disability and mental health problems among people with a learning disability remains an overlooked issue.

Data has shown that people with lower intellectual ability have high rates of symptoms of common mental health problems (25%), about 10 percent higher than people with an average intellectual functioning.[1]

One study found that 54% of people with a learning disability have a mental health problem.[2]

Children with learning disabilities are 4.5 times more likely to have a mental health problem than children without a learning disability.[3]

Why are people with learning disabilities more likely to suffer from mental health problems?

Lots of different reasons have been suggested to explain why people with a learning disability are more vulnerable to mental health problems. These include the fact that people with a learning disability are more likely to experience deprivation, poverty, and other adverse life events earlier on in life, an increased risk of social exclusion and loneliness and other people’s negative attitudes towards people with a learning disability.

A major barrier to diagnosing mental health problems in people with a learning disability is that symptoms shown by someone with a learning disability might be seen as behaviour related to their learning disability instead of the real problem – the mental health problem.

How can we help?

There are lots of different techniques that are used to treat mental health problems and these include cognitive behavioural therapy, talking therapy, psychodynamic therapy and medication.

Here at Leeds Mencap, we are on hand to provide support for young people and their families as they navigate their journey with learning disabilities. Our friendly family support service can offer one to one practical advice and emotional support. You can get in touch with them by emailing info@leedsmencap.org.uk or by calling 0113 235 1331.

It is important to remember that Leeds Mencap are not mental health professionals, so if you are looking for support with your mental health please use the sources below:

Leeds Mind- Has information regarding a range of mental health services across Leeds- https://www.leedsmind.org.uk/

Mindwell- Has information and resources about mental health for adults across Leeds https://www.mindwell-leeds.org.uk/

Mindmate has information about child mental health support in Leeds-https://www.mindmate.org.uk/im-a-professional/services-leeds-young-people/

Mind has resources and links for people with learning disabilities who are struggling with their mental health-https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/guides-to-support-and-services/learning-disability-support/

Enhancing Communication for Young People with Learning Disabilities

Having a learning disability can make communicating and processing information more difficult than it is for a non-disabled person. Therefore, it is important to know about the different ways to communicate with children, young adults or adults with learning disabilities. There are a few ways that you can enhance your communication in order to support people with learning difficulties.


Makaton is a language program that uses a combination of sign, symbols and spoken words to support communication. It is designed to help people with communication difficulties, including learning disabilities, autism and other conditions. You may know it from Mr Tumble on Cbeebies! Makaton can be used to help individuals express themselves, understand language and interact with others in a more effective and meaningful way. The use of Makaton can also help promote social inclusion, reduces frustration and anxiety related to communication difficulties.

It is UK’s leading language programme, research as shown that signs and gestures are easier to learn than spoken words. Makaton has helped children and adults with Autism, Developmental Language Disorder, Down’s syndrome, Global Developmental Delay, Multi-sensory impairments, Verbal Dyspraxia and Clef lip & Palate. At Leeds Mencap we run a subsidized ‘Introduction to Makaton’ course for parents at various time of the year. In order to make our course affordable to our families we offer this course at s cheaper price than a standard Makaton course. If you are interested in learning Makaton please contact us on info@leedsmencap.org.uk. Explore official resources and accredited training on the Makaton Charity website.

PECS – Picture Exchange Communication System

PECS stands for Picture Exchange Communication System, it is a form of communication used to help individuals with communication difficulties, particularly those with Autism or other developmental disorders, to communicate their needs and wants. It involves the use of pictures or symbols that the individual can exchange with a communication partner to convey their message. The goal of PECS is to give individuals the ability to initiate communication, which can lead to increased social interaction, independence and overall quality of life.

Objects of Reference

An object of reference is a whole physical object, or part of an object that you hold or touch to represent a person, an object, a place, an activity, or an idea. Objects of reference are a useful way to communicate if you have sight loss, hearing loss, multi-sensory impairment, autism spectrum disorder, learning disability or short/long term memory difficulties. Objects of reference are helpful for parents, family members, friends, therapists, and school staff to use to communicate with people with complex disabilities. It’s good to start with a few objects for activities that happen often or for people you see all the time, regular repetition with a few objects makes it easier to make the connections between the object and its meaning.

Visual Timetables

A visual timetable, timeline or visual activity schedule is a way of supporting a child to predict what will happen next. It enables children to know the things that must happen first, before they can do the activity that they are often focused on. It helps children who have difficulty understanding languages as it gives them extra processing time. Using symbols and visual timelines as part of a multisensory teaching approach helps children become more independent. It benefits children’s thinking skills by making other people’s thoughts, feelings and intentions more concrete. It puts less demand on remembering and allows more resources for thinking about the task and identifying the ‘goal’ of the task where it might be hard to complete.

How do I start using a communication aid?

  1. Meet your child where they are. The introduction of a new system will take lots of patience, consistency and repetition. Start with just one or two motivating symbols or signs to engage your child in the system, and introduce new symbols or signs gradually.
  2. Remember communication is a two-way street. These aids aren’t only to help you communicate with your child, but for your child to communicate with you!
  3. Consider how to make the system as helpful and motivating for your child as possible. For example, accompany visual timetables with a sand timer, or encourage your child to remove completed tasks from the board themselves.
  4. Always accompany these with language! These are all communication aids and are not intended to replace speech, rather they should support your child’s development. It’s essential that speech is used alongside Makaton, and many people will just sign key words from a spoken sentence. Visual timetables should be accompanied by simple language to support understanding. Many people choose a ‘now’ and ‘next’ format to convey the meaning of the board. For example, repeating the simple phrase “Now, brush teeth. Next, play outside.”
  5. Speak to your child’s school or nursery setting. Teachers or SENCO should have knowledge on your child’s ability, readiness to engage with a new communication system as well as knowledge and experience of implementing them. Consistent communication tools across home and school will help support your child’s engagement.

Additional Support and Resources

Sign up to become a Leeds Mencap Member for free to access downloadable communication card packs and additional resources.

Leeds Community Health Care Speech and Language Team

Royal Mencap’s information about communication

Evelyn and Erin’s Stories

Evelyn playing on the Leeds Mencap playground (Left) and Erin on a Sib’s trip to Puttstars (Right)

As Leeds Mencap celebrates its 70th Anniversary, we are pleased to present the first in a series of case studies highlighting the incredible impact of our organisation. In this article, we will explore the fantastic impact of Leeds Mencap’s Siblings Group, a club that has made a tremendous difference for all those involved!

The Siblings Group is a group where children and young people aged 8 to 16 can meet and spend time with peers who have siblings with learning disabilities. The group is run at The Vinery Centre every Wednesday from 6pm to 8pm during the school term. The Siblings Group offers a friendly, supportive environment where members can choose activities and venues that interest them, including trips to laser tag, bowling, and the cinema. In addition, we organize a variety of events such as sports days, games nights, and talent shows, so there is always something exciting happening!

Let’s meet Erin and Evelyn, two members of the Siblings Group and their parents, Charlotte and Kate, who have experienced the positive impact of the group first hand!

Erin has recently turned 12 and has been attending the Siblings Group for just over 18 months. Erin’s mother, Charlotte, wanted her to join a club where she could have time away from the home environment and meet other siblings who are in a similar situation. Charlotte, who had previously attended a course at Leeds Mencap, was aware of the services we offer and decided to enrol Erin in the Siblings Group. Although initially Erin was apprehensive about attending the group, she is now always eager to attend! Charlotte notes that Leeds Mencap organises the club very well, with frequent trips out, and the Siblings Group members involved in choosing varied activities. Erin loves attending the group and has made new friends, giving her more opportunities to enjoy her time away from home. Charlotte has also met parents she identifies with, helping her feel less isolated.

“Erin has met new friends, enjoys going and I know she is getting time away from the home environment. I have also met parents who I identify with and this has helped as it can be difficult for friends who are not in the same situation to understand.” Charlotte (Erin’s Mother) – April 2023

Evelyn has been attending the Siblings Group on and off for a few years now. Recently, she has restarted attending the group regularly and found it was much needed, feeling relaxed and happy. Evelyn’s mother, Kate, notes that Evelyn loves making new friends and having fun trips out with the group. Evelyn has two brothers who both attend Leeds Mencap youth clubs and playschemes. Evelyn’s mother, Kate, mentioned that talking about her family life with other children has been challenging for Evelyn, and attending the Siblings Group has been a great relief. Attending the Siblings Group has helped her find a peer group with whom she can relate and talk openly, allowing her to lift a mental weight off her shoulders. Evelyn feels understood at the group and has made a best friend that she is able to have fun with as well as talk to about her feelings. She absolutely loves attending.

“It was much needed! She felt absolutely relaxed & happy.” Kate (Evelyn’s Mother) – April 2023

Both Charlotte and Kate highly recommend Leeds Mencap to other parents. Kate, who co-runs a support group for families caring for children and young people under 25 with disabilities, frequently recommends Leeds Mencap to other families due to our outstanding family support services.

“I always recommend Mencap due to the many amazing services of family support. That they offer in Leeds. They really are one of a kind.” Kate (Evelyn’s Mother) – April 2023

At Leeds Mencap, we take pride in supporting families and individuals with learning disabilities. The Siblings Group is just one example of how we provide safe and supportive spaces at The Vinery Centre for children and young people to make friends and have fun. It also gives parents the opportunity to connect with others in similar situations and feel less isolated. We hope that this case study inspires families to take advantage of our programs and services, which are tailored to meet the unique needs of each individual.

If you have a child with a learning disability and need support please contact our friendly team by calling 0113 235 1331 or by emailing info@leedsmencap.org.uk. Alternatively, you can pop down to chat to us in person at The Vinery Centre, 20 Vinery Terrace, Leeds, LS9 9LU

Leeds Mencap’s Timeline

Have you ever wondered how Leeds Mencap got to be where we are now?

As we mark out 70th Anniversary, we wanted to take time to recap and reflect upon our journey over the last 70 years. We’ve already delved deep into our origin story, and since then we’ve gone from strength to strength!

Let’s pick up on where we left off…The years following 1970 witnessed the introductions of new many new programmes.

1970 Playschemes started! Playschemes are holiday sessions where young people with learning disabilities get to try new skills and make friends whilst their carers receive respite. Whilst on playscheme the children get to try a wide variety of activities including riding adapted bikes, playing ping pong, doing healthy cookery, or going on external trips such as to Doncaster Dome or Yorkshire Wildlife Park.

1983 Portage and Early Years Support Started.

Portage is the home visiting educational service for preschool children with SEND and their families, where home-based, early intervention and support are provided. The three main elements of the portage are Child-led play, Family focus, and Structured teaching.

Early Years Family Support helps to support children in the crucial first few years of life to set them on the best possible track for their future. Nowadays our early years support involves one to one family support, chats and tots coffee mornings and developmental play sessions.

1992 We took part in Challenge Anneka and moved to East End Park.

Let’s make long story short and take a glimpse of what happened in 1992. By 1992 we realised that the Chapeltown Road building where we were based had become unsuitable. However, the money required to purchase a new premises was £400,000. We were stuck in a dilemma of whether to close the Nursery or to pay the astronomical price. However, miracles do happen and ours came about thanks to ‘Challenge Anneka’ a TV show.  

On Thursday, 16th September 1992 Anneka Rice came to our East End Park site and entered the old Special School,  a then dilapidated fire-damaged building. The ‘Challenge’ was “At 5pm on Saturday exhibit the winning entry of the Mencap Christmas Card Competition at a new Leeds Mencap Nursery. Print 25,000 copies in time for the exhibition”. She had three days to complete the task and present it to the country!

The vandalised school was in a terrible state of repair. Anneka immediately sprang into action and with the help of some 170 volunteers from 70 local firms it was being transformed into our new headquarters and nursery. At the same time, Anneka turned her attention to the Christmas cards. The competition was launched on the ‘Look North’ TV programme. The winner was Ben Bland who had previously attended Hawthorn (our specialist nursery) with his drawing of Father Christmas.

By 5pm on Saturday 18th September Anneka had completed her Challenge! Words cannot express our gratitude to Anneka, her team and all the local organisations for all they did for us.

Now we’ve come to a new century!

2001 Our name changed to Leeds Mencap.

2002 Our charity was registered (1091809).

2008 Our premises were refurbished by Connaught and the next few years were full of new programmes.

2009 Support groups started for parents and carers of children under 5 with a learning disability.

2010 The siblings support group, Friday Club, and the Me2 dance group began.

Our Sibling’s Group is a club for children and young people aged 8 to 16 who have a brother or sister with a learning disability. The Club gives them the opportunity to spend time with others who know what it’s like in a welcoming, supportive environment. Previous activities have included, baking, Harry Potter theme nights, sports days, slime making, games nights and talent shows. We still run our Siblings club to this day!

Friday Club is a weekly social club for people aged 18 to 25 with learning disabilities. Friday club focuses on developing skills that will help young adults to prepare for life as an adult and achieve their goals and aspirations. Through the activities the members are supported to understand money, how to make judgements about keeping themselves safe and well, for example, around drinking alcohol, how to stay safe when out and about and online and how to have healthy relationships. Again, we still run Friday club in 2023!

Me2 dance group is for young people aged 11-24 with and without disabilities. The dance group provides participants with or without previous dancing experience to learn a fun new skill, meet some new people and take part in some very exciting performances. We no longer run the Me2 dance group but it was lots of fun whilst it lasted.

2013 Stay and Play started. Our stay and play group now goes by the name chats and tots. Chats and Tots is an informal and inclusive group for parents and carers of a child aged 0-5 with additional needs. It provides the opportunity to meet other parents, share experiences and chat to our caseworkers for advice, information, and support.

2015, Young Ambassadors programme took place and our family services expanded to include over 5’s.

The Young Ambassadors programme provided fun and safe volunteering opportunities for young people aged 16-25 with a learning disability. This programme raised people’s awareness and changed their negative attitudes about learning disability. And it challenged stereotypes about what young people with a learning disability can achieve. Also, our ambassadors themselves built skills, grew in confidence, and became role models for other people with a learning disability. They volunteered their time for six months to be role models and used their life experience and talents to show the positive impact they can have.

2016 Witnessed the opening of the Vinery Centre and Jimbo’s, our community nursery.

The Vinery Centre is a welcoming space where communities come together. From our thriving community nursery, sensory room, soft play area and flexible meeting rooms, our multipurpose centre is accessible and inclusive for a variety of purposes. The warm and vibrant atmosphere is the ideal base for children and young people with learning disabilities and their families to come together to enjoy activities and get the support they need, making precious memories along the way.

Jimbo’s Community Nursery is a purpose-built nursery run by Leeds Mencap. Our nursery offers high quality care and early education for children aged 0 to 11 years, including after school and holiday childcare. Jimbo’s Nursery is unique as the mainstream nursery includes a specialist playroom for children with a range of learning disabilities and additional needs. We believe that children learn best when they feel safe, happy, and stimulated and we recognise that each child will learn in different ways and develop at their own unique pace.

2020 As the COVID 19 hit in 2020, we went through 6 months of lock-down from March 20.

Being in lockdown was difficult for many families. Some families suffered from severe emotional impacts, some were faced with financial difficulties, and some needed medical care. We didn’t want our families to suffer, particularly whilst they were facing the wider challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and we continued to be there for them.

To help them get through the situation, we adapted our services to ensure that every family and child still got our support. We contacted service users and families proactively, arranged video conferencing (group or one-to one), and provided access to webinars. Through this support, we were helping these families to: feel less isolated, develop coping strategies to deal with isolation, be confident in using behavioural management techniques; and know where to get further help.

We also guided families with their children’s next steps of development through activities, alongside emotional support and practical advice. These activities included sending food parcels and a range of activity packs to the children, creating video content to send out to families, and helping them get access to our online system Iconnect. Through this support, we maintained the child’s development, reduced the levels of progress lost during the absence from the service, and better supported the mental well-being of the children and their parents.

During this hard time, we spared no efforts to be there for the families we support and to safeguard our staff, volunteers, and donors, facing with restricted operations.

Now we’ve reached the year 2023. It is our 70th anniversary this year! We can’t wait to celebrate with you

Supporter Celebration- Winston Solicitors!

This week’s blog post is an appreciation post for Winston Solicitors, who have been a generous long-time supporter of Leeds Mencap.

Winston Solicitors is an established and welcoming law firm with a first-class reputation, offering family law, conveyancing, wills, trust and probate, employment law and other legal services. They share our vision of supporting their local community and have been a valuable part of Leeds Mencap’s story.

Winston Solicitors have been supporting us since 2015 and have raised over £18,000 through various challenges and events including our previous accumulator and apprentice challenges and their brilliant annual quiz.

In March, Winston Solicitors held their 2023 Annual quiz, auction, and raffle. There was a whole host of amazing prizes up for grabs including a Range Rover weekend test drive and a signed Leeds United shirt! It was a wonderful evening, and a lovely opportunity to get together with other local groups and businesses from across Leeds, to celebrate and raise money for some wonderful causes.

In total they raised an amazing £6,152.84 which was split between us and Saint Michael’s Hospice- another incredibly deserving local charity. To put it into perspective, the money we received could cover the cost of an entire term of our Sibling’s club, which provides siblings of young people with a learning disability a safe space where they can have fun, receive support, and make friends with peers who understand what they’re going through.

“Winston Solicitors have been proud supporters of Leeds Mencap for many years. Each year, with fantastic community collaboration we have held a quiz to raise much needed funds. We are thankful to be in a position that enables us to fundraise knowing the difference it makes to the people and families that Leeds Mencap support.”- Jonathan Winston, Managing Partner at Winston Solicitors

We are incredibly grateful for the support that Winston Solicitors have shown and continue to show us. As one of our most long-standing corporate partners, their generous donations have allowed us to make a real difference to the lives of children with learning disabilities and their families across Leeds for many years.”- Abi Hart, Senior Fundraiser at Leeds Mencap

You can find out more about the brilliant work that Winston Solicitors do here: https://www.winstonsolicitors.co.uk/

If your business would like to get involved and support Leeds Mencap then please call 0113 235 1331 or email fundraising@leedsmencap.org.uk

World Autism Day!

World Autism Day occurs every year on the 2nd of April and aims to raise awareness about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and to promote greater understanding and acceptance of people with ASD.

The day was created by the United Nations in 2007 to encourage member states to take measures to raise awareness about autism throughout the world, and is now celebrated worldwide.

What is Autism?

Autism is a lifelong developmental disability which affects how people communicate and interact with the world. More than 1 in 100 people are on the autistic spectrum and there are around 700,000 autistic adults and children in the UK.

Autism is a spectrum disorder meaning that affects different people differently. People with autism may:

  • Find it hard to communicate and interact with other people.
  • Find it hard to understand how people think or feel.
  • Find bright lights and loud noises overwhelming, stressful or uncomfortable.
  • Take longer to understand information.
  • Get anxious about unfamiliar situations and social events.

The definition of autism has changed over the decades and could still change in future. The definition of autism has changed over the decades and could still change in future years as we understand more. Autism exists as a spectrum, and being autistic can look different for all individuals.’

The exact cause of autism is still unknown, but research suggests that it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors that influence brain development.

Diagnosis of Autism

Diagnosing autism can be a complex process, and it is typically done through a comprehensive evaluation that includes a developmental assessment, medical evaluation, and standardized screening tools.

Doctors and other health professionals who specialize in diagnosing and treating autism are typically involved in the process.

The diagnostic criteria for autism has changed over the years, and the most recent version is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). According to the DSM-5, individuals with autism must exhibit persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as well as restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities.

Supporting Children with Autism

Being autistic does not mean that you have an illness, it simply means that your brain works in a different way to other people. Being autistic does not stop you living a good life and like everyone, autistic people have things they are good at as well as things they find difficult.

There are many ways to support children with autism, and it is important to remember that every child is unique and may require different types and levels of support. Here are some general tips for supporting children with autism:

  1. Learn about autism: The more you know about autism, the better equipped you will be to support children with autism. There are many resources available, including books, websites, and support groups.
  2. Create a structured environment: Children with autism often thrive in structured environments that provide routine and predictability. Consistent routines and visual schedules can help them feel more secure and reduce anxiety.
  3. Use visual supports: Many children with autism are visual learners and benefit from the use of visual supports, such as pictures, symbols, and written instructions.
  4. Communicate clearly: Children with autism may have difficulty understanding social cues and nonverbal communication. It is important to communicate clearly and directly, using simple language and concrete examples.
  5. Provide sensory support: Many children with autism have sensory processing difficulties and may be hypersensitive or hyposensitive to sensory input. Providing sensory supports, such as noise-cancelling headphones or weighted blankets, can help them feel more comfortable and regulated.

World Autism Day is an important reminder of the need for greater awareness and acceptance of people with autism. By learning about autism and supporting children with autism, we can help create a more inclusive and supportive world for everyone.

If your child is struggling with autism, or any other learning disability please don’t hesitate to contact us. We offer services such as youth clubs and family support and are on hand to provide practical advice and emotional support.

Leeds Mencap

The Vinery Centre | 20 Vinery Terrace | Leeds | LS9 9LU

Phone: 0113 235 1331

Web: www.leedsmencap.org.uk

Our Impact!

Next up in our 70th Anniversary Blog post series, is a summary of our Impact. We’ve already taken a look back at the origins of Leeds Mencap and the challenges it overcame in its establishment, we will now jump forward and explore the extraordinary impact Leeds Mencap has had in the most financial year!

Leeds Mencap is a charity that provides support to families with children and young people with learning disabilities. At Leeds Mencap, we are incredibly proud of the impact we have had over the past year! With over 2,000 attendees every year, we have directly helped over 500 families, children, and young people to be connected, get the support they need, make the most of opportunities to learn, develop and live full and active lives. In this blog post, we will highlight some of the impactful work that Leeds Mencap has done in the community, including providing opportunities to have fun, develop social and communication skills, and explore new experiences in a safe and welcoming environment.

Groups & Activities

One of our key achievements has been running youth clubs and social activities for 55 children and young people with a learning disability aged 9-25. These clubs provide a safe and welcoming space for young people to have fun, make friends, and feel supported and understood. Our specialist staff are fully trained and able to provide tailored support to ensure that all young people are able to participate fully in the activities on offer. The groups have opportunities to visit local venues in Leeds, providing them with more opportunities to explore, learn and grow independently. At Leeds Mencap, we believe that these spaces are essential in empowering young people with learning disabilities to lead full and active lives, and we are committed to providing them with the support they need to do so.

Our holiday playschemes have also continuously been a huge success, with 184 children with learning disabilities aged between 4 and 18 taking part in activities during the school holidays. We were delighted to have secured significant funding through the Healthy Holidays scheme again this year, which enabled us to provide free school meals and activities for children who may otherwise have struggled to access these during the holidays.

Siblings Group

As well as this, we have been able to support 18 children and young people who have a sibling with a learning disability. The young people get to decide what they would like to do each week, including choosing venues to attend. Siblings often face unique challenges, and we are proud to be able to provide a supportive and understanding environment for them to connect with other young people who understand their experiences in a welcoming and supportive environment.

Family Support

In addition to our youth clubs and support for siblings, we have also delivered ongoing tailored one-to-one advice, support, and guidance to 70 families. This support has been invaluable in helping parents and carers to increase their knowledge and confidence, and to ensure that their children are able to access the support and opportunities they need to thrive.

Chats & Tots

We were particularly proud to have launched our new Chats & Tots sensory play session, which was attended by 24 families with children with learning disabilities aged 0-4. This session provides an opportunity for young children to explore and develop their senses in a fun and engaging way, while also giving parents and carers the chance to connect with others who understand their experiences.

Jimbo’s Community Nursery

Leeds Mencap also runs Jimbo’s Community Nursery, which is a purpose-built nursery that offers high-quality care and early education for children aged 0 to 11 years, including after-school and holiday childcare. What makes Jimbo’s unique is that it includes a specialist playroom called Hawthorn which is for children with learning disabilities and additional needs. We have been able to support 21 children aged 0-4 in our specialist playroom, providing a safe and stimulating environment for young children with learning disabilities to play and learn.

General Stats

We were also pleased to welcome a total of 875 visitors to our building over the past year, including around 300 people with learning disabilities or those supporting them. Our welcoming and inclusive space has enabled us to bring communities together and provide vital support and opportunities to those who need it most.

None of this would have been possible without the dedication of our amazing team. We are incredibly grateful to our 61 staff, 6 trustees, and 25 volunteers, who work tirelessly to make a difference to the lives of children and young people with learning disabilities and their families. We are also grateful to our supporters, including 18 trusts and foundations, 10 regular donors, 6 corporate sponsors, and 26 individual donors, whose generosity has enabled us to continue our vital work.

Volunteer Spotlight- Shuyue

In the final instalment of our “Meet the Volunteer Series” we’re chatting to Shuyue, our new Community and Events Volunteer.

“As you might have already guessed, since my hard-to-pronounce name has already given me away, that I am from a different background.

I come from China and now I am studying MA Global Development and Education in University of Leeds. My undergraduate study introduced me to the third sector, which I found fascinating and valuable, and I made up my mind to devote myself in the charity field.

In the second year of my undergraduate study, I worked as an intern in a local NGO in China, which helps to promote quality education in rural areas. I had travelled to many rural villages and helped to improve the education there. The workload was extremely heavy as charity is a relatively new and immature field in China, but I was deeply moved and inspired by my colleagues, the volunteers and the people we helped, which motivated me to go further. In the third year of my undergraduate, I joined an International NGO, which was founded in the USA and worked as an intern in their office site in Shanghai. Instead of assisting rural education, we arrange different informal education workshops to familiarize students living in the cities with green economic, sustainable development and entrepreneur spirits.

My undergraduate study and my internship experience made me realize that I care about social justice and education equality, which push me to study here in Leeds as an international student. After I’ve started my new, I found the charity here slightly different from that in China and I would like to be more familiarized with this field. That’s why I decided to volunteer with Mencap Leeds. Also, I found my vision too restricted to people from different societal and ethnic backgrounds, leaving those with learning disability behind.

I am a half-marathon runner and a yogi. Running has been part of my daily life for almost 6 years and I’ve practiced yoga for 3 years. An important idea in yoga philosophy is that all of us are deeply interconnected, which I found really inspiring.

I really enjoy volunteering here because Mencap Leeds is so warm, friendly and inclusive. I am here to help and to be helped. :)”

Inclusive Spring Activities

It’s the first day of spring. And although the drizzly weather may not make it feel like it, we thought we’d kick off the season by rounding up some of the best inclusive activities that will be going on across Leeds over the coming months!

  1. 90s Prom Night with Jonny Strangeways

-17th March 2023

-Left Bank Leeds

-Accessible by Wheelchair

-Dress up and go to prom in the 90s! 

-The door opens at 7 pm, join DJ Strangeway for a night of throwbacks from Kate Bush, The Smiths, Beastie boys and many more tunes alongside a game of bingo! 

Tickets link: https://www.tickettailor.com/events/leftbankleeds/854798?

  1. Curry and Quiz Night

– 23rd March 2023

– St. Vincent’s centre

– Accessible by Wheelchair, relaxed and dementia-friendly performance

Fancy an exciting quiz with curry? St. Vincent has got you covered with incredible prizes and freshly cooked dishes by their in-house chef.

Tickets Link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/curry-quiz-night-tickets-530502235467

  1. Otley Green Fair

– 1st April 2023

-Otley Courthouse

-Accessible by wheelchair and buggy friendly

-No tickets just turn up, and check out local crafts, food from veggie to vegan sampling and activities for all ages.

  1. Mindful Pot Making and Planting Workshop

– 5th April 2023

– Still Studio

– Not accessible by wheelchair

Enjoy relaxing and slow pottery making while letting your inner child out for creating your own pots. Using a plant-friendly eco-resin mix with marble to celebrate the arrival of spring.

Link to booking: 


  1. Yoga with Rosie – Kids Workshop

– 13th April 2023

– Left Bank Leeds

-Accessible by Wheelchair

Yoga for children and families includes practices movements, breathing, and deep relaxation. Join Rosie for a calm and relaxing stretch to celebrate the uniqueness of our bodies.

Link: https://www.tickettailor.com/events/leftbankleeds/875067

  1. Saturday Family Film Club: Movies from the Bookshelves

– 18th March at Horsforth Community Hub and Library

– 1st April at Leeds Central Library

– 15th April at Horsforth Community Hub and Library

Spend time with your kids while introducing them to a world of stories, and watch family-friendly and best-loved books turned into movies with various locations around the Leeds community for free!

Link to tickets: https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/leedslibraryevents

  1. Stockeld Park Easter Adventure 
  2. – 1st April to 16th April

Take your kids out for Easter Adventure with a meet with Easter Bunny, Rainbow Bunny Hunt, Easter Egg Hunt, Easter Pantos and much more only lasting 2 weeks in April – don’t miss out!

Link to tickets : https://stockeldpark.co.uk/activities/season/easter/?gclid=Cj0KCQjw2cWgBhDYARIsALggUhpy_IoH5Znfr2RfGt-xdxkll7T9eogzJtVVIBuz5gwMmg41V7DQ3TcaAj6lEALw_wcB

Neurodiversity Awareness Week 2023

Neurodiversity Awareness Week is an annual event aimed at raising awareness of the diversity of human brains and how these differences should be celebrated, rather than stigmatized or pathologized. This week is an opportunity to promote the idea that neurological differences, such as Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, and Tourette’s syndrome, are part of natural human variation and should be respected and accommodated.

What is Neurodiversity

The current concept of neurodiversity has a basis in science. We know from brain-imaging studies that there are some differences between children with learning and attention issues and their peers. Those differences appear in how the brain is “wired” and how it functions to support thinking and learning.

These findings can explain the source of difficulty for many children with learning and attention issues. But the neurodiversity view is that brain differences are normal. And children who have them are as mainstream as those who don’t have them.

Where Neurodiversity Began

Judy Singer came up with the term neurodiversity in the late 1990s. Singer, a sociologist on the Autism spectrum, rejected the idea that people with Autism were disabled.

Singer believed their brains simply worked differently from other people’s. The term was quickly embraced by activists in the Autism community and beyond. Advocates have used it to fight stigma and promote inclusion in schools and in the workplace.

The movement emphasizes that the goal shouldn’t be to “cure” people whose brain works differently. The goal is to embrace them as part of the mainstream. And that means providing needed support so they can fully participate as members of the community.

The Distinction between Learning Disability and Neurodiversity

A learning disability is a neurological disorder that affects an individual’s ability to learn, while neurodiversity refers to the natural variation in the human brain and includes individuals who have different cognitive styles. Learning disabilities impact a person’s ability to process information and can affect academic and everyday life skills. In contrast, neurodiversity acknowledges that there is no “normal” brain, and that people with different cognitive styles have unique strengths and abilities. While some individuals with neurodivergent traits may also have a learning disability, not all neurodiverse individuals have a learning disability. Neurodiversity is generally viewed as a natural and positive variation in human cognition.

The Positive and Negative Impact of Neurodiversity

One of the key messages of Neurodiversity Awareness Week is that individuals with neurological differences can have unique strengths and perspectives that can be valuable to society. For example, some people with Autism may have exceptional attention to detail, excellent memory, and creative problem-solving skills. Similarly, individuals with ADHD may have high levels of energy and creativity, and be able to multitask effectively.

However, despite these strengths, people with neurological differences often face challenges in a society that is not always accommodating to their needs. For example, many workplaces and schools are designed with neurotypical individuals in mind, which can make it difficult for neurodivergent individuals to succeed. This can lead to feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression, and may result in a negative impact on their mental health and well-being.

How to Support Neurodiversity

To promote neurodiversity and support individuals with neurological differences, it is important to create inclusive environments that recognize and value their unique strengths and perspectives. This can include providing accommodations such as flexible working hours, quiet workspaces, and clear communication. It can also involve educating others about neurodiversity and challenging stigmatizing attitudes and stereotypes.

Neurodiversity Awareness Week provides an opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of creating inclusive environments that celebrate neurological differences. By promoting the strengths and perspectives of neurodivergent individuals, we can create a more equitable and just society for all.

If you are struggling with learning disability and neurodiversity, please don’t hesitate to contact us for support! We offer services such as youth clubs and family support!

Leeds Mencap

The Vinery Centre | 20 Vinery Terrace | Leeds | LS9 9LU

Phone: 0113 235 1331

Web: www.leedsmencap.org.uk

Volunteer Spotlight- Alice

Next in our meet the volunteers series is Alice! Read more about her and why she wanted to volunteer for Leeds Mencap below:

I initially wanted to join Leeds Mencap after seeing an advertisement for the Fundraising Administration Volunteer on the University of Leeds volunteering announcements page. I was interested in applying as I felt that the position was well suited to me having previously held a similar position in a local charity, which held similar focuses and goals, before moving for university. I have significant experience working in charities having also previously volunteered with Oxfam. This role is a step-up once again from my previous roles as I progress to more meaningful positions at larger charities. Everyone has been very kind and helpful, giving me an opportunity to improve and build on my skills.

Mencap is a charity that is incredibly important to me, having been positively impacted by it both directly and indirectly consistently over the years. Having acted as a carer for several years, the resources and activities that Mencap made available to my family are something I will always remain grateful for. After experiencing the benefit that this support can have both on individuals and families, I was motivated to contribute to this fantastic source of positivity in any way I could. Leeds Mencap’s wide range of support and services inspire me to continue to work to do something good for the local communities in Leeds. Having only moved to Leeds recently I have been welcomed warmly in so many ways, I am very happy to be able to turn this experience into something as productive as possible.

I am currently studying International Relations at an undergraduate level and am half-way through my second year at the University of Leeds. I am very interested in charities and the impacts that they can have on every level of society, and I am very excited to be involved in that directly through Leeds Mencap. My role gives me the opportunity to try new tasks and gain experience in more formal settings as I grow to understand the inner workings of larger charities that I have previously only studied from the outside.

My hobbies include running, reading, and Taekwondo. I enjoy going on long walks both on my own and with friends. Having grown up in Sheffield, with the Peak District right at the doorstep, I have grown to love the outdoors and spending time in nature is very important to me. Being able to travel to see my family easily is very important to me and I enjoy travelling back and forth when I have time. In the future, I hope to continue working in organisations that have as much of a constructive impact as Leeds Mencap. Right now, I am really enjoying my role at Leeds Mencap as well as the general atmosphere that I am able to experience in the office. Everyone I have met it very passionate, knowledgeable and friendly

Volunteer Spotlight- Zijing

My name is Zijing Zhang, and I am originally from Suzhou, China. Half a year ago, I came to the University of Leeds for further study and I am currently studying Corporate Communication, Marketing and Public Relations in the business school, which I am passionate about. Apart from studying in university, I also have undertaken professional Google certifications like a digital marketing certification and analytics certification.

My hobbies include working out, volunteering and cooking. I also love travelling as well as hanging out with friends often. I enjoy volunteering because I like helping and motivating people and contributing to society as it gives me a sense of achievement. I used to be an international volunteer back in my undergraduate school, and welcomed over 100 international students to my university, showing them around the campus and attractions of the city and participating in various activities. I wanted to join Leeds Mencap when I saw them hiring for Marketing and Communications Volunteer roles at my university volunteer fair. I felt this position was suitable for me because my degree is mostly about communications and marketing and I thought this role could give me more experiences and skills, which is very valuable for me.

Since I started volunteering in Leeds Mencap, I have been enjoying it a lot. I love the atmosphere and people here. Everyone is so kind and helpful, which makes it a lovely place to work in. Through volunteering at Leeds Mencap, I get to learn a lot of new things like how a charitable organization works and meet more new people who can give me guidance, which I am very grateful for. Moreover, it gives me the opportunity to take on different tasks and responsibilities where I can exercise my skills and put what I learned into practice. In a word, I just love volunteering in Leeds Mencap and adding my effort to the work to help people with learning disability live a better life.

The origins of Leeds Mencap- where it all began!

2023 marks Leeds Mencap’s Milestone 70th Anniversary! Throughout this year we will be publishing a series of blog posts and case studies highlighting our journey, our impact and some of our most important moments.

To kick off our blog post series, we’re taking a look back at where it all begin. Leeds Mencap has grown a lot in the past 70 years but if it wasn’t for the inspiring parents are carers who formed the organisation, we wouldn’t be here now!

The very beginning

The Association was established in 1953 by a group of parents and caregivers who had children with special needs, during a time when there were limited support services available in Leeds and throughout the UK. In those days, parents were often advised to place their babies with disabilities in an institution and forget about them, leading many children to be abandoned. Initially, parents held meetings in their homes and formed a committee for which was originally known as the National Society of Parents of Backward Children. The organization’s name was later changed to Leeds and District Society for Mentally Handicapped Children, and eventually became known as Leeds Mencap.

Mencap House in Chapeltown Road

In 1963, the organization focused on fundraising efforts to acquire their own headquarters, and members and friends organized several events, such as jumble sales, coffee mornings, and raffles. The Local Authority offered the lease of 142 Chapeltown Road, Leeds 7, and the organization concentrated all their efforts into transforming the building into a thriving centre for people with learning disabilities and their parents or caregivers, which was named Mencap House. On  April 23rd, 1964, the official opening of Mencap House took place. Apart from serving as a center for those with learning disabilities, the parents aimed to enhance facilities for their children generally, especially with regard to education.

Youth Club
After the opening of Mencap House in 1964, the organization started the Youth Club on Monday and Friday nights, which proved to be popular among youngsters while parents met. Today, the Leeds Mencap Youth Clubs are still operational and led by paid Youth Club Leaders as well as volunteers.


In 1965, Leeds Mencap acquired the lease of the adjacent house during Easter, doubling the available space, and established a Nursery for parents and caregivers of newly diagnosed children with learning disabilities.

Training Centers

In an attempt to establish mini-education systems in the Training Centers, Health Authorities throughout the UK endeavored to incorporate qualified staff. Simultaneously, Leeds Mencap aimed to get newly trained specialist teachers into the Centers as soon as possible, succeeding and thereby enabling Leeds to claim the distinction of having qualified teachers working with its children first. This was initially within the Department of Health’s framework, prior to the Education Ministry’s official takeover – quite an extraordinary scenario!


Throughout the years, there has been minimal respite care available for parents and caregivers, and even today, the situation remains challenging. In the 1960s, if a family with a child with learning disabilities had an emergency, there was nowhere for them to stay, provided that they were over 16, except for Meanwood Park Hospital. Finding a bed in Yorkshire, let alone Leeds, would have been difficult. In 1967, Leeds Mencap began planning to establish a hostel.

The Rookery
When the opportunity came along for us to lease The Rookery from the Corporation we were delighted to have the chance to fulfil yet another of our ambitions. The house, originally a private residence, was bought by the Corporation, for preservation as a feature in the redevelopment of the old village of Chapel Allerton. The modification to convert the house to hostel use was very extensive indeed. A local architect was appointed to design and organize the necessary alterations and in 1968 the hostel was completed. The Rookery offered places for thirteen people with learning disabilities. The following year we were able to purchase the site.

St. Margaret’s Holiday Home
We had been working towards another major project and this was a holiday home. During 1968 Leeds Mencap bought St. Margaret’s in Bridlington and it proved to be a boon. It was a large, detached three bedroomed house, situated behind the Spa and two minutes from the sea. It was always fully booked and provided excellent facilities for families with a special needs child/person. Over the years additional facilities, furnishings and renovations were added costing thousands of pounds, providing maximum comfort and convenience. However, eventually St. Margaret’s was sold.

Challenge Anneka
By 1992 we realised that the Chapeltown Road building had become unsuitable and did not comply with The Children’s Act. This meant that the Nursery faced closure, so we had to search for new premises, which eventually we found, but £400,000 was required to purchase it. However, miracles do happen and ours came about thanks to ‘Challenge Anneka’ a TV show which had been contacted with our dilemma. We never expected to be selected for the ‘Challenge’ but this made it possible for us to move from Chapeltown Road to a Victorian School building in East End Park in 1991.
On Thursday, 16th September, 1992 Anneka Rice came to our East End Park site and entered the old Special School, then a dilapidated fire-damaged building. She read out the ‘Challenge’. “At 5pm on Saturday exhibit the winning entry of the Mencap Christmas Card Competition at a new Leeds Mencap Nursery. Print 25,000 copies in time for the exhibition”. A simple task, you may think, for someone with her talents. There was a p.s., Anneka was standing in our new nursery! She had three days to complete the task and present it to the country!
The vandalised school was in a terrible state of repair. Anneka immediately sprang into action and with the help of some 170 volunteers from 70 local firms it was being transformed into our new headquarters and nursery. Once they all had begun their work, Anneka turned her attention to the Christmas cards. The competition was launched on the ‘Look North’ TV programme. The winner was Ben Bland with his drawing of Father Christmas and he was a former Hawthorn Nursery Child. (The official name of our Nursery).
By 5pm on Saturday 18th September Anneka had completed her Challenge and the party began. Words could not express our gratitude to Anneka, her team and all the local organisations for all they did for us.

Amongst other successes we have Portage. A home visiting educational service which we provide to guide parents in how to teach their special needs child.

In the early 1970s Leeds Mencap approached Leeds Educational Authority asking it to fund a Summer Holiday Play Scheme within the framework of the Special Schools. Mainstream schools had held theirs for some years and we felt it was time for some provision for our special children and it would also give parents a little respite during that long summer break. We were instrumental in the first Special Schools’ holiday project taking place. It is now an annual event and, of course, we also have our own Leeds Mencap Summer Holiday Scheme.

Hopefully that summary has given you more understanding about how and why Leeds Mencap was formed. Since the 1970s we have grown and expanded even more, but what has remained unchanged is the joy felt about seeing children and young people with learning disabilities and their families develop, progress and increase in confidence!

If you want to read more about what we have been up to from 1970s onwards then check back for our next blog post.

Volunteer Spotlight- Yashvi

Hi, I am Yashvi a current student at the University of Leeds studying International Business. I am an international student from Hong Kong. During my time in high school, I did the international baccalaureate, I studied higher-level psychology, business, and design.

I have always been passionate about giving back to my community and lending a hand when someone needs one. When I got to the UK first, I started volunteering at MAE Care which is an elderly care centre in Leeds. I was responsible to run games’ night and afternoon teas, where older adults could come along and enjoy a friendly chat. What I enjoyed the most was listening to their life stories from when they were children and the life lessons they shared.

The first time I heard about Mencap was at my university’s volunteering fair, I spoke to representatives from the charity, and I resonated with what the charity was doing for the community in Leeds Mencap helps children and adults who have learning disabilities. In my early career, I worked with children aged 3-12 as a teaching theatre assistant, where I would play and run workshops alongside teachers relating to theatre. Working with children is a challenging but rewarding task, I like to look at them as free beings of creativity. Though my role at Mencap may not directly be working with kids, it still works towards helping them which is why I decided to volunteer here.

My favourite thing about Leeds Mencap is the friendly work environment and the ability to explore what I am interested in which is marketing, while supporting a good cause. This role has allowed me to try different tasks within marketing and communications. At the same time I have been learning about new aspects of an organization and roles like fundraising. It has also given me chance to meet new people who like doing similar things.

Volunteer Spotlight – Mia

Here at Leeds Mencap we have been lucky enough to recruit a brilliant new cohort of volunteers. Mia is one of our new Marketing and Communications Volunteers, here is a bit more about her and why she decided to volunteer for Leeds Mencap:

“After deciding that I wanted to do more outside of university life, I realised that volunteering would be a great way for me to contribute more.

As I am in my 2nd year, studying Fashion Marketing at the University of Leeds, I felt I was suitable for the Marketing and Communications volunteer role and thought it would be interesting for me to apply so I could broaden the skills that I have developed, during my time here in Leeds, to a wilder field of marketing other than that of the fashion industry.

Mencap is charity known to me and my Family, as my older Sister Laurie, who has a rare disability called Sotos Syndrome, attends groups ran by Mencap in London and Kent. I’ve seen first-hand how valuable volunteers are for the running of charities and this is why I was originally drawn to Leeds Mencap.

I am originally from South London and went to Graveney Sixth form in Tooting where I studied Biology, Chemistry and Film studies. A lot of people say this is a strange mix of A levels to but I feel it perfectly represented my interests of a mix of creativity and academia. This fusion of interests led me to choose the degree of fashion marketing!

Apart from university I have a passion for fitness. I enjoy running and doing Pilates and yoga classes. I hope to get a personal trainer qualification soon!

Aside from fitness, I also love sewing and making clothes, and after having taught myself to  use a sewing machine when I was 11 I have made things ever since. I have always been interested in fashion and before university I ran a small online business selling vintage clothes and ran the various social medias for it to. I also sometimes used my sewing skills to help with this too.

My sister often asks about what it’s like to volunteer here and I have told her everyone here at Mencap is very friendly and I feel very welcome here. I can’t wait to spend more time volunteering here at Leeds Mencap!”

Managing Learning Disabilities

What are ways of managing learning disabilities? 

Learning disability management can make a lot of difference to children, not just at school but at home as well. If left unmanaged, children can easily become frustrated and experience feelings of failure and inadequacy when comparing their learning disabilities to the learning abilities of their classmates. Managing learning disabilities is an action taken to help a child succeed. Therefore, learning disability management can improve learning success and the quality of life of the child. 

Can learning disabilities be cured? 

There are no cures for learning disabilities, however, you can take steps to make living with a learning disability more it can be treated. The earlier you put processes in place to help manage learning disabilities, the more effective it is. Identifying and addressing learning problems early allows children to acquire learning strategies before they fall significantly behind their classmates. Learning disability management can also minimize or prevent other struggles, such as self-esteem issues, emotional or behavioural problems. 

Learning disability management for children at school & home  

Many other school-based interventions are used to support students with learning disabilities. Some of them are: 

1. Intensive teaching techniques, like one-on-one instruction, breaking material into smaller bits 

2. Allowing a child extra time to complete work, assigning a notetaker to assist the student 

3. Visual aids 

4. Memory aids like mnemonic devices 

5. Multi-modal teaching that uses senses beyond auditory and visual 

6. Teacher check-ins during classroom instruction 

7. Using motivators like goals, encouragement, positive reinforcement 

8. Bypass interventions allow students to get around an area of disability, such as taking tests orally or having a reader 

9. If the IEP allows, structuring the student’s day so that they spend a portion of it in a resource room/special education room 

Learning disorder interventions should happen at home, too. Home-based support is essential. You don’t have to use the same interventions as your child’s teacher, because your environment, goals, and your child’s tasks are different. 

An important treatment intervention for home life is to be unconditionally supportive of your child. Listen to their frustrations and help them use their strengths to overcome obstacles. Homework can be a problem for kids with learning disabilities. Create a dedicated homework area and create a structured routine for daily homework. Consider hiring a tutor if you and your child clash when you try to help. Above all, have realistic expectations, neither too low nor too high. 

Tips for managing a learning disability in adulthood 

  1. Be your own advocate 

It’s important to know and speak up for what you need. Understand your learning challenges, identify possible solutions, and ask for the resources that will allow you to reach your goals. 

  1. Ensure that your surroundings facilitate success  

Work with your school or employer to create a supportive learning environment, such as access to software that will help you succeed now and in the future. 

  1. Take advantage of assistive technology 

Use computer tools customized to your own pace and needs that can read text aloud, help you articulate your thoughts, and provide structure to your writing. 

Parent Mental Health Day

Today marks parents mental health day. The day helps to raise awareness about the importance of good mental health and wellbeing in parents and carers to help families adapt to challenging situations.

Many people worry that having a mental health problem will make it difficult to cope with parenting. This worry is often heightened in parents of children with learning disabilities and additional needs, as they face unique circumstances often involving additional family support, educational support and medical needs.

You may worry about what affect your mental health has on your child and whether they may be experiencing stress or mental health problems themselves. Or you may face difficulties due to negative judgements surrounding mental health.

It is normal to be concerned about what impact your mental health problems may have on your children. Seeking help with your mental health does not make you any less of a capable parent. With the right support and advice you can support your child in a positive way whilst managing your mental health.

Quick Tips to look after your mental health

Mental health problems, don’t have a quick fix and it can take courage to reach out for help. However, it is just as important to take care of your mental health as it is your physical health. We’ve put together our top short-term to help you look after your mental.

  1. Get Active Outside -Getting outdoors and keeping active is great for everyone. Regardless of the weather, getting outside clears the mind, reduces stress and boosts endorphins.
  2. Stick to a routine– Creating and sticking to a set routine can help you to feel more secure and in control because you know what is going to happen and when. You can start implementing small routine changes such as getting up at the same time everyday or you could break your day down into set tasks to make it seem more manageable.
  3. Stay Connected– If you’re feeling down, nothing is better than a friendly face. Reach out to your loved ones whether that be in person or via phone or video chat. Having an outlet to talk about how you’re feeling, in a non-judgemental space often does the world of good, and reminds you you’re not alone.
  4. Take time for yourself-Make sure to schedule time into your day to do something for yourself. Whether it’s reading a book you love, cooking a delicious dinner, or watching your favourite film. Parenting is a full time job but it’s important to take a step back and carve some time out each week to rekindle lost interests and do something you love. Not only with this help you relax, but pursuing an interest can boost your self esteem!

Disability History Month

What we have been doing

From 16th November to 16th December it is world disability history month. Here at Leeds Mencap we are always championing disabilities and this month was no different. We celebrated Disability History Month in many different ways. We held a tea party with Leeds Conservatoire Students Union to help raise awareness about Learning disabilities and educate students about what support is on offer and we have shared teaching resources with local primary schools to help them, educate and raise awareness to their pupils about learning disabilities

Why is it still important today?

Although, great progress has been made to ensure that those with disabilities can be respected, included and valued, the recent Covid-19 pandemic unfortunately highlighted the inequalities that people with learning disabilities still face. The overall mortality rate of people with disabilities compared to those without was far higher, around 3-4 times that of the general population (Public Health England 2020) and the mortality rate for ‘disabled men’ was 3.1 times higher than ‘non-disabled men’. Furthermore, research has shown that disabled people made up 60% of all deaths involving COVID-19 for the period to July 2020 (Office National Statistics 2020) and at least 400,000 people suffering from long-Covid come under the Equality Act definition of being disabled. These statistics demonstrate the inequalities that still go on and they are only for those who have a diagnosed disability. Many go unrecognised and undiagnosed for years, meaning the problem is likely to be much worse.

This shocking inequality only tells part of the story. For example guidance, that people could not be accompanied when travelling to hospital by emergency ambulance, disproportionately impacted those with a learning disability. This is because it is often essential that people with a learning disability are accompanied by someone who knows them well and can meet their support needs to reduce anxiety and distress. However, when surveyed 1/4 Learning Disability nurses said they had seen examples where people with a learning disability have not been allowed to be accompanied by a family member, carer or supporter in hospital (Mencap Learning Disability Nurse Survey 2020). These examples make it clear that there is still a long way to go in terms of equality.

Part of the problem is that disabled people are often given the label ’vulnerable’ when in reality it should be viewed as ‘greater risk of infection, disease or death’. This label prevents someone with a disability from getting the correct support and recognition with their condition. 

Brief History of Learning Disabilities

Between 1906 – 1914 some researchers such as Charles Booth managed studies to find out the cause of poverty. The results showed that low pay, unemployment and disability were the main causes. The Liberal government passed reforms to help in reducing poverty, however only limited action was taken in helping the disabled.

The introduction of the Labour Government Welfare state of 1945 – 1951 should have included some support for those with disabilities, however they were left out. UKDHM 2019 finally fully covered the struggle for disabled people by providing decent benefits, independent living and closing institutions. 

There is still more to be done within society against the discrimination of disabled people. About 2% of the UK population have a learning disability. When it comes to learning disabilities in the workplace there may be a barrier. Only 7% of adults with learning disabilities are in paid work. Someone with a learning disability may also experience exclusion from education and social activities. These stigmas can negatively impact one’s life as they may feel lonely or depressed that they are not given the same opportunities. 

So how do we change these attitudes?

Helping to raise awareness is key to overcoming this negative attitude. Here at Leeds Mencap our goal is to support young people and their families with disabilities whilst raising awareness. Social media is a powerful tool to help improve perceptions as well as educating people around you about learning disabilities. The best way to improve attitudes towards learning disabilities is to have personal contact with people who live with a learning disability and listen to their story as well as the stigmas they have to face. Educating the people around you about learning disabilities is essential to overcoming discrimination and stigmas associated. 

Tomoro Agency take on the Yorkshire Three Peaks!

Our wonderful corporate partners Tomoro Agency have recently tackled the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge. The weather was treacherous however, they still completed the challenge and managed to raise an incredible £1145 for us here at Leeds Mencap.

Tomoro holds a special place in our hearts, as Hannah, their Digital Account Manager is the granddaughter of the late Joyce Fieldhouse, who was one of Leeds Mencap’s founding members and honorary president. Hannah now also lends her skills volunteering weekly at Leeds Mencap as a Marketing and Communications Volunteer. Here’s what she had to say about the hike:

“Leeds Mencap is an amazing charity supporting families all over Leeds. We chose to fundraise for Leeds Mencap because they are a charity close to our hearts with Joyce Fieldhouse, founder member and former honorary president, being a close family member who passed away last year. Joyce was an amazing woman who set up Leeds Mencap nearly 70 years ago as there was no support back then for people with autism and learning disabilities. We are very proud to be helping such a wonderful charity and a great cause’.

Thank you to everyone who participated and donated to this fundraiser. As we are an independent charity, we rely completely on the generosity of businesses and individuals like those at Tomoro to allow us to continue providing our vital support to young people with learning disabilities and their families.

If you would like to support Leeds Mencap by taking on a challenge please email fundraising@leedsmencap.org.uk

If you would like support with digital advertising then check out here

What conditions are associated with a learning disability?

By Hannah Crampton

If someone has a certain condition, they may be more likely to have a learning disability. Every learning disability and condition is unique to the individual. A lot of people who struggle with a learning disability will typically have more than one diagnosis. In this blog post we will discuss some of the associated conditions and explain a little bit more about them.

What is Down’s Syndrome?

Down’s syndrome is a genetic condition that is caused by having an extra chromosome. It usually occurs at the time of conception rather than being inherited.

A person with Down’s syndrome will typically have a learning disability, however the degree of the learning disability can vary for each individual.

What are symptoms of Down’s Syndrome?

  • Flattened face
  • Small head
  • Short neck
  • Protruding tongue
  • Upward slanting eye lids 
  • Unusually shaped or small ears
  • Broad, short hands with a single crease in the palm
  • Relatively short fingers and small hands and feet
  • Excessive flexibility
  • Tiny white spots on the coloured part (iris) of the eye 
  • Short height
  • Poor memory

A child with Down’s syndrome will need support in developing certain skills, and may take longer for a child to reach certain milestones. They may also still need support when they are an adult, each individual’s needs will vary.

Someone with Down’s syndrome can still live a happy and fulfilled  life with the right support, opportunities and care. There are however some health conditions associated with Down’s syndrome such as heart problems and issues with sight and hearing. 

What are the different types of downs syndrome?

  • Trisomy 21- 95% of Down’s Syndrome cases are this type. This is when a person has 3 copies of chromosome 21. Usually we only have 2, meaning instead of the typical 2 copies in every cell, they have 3. This is caused by abnormal cell division during the development of the sperm cell or the egg cell.
  • Mosaic Down syndrome- This form of Down’s syndrome is rare/ A person may only have some cells with an extra copy of chromosome 21. This is caused by abnormal cell division after fertilization. 
  • Translocation Down syndrome- This syndrome occurs when a portion of chromosome 21 becomes attached to another chromosome. This happens before or at contraception. These children usually have two copies of chromosome 21, but they also have additional genetic material from chromosome 21 attached to another chromosome.

What is William’s Syndrome?

William’s syndrome is a rare genetic condition affecting around 1 in 18,000 people in the UK. It occurs randomly and can not be passed on from a parent to a child.

William’s syndrome may affect an individual in many ways and symptoms will vary for each person, however many will also have a learning disability.

How does William’s syndrome affect someone?

Someone with William’s syndrome may portray some distinctive facial features including a wider mouth with a pronounced bottom lip, slightly high and round cheeks and gapped teeth. William’s syndrome could also affect the individual’s mental health. They may struggle with depression or anxiety later in life.

People with William’s syndrome may also be extremely friendly and talkative. William’s syndrome will affect a child’s development. A child may take longer to learn how to walk, talk and develop other skills in the future.

How does someone get diagnosed with William’s syndrome?

This syndrome can be quite hard to diagnose, you would be best contacting your GP about your concerns. Early diagnosis can help you get the support you need.It is believed William’s syndrome is caused by a tiny piece of information in a chromosome missing. A blood test can be conducted to determine if a chromosome is different, which can help the diagnosis process.

What are some symptoms of William’s syndrome?

William’s syndrome will affect everyone differently, however some early signs of the syndrome are:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Constipation
  • Low birth weight
  • Slow growth
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Difficulty feeding
  • hernias

With the correct support someone with William’s syndrome can live a happy and fulfilled life. This may include physical, speech and language therapy.

For support, please contact the Learning Disability Helpline, or visit the William’s Syndrome Foundation website

What is Autism?

Autism is a lifelong condition also known as autism spectrum disorder. Autism itself is not a learning disability, however more than 50% of autistic people have a learning disability.

How does autism affect someone?

Someone with autism may affect how one interacts with others in a social situation. They may struggle to communicate with others. This will affect their experiences in life

What is Asperger’s syndrome?

Someone with Asperger’s syndrome will see, hear and feel the world differently to other people. People with Asperger’s syndrome will not usually have a learning disability, however they may struggle with anxiety and certain learning difficulties.

What is Pathalogical Demand Avoidance (PDA)?

Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA) is a form of autism which may affect the way a person communicates and relates to other people.

People with PDA may experience challenges such as specific learning difficulties, but their central difficulty is that they are driven to avoid everyday demands and expectations to an extreme extent. This avoidance is rooted in an anxiety-based need to be in control.

What are some signs of autism? 

Autism will be different for every individual however these are some common signs:

  • Difficulty interpreting verbal and non verbal language
  • Struggles with sensing others emotions
  • Difficulty expressing emotions
  • Sensory sensitivity
  • Repetitive behaviour and development of routines
  • Challenging behavior such as episodes of anger and frustration

How is autism diagnosed?

Diagnosis can be a hard time. Support is available for families through health care professionals. There is no ‘cure’ to autism, however one can be supported to live a happy life.

Signs of autism typically begin in the first few years of your child’s life, however some people may not get diagnosed until they are adults. 

Diagnosis can be delayed because health care professionals may want to be certain before concluding. People may also not receive a diagnosis until adulthood because some signs of autism can go undetected especially if they are only subtle. This is more common in women.

Typically more boys are diagnosed with autism and this reason has not yet been discovered. There is a debate between it being genetic or because autistic traits are more common in boys. Leaving many women without a diagnosis.

Each autistic person is different, and the impact their condition has on their life will vary depending on many factors. These will include the severity of their condition, any additional diagnoses, and whether they display any challenging behaviours.

While some autistic people will need very little extra support, others will need more specialist, even 24 hour, help. Each autistic person will have their own likes, dislikes and characteristics just like everyone else, which will also affect the kind of support they want and need. Support and coping strategies need to be tailored to each individual. Finding out your child’s strengths and weaknesses will also help.

Once your child has received a diagnosis, the next step is to think about the services and support your family will need for the future.

Leeds Mencap can offer information, advice and services to people with a diagnosis of autism and learning disability.

  • For information and advice about autism and learning disability, contact our Learning Disability Helpline.
  • Find out more about Leeds Mencap’s services and the support they can offer, or search for a local group near you.
  • For autism support, visit The National Autistic Society’s About Autism pages.
  • For Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA), contact the PDA Society.
  • The Challenging Behaviour Foundation (CBF) can also offer support and advice if your son or daughter displays challenging behaviours. Visit the CBF website or call their family support line on 0845 602 7885.
  • Getting support for the rest of the family is also important. SIBS can help brothers and sisters to come to terms with their sibling’s disability. Visit the SIBS website or call 01535 645453.

What is Fragile X Syndrome?

Fragile X syndrome is a genetic condition affecting boys more severely. It can cause a variety of problems in one’s life, affecting language, emotions, behaviour and social skills. Fragile X syndrome is the most inherited cause of a learning disability.

Nearly all boys who have Fragile X syndrome will have a learning disability, whereas only a third of girls will. 

The degree of the learning disability will vary, affecting how much support is needed.

How does Fragile X affect someona?

Someone with Fragile X might have a short attention span, act impulsively, feel restless, be very active, and have heightened senses. These symptoms can vary from person to person.

People with Fragile X syndrome may act like someone with autism, including shyness, following routines and struggling with anxiety.

Someone with fragile X may also have some physical characteristics such as a long narrow face with prominent jaw bones and ears. 

How is Fragile X diagnosed?

Fragile X syndrome can be diagnosed with a blood test. It cannot be diagnosed through behavioural observation. It is a genetic condition meaning it is possible to test if an individual is a carrier of the gene. It is possible to receive a diagnosis for your child before birth.

Most people living with fragile X will need support with language, speech, emotions and social skills. People with fragile X syndrome are also more likely to develop epilepsy and a rare few have autism. This is what affects someone’s need for care and support.

With the right support, it is possible for someone with Fragile X to lead a fulfilling life, in the way they choose.

Get the right support

For advice and support, and to find out more, contact our helpline, or visit:

What is global developmental delay?

The term ‘global development delay’ is used when a child takes longer to reach specific milestones compared to other children of the same age. This could include walking, talking and social skills. 

Global developmental delay may also be present in someone who struggles with other conditions such as Down’s Syndrome. 

In some cases the delay in someone’s development may only be short term and may be overcome with the right support. On the other hand the delay may be more prominent and a child may need more support. Someone may also have a learning disability as well meaning they need extra support.

How is global development delay diagnosed?

It can be harder to diagnose this condition. The sooner you get a diagnosis the easier it is to manage the condition by ensuring the right support is in place sooner. Helping each individual to live a fulfilled life.

Get in touch with us to see what support is available to you if you are the parent or carer of a child with a developmental delay.

You may also find it useful to take a look at the advice provided by the following organisations:

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral palsy is a physical condition usually diagnosed at birth and it affects coordination and  movement. Some people with cerebral palsy may struggle with a learning disability too.

What causes cerebral palsy?

This condition is usually caused by an injury to the brain before, during or shortly after birth. This could be because of lack of oxygen to the brain, injury or illness.

What are the symptoms of cerebral palsy?

Cerebral palsy can affect each individual differently and symptoms can vary for each person depending on how severe the condition is. Some of the following symptoms are:

  • Difficulty with muscle movement
  • Difficulty with speech or language
  • Seizures
  • Epilepsy
  • Muscle spasms
  • Walking on tiptoes
  • Shaking hands
  • Weak body e.g. arms or legs

Getting support

Although there is no cure for cerebral palsy, physiotherapy can help to improve posture and muscle control. There is also support available for families that are struggling. 

Please contact Leeds Mencap for support wherever you need it. Services we cannot provide specifically for you, we will help you find elsewhere.

What is SYNGAP1?

SYNGAP1 is a rare genetic condition that randomly occurs, causing learning disabilities. This condition can also cause seizures, sleep issues, behavioural issues, motor delays, language delays and emotional challenges.

SYNGAP1 is estimated to cause up to 1% of learning disabilities. People who struggle with SYNGAP1 typically have  moderate or severe learning disability, meaning they need a lot more care and support in everyday life. 

How does SYNGAP1 affect someone?

Someone struggling with SYNGAP1 may be easily distracted, behave impulsively and act aggressive towards others or themselves. They may also have an unsteady walk and low muscle mass.

People with SYNGAP1 may act in a way that resembles someone with autism, such as following routines, sensitivity to sounds and light and hand biting. They may have some physical features such as an open mouth appearance, larger distance between eyes and full eyebrows. 

These physical characteristics can not always be easy to identify in a child, meaning they may take a while to receive a diagnosis.

What causes SYNGAP1?

This condition can be caused by a change to the gene of the same name.  Most individuals with SYNGAP1 may also develop epilepsy, with around 50% of individuals with this condition also having autism. This can affect the level of support an individual needs.

How do I get a diagnosis for SYNGAP1?

Diagnosis occurs through DNA testing. This can be done with a blood test. A higher level of support is typically needed for this condition. The earlier the diagnosis the better, as a child will need this condition identified to receive the correct support while developing. 

They may need support with their speech and language, learning social skills and emotional interaction. They may also have a higher tolerance of pain than the average person.

What are signs of SYNGAP1 in a child?

  • Delayed milestones such as sitting independently, standing or walking.
  • Feeding difficulties
  • Behavioural difficulties
  • Seizures
  • Delays in developing language and speech

Eating or chewing is often difficult for someone with SYNGAP1 and can trigger seizures in a person. Some people may need to use a feeding tube to stay healthy.

With the right support, it is possible for someone with SYNGAP1 to live a happy life, in the way they choose.

For advice and support, and to find out more, contact our us on 1003 235 1332 or visit:

How to get my child tested for a learning disability?

By Hannah Crampton

How to get my child tested for a learning disability?

Assessments can either be done by staff at your child’s school or nursery who are qualified, or by a healthcare professional or social worker. 

What is a diagnostic test for learning disabilities? 

Diagnosis can sound like an overly medical term. It is a term primarily used by health professionals and is often based on a child’s medical symptoms. Whilst a diagnosis can be useful and bring comfort, it is important to remember that a diagnosis does not always provide a definite description of your child’s capabilities and how they will develop. Nothing will help you understand your child’s learning disability more than one to one interaction.

A learning disability is typically diagnosed by completing two tests and noticing a significant difference between their scores. These tests are an intelligence (IQ) test and a standardised achievement (reading, writing, arithmetic) test. Having a diagnostic test will help you figure out the right support you need. Identifying any strengths and weaknesses is essential to getting the right support for your child or for yourself. 

What is diagnosis?

Diagnosis is the process in which a learning disability or other conditions are identified. A diagnosis for a learning disability may comfort others while someone else could take a while to digest the news. Everyone may react differently to a diagnosis and there is no right or wrong way to feel. Most families whose child has been diagnosed with a learning disability or the child themselves may want to know more about their learning disability. 

Here at Leeds Mencap we try to educate others on what a learning disability is, and where to find support. If you are interested in knowing more about what a learning disability is, please visit our new blog post on this topic here. If you are wanting to know how to support someone with a learning disability please visit our blog post here. If you are struggling with a learning disability and looking for support and information please visit our blog post here.

These pages are here for parents, wider family members, and anyone else who might be interested in finding out more about the diagnosis of a learning disability. 

Can a person with a learning disability get assistance?

Someone with a learning disability can access support here at Leeds Mencap. Depending on your child’s age we offer a range of youth clubs and playschemes and we offer workshops for parents such as sleep training and makaton training. We also have weekly coffee mornings where parents and carers can get advice and support from our friendly family support team. At Leeds Mencap offer a variety of support and whatever help we can not provide, we can put you in touch with the right organisations. If you are struggling with your child’s learning disability, please contact Leeds Mencap for help.

Dealing with a diagnosis.

Hearing the news that your child or yourself has a learning disability can be a shock. Some may feel better for having an explanation for their symptoms, while some may be upset and worried. Being told your child has a learning disability can be distressing for a parent. It is important to know there is support available.

One of the biggest concerns for a parent whose child has been diagnosed with a learning disability is that they may worry about their child’s future.  You may feel disbelief, disappointment, self-pity, shock, anger, numbness, guilt and denial. All of these emotions are normal. 

Some parents feel the period after diagnosis as a period of mourning, while others feel like it is like a bad dream, or that they are living in a bubble outside of reality.

Your emotions may vary dramatically, and parents have told us that they were quite frightened by the feelings they had at this time. This is perfectly normal, and you are not alone.

Digesting the information

When you first get a diagnosis it may be alot to take in, you probably won’t find out more information for at least a few weeks. You should try to deal with the information piece by piece as you need it, and don’t be afraid to ask people for support with your child. 

Conduct your own research on the topic, as well as asking health care specialists for advice. Some parents find knowing as much information as they can about their child’s learning disability, helps them to understand the situation and makes them feel better. Others may not want to think about the situation as it may be overwhelming and that is okay. Do not be afraid to ask people around you and specialists for support and how to handle the next few steps. 

Once your child’s learning disability is more understood, it will be easier for you to find the correct support and learn the best ways to help your child. Leeds Mencap are always here to help wherever possible. 

If you would like further support with a child who has a learning disability please email info@leedsmencap.org.uk or call us on 0113 235 1331.

Living with a Learning Disability

by Hannah Crampton

What stigmas are associated with learning disabilities? 

About 2% of the UK population have a learning disability. People affected by their learning disability can often be subject to negative attitude and behaviour from others, as may their carers or relatives. When it comes to learning disabilities in the workplace there may be a barrier. Only 7% of adults with learning disabilities are in paid work. Someone with a learning disability may also experience exclusion from education and social activities. These stigmas can negatively impact one’s life as they may feel lonely or depressed that they are not given the same opportunities. In this blog post we are going to explain how these negative attitudes can affect someone’s life and the importance of raising awareness.

So how do we change these attitudes?

Helping to raise awareness is key to overcoming this negative attitude. Here at Leeds Mencap our goal is to support young people and their families with disabilities whilst raising awareness. Social media is a powerful tool to help improve perceptions as well as educating people around you about learning disabilities. The best way to improve attitudes towards learning disabilities is to have personal contact with people who live with a learning disability and listen to their story as well as the stigmas they have to face. Educating the people around you about learning disabilities is essential to overcoming discrimination and stigmas associated. 

How would someone with learning disabilities feel? 

Someone with a learning disability may feel frustrated at times because they may not be able to communicate their needs as well as a non-disabled person. They may also struggle to fulfil tasks as easily as someone without a learning disability, causing them to feel upset or disheartened. Having a learning disability is not easy, but with the right support people can flourish to become whoever they want to be. Mental health issues can be common in people who have learning disabilities, with many facing struggles with depression or anxiety. Did you know that children with special educational needs are twice as likely to be bullied? Bullying can cause depression and anxiety in schools especially for children with learning disabilities. Someone with a learning disability may face a lot of discrimination in their life and feel that they are not given equal opportunities in education, jobs, housing and socialisation This can deeply affect someone’s life. 

How does a learning disability affect you socially? 

Having a learning disability can affect one’s social life. This is where friendships are important, friends can help support you and improve your well being. Someone with a learning disability may struggle with social skills and not know how to interact. Having strong connections can help reduce feelings of loneliness and help someone with a learning disability to feel valued and loved. It is important to have people you trust close in your life as they can help you when times are tough.

“According to research by the Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, adults and children with learning disabilities and/or autism have fewer chances of being involved in activities or socialising with others and will naturally have fewer friends.”

Research suggests that 1 in 3 young people with a learning disability spend less than 1 hour outside their home on a typical Saturday. In a survey by Sense, over half of disabled people reported feeling lonely, rising to over three quarters (77%) for those aged 18-34 (Sense 2017). Loneliness is associated with physical and mental health problems and poorer quality of life.

Friendships help someone build confidence and offer support in new experiences. If you are or know a young person struggling with mental health because of your learning disability please contact Leeds Mencap on 0113 235 1331 for support, classes and workshops. If you’re an adult who is struggling please contact National Mencap’s learning disability hotline for support at 0808 808 1111

Can a child overcome a learning disability?

Anyone can overcome their learning disabilities with the correct support around them. There are countless athletes, politicians, celebrities etc. who have all become successful despite their learning disabilities. A learning disability does not define someone. If you are feeling lost because of your learning disability or are worried about a family member struggling with their learning disability, please reach out to us at Leeds Mencap, as we have classes and support available to help build your confidence and to help you enjoy life.

What is a learning disability?

What is a learning disability?

A learning disability is defined as a reduced intellectual ability and difficulty with everyday activities – for example household chores, socialising or managing money – which affects someone for their whole life.

People with a learning disability tend to take longer to learn things and may need extra support to develop new skills, learn how to interact with people and understand more complex information.

What support is there for someone with a learning disability?

The level of support someone may need varys based on the individual. Someone with a mild learning disability may only need a bit of extra support on the odd occasion such as applying for a new job. However, someone with a more severe learning disability will have more profound needs when it comes to support. They may even need full time care and support everyday with all aspects of their life – they may also have physical disabilities.

People with specific conditions may also have a learning disability too. An example of this is people with downs syndrome or autism can also have a learning disability.

A learning disability can often be confused with a learning difficulty. At Leeds Mencap we describe dyslexia and ADHD as a learning difficulty because unlike a learning disability, it does not affect one’s intellect. 

Discovering strengths and weaknesses when struggling with a learning disability is important; you should try to find out what aspects of your life you require extra support in to make sure you do have access to the help you need. If you are a parent who has a child struggling with their learning disability, try to observe and find their strengths and weaknesses. Praise your child for their strengths and give them confidence to learn how to manage their weaknesses.

What are different types of learning disability?

The different types of learning disability vary from mild, moderate, to severe or profound. In all cases a learning disability is a lifelong disability with no cure. Someone with a mild learning disability can often be harder to diagnose as they can usually cope with most everyday tasks and only need support on the odd occasion, often going unnoticed. 

People with a more severe or profound learning disability will usually need more support and care with tasks such as mobility, personal care and communication. People living with a moderate learning disability may vary in their aspects of extra support. For parents, your biggest concern may be your child’s wellbeing, their educational needs and future. You can support your child by encouraging them to discover their strengths and support them in overcoming any difficulties.

What can cause a learning disability?

A learning disability occurs when the brain is still developing (before, during or soon after birth). There are multiple causes of developing a learning disability. 

Before birth, problems can happen to the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord) that can cause a learning disability. A child can be born with a learning disability if the mother has an accident or illness while she is pregnant, or if the unborn baby develops certain genes. 

A person can be born with a learning disability if he or she does not get enough oxygen during childbirth, has trauma to the head, or is born too early.After birth, a learning disability can be caused by early childhood illnesses, accidents and seizures.

Getting a diagnosis

A learning disability can be diagnosed at any point in someone’s lifetime. A child may be diagnosed at birth, or you might notice a difference in your child’s development during early childhood. For some people it may be many years before they receive a diagnosis, while others may never receive a diagnosis at all. If you are in need of support please feel free to contact Leeds Mencap for support . Your disability does not define you. It is important to find the right support for someone with a learning disability to help them learn to manage it.

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