Can Cookery Classes Help People With Learning Disabilities?

A leading charity says more support is needed to help adults with learning disabilities make healthier choices in their diet. So how would this support look?

“I love cooking,” says Mark Wakeman, who has learning disabilities. He attends a regular cookery class at Stepping Stones, a charity that provides services for people with learning disabilities in South London.

The teacher of the class, Claire Reardon, aims to reinforce basic messages about nutrition. “The whole idea is to encourage healthy eating, she says.

The British Institute of Learning Disabilities (BILD) told 5 Live Breakfast that people with learning disabilities find it difficult to understand the consequences of their lifestyles, so are much more likely to have diabetes, obesity, poorer health and to die younger than the general population.

“There needs to be support and encouragement so adults with learning disabilities understand healthy eating and healthy lifestyle options,” says the organisation.

BILD believe the problem lays withthe people who are choosing the food – often not the person with learning difficulties.

They found the three groups at greatest risk are: those living in homes or hospitals where they are cooked for, those living at home where a parent chooses their food, and those living in the community who are often driven to choose unhealthy options because they are cheaper.

Stepping Stones say only one in ten adults with learning disabilities has access to a healthy diet. They want to ensure that the students on their classes are able to make active choices and aren’t just “passive receivers” of food.

Encouraging people with learning difficulties to take more responsibility for their eating choices will take time and requires good support.

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