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Exploring the road ahead

Press release issued: 24 November 2004

A North Somerset group for young people with learning difficulties has made an innovative contribution to a research project undertaken by the University of Bristol.

A North Somerset group for young people with learning difficulties has made an innovative contribution to a research project undertaken by the University of Bristol.

Working with the young people from the Weston-based group North Somerset People First enabled University experts to conduct the Road Ahead Project, an investigation into how young people with learning difficulties make the transition from childhood to adulthood. 

The project was funded by the Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) and undertaken by the University’s Norah Fry Research Centre, North Somerset People First Transition Team and the Home Farm Trust.

Teenagers with learning difficulties are meant to be included in making a plan for their future from around the age of fourteen.  This plan is intended to cover all aspects of their life including education and housing. 

The Road Ahead Project interviewed young people, their parents and supporters (advocacy workers, teachers, connection workers, learning support assistants) about the kind of information needed to help young people think about ‘growing up’ and all the choices and changes that could happen.  It also looked at current literature about transition and other resources such as CD-ROMs and websites to see what information they provided.

Instead of conducting all the interviews themselves, the University researchers took the innovative approach of assisting a team of young people with learning difficulties from North Somerset People First to undertake their own research.  The team visited groups of other young people with learning difficulties across the country, asked questions and carried out activities about their attitudes to transition. 

The North Somerset team then wrote their own report on the project and will attend a special launch in London on Wednesday 24 November to mark the publication of this report, along with other findings from the project, on the SCIE website. 

The research found that, while there are many resources designed to support young people and their families through transition, some issues raised by the study participants were not dealt with adequately.  For example, there was less information available on employment than might have been expected, no resource focusing specifically on handling money and no specific information in an accessible format on sex and relationships for young people. 

There was also little information that would support young people to be in charge of their lives.  Although empowering in tone, the resources did not include direct information on empowerment or guidance on daily and healthy living.  Neither did the resources respond to the emotional aspects of transition, particularly how to deal with disappointment and frustration when young people’s dreams could not be turned into reality. 

Beth Tarleton, Research Fellow at the Norah Fry Research Centre said: “Our results show how important it is that resources for young people will learning difficulties should be developed in conjunction with their target audiences.  When conducting the research, we were delighted to be able to work with young people with learning difficulties as active researchers, exploring the issues and coming to their own conclusions. 

“The research report written by the North Somerset People First team is a great summary of their findings presented in a clear and accessible format, carefully designed to be understood by other young people with learning difficulties.”
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