Learning Disability and Autism Service - Supporting our clients and teams

Page last updated 26//2020

We understand that the current COVID-19 pandemic can be a very anxiety-provoking time for the people that we support, particularly as they may find the element of uncertainty around the outbreak particularly difficult. Their increased stress may lead to a change in their behaviours and their mental health which can have an impact upon their overall wellbeing.


We want to ensure you have the necessary guidance from us to enable you to best care for clients at this time. Additionally, the wellbeing of yourselves as employees is paramount, and we want to give you the support you need to maintain a healthy mental and physical wellbeing.

Advice for supporting the people you support

Advice and guidance to support your wellbeing


Advice for supporting the people you support

Listen and acknowledge: 

The people we support may respond to stress in different ways. We may see an increase in anxiety and/or behaviours during this period and people may have difficulty communicating this. We may observe them upset, distressed, anxious, angry or agitated because they are confused around the changes in their environment and community.

Irrespective of cognitive ability and language, people with a learning disability and/or Autism may struggle to identify any physical symptoms of coronavirus (COVID-19), as well as having difficulty talking about the emotions the situation will create. Keep an eye out for changes in behavior which may help you to identify their emotional state, as well as physical symptoms.

There is going to be disruption for all of us during the outbreak, for example, they may not be able to follow their normal routines, or visit family members, so you can help them to manage these changes using strategies such as Skype, regular telephone contact and the use of picture albums so that people have the opportunity to still see and speak to their loved ones. If you need any additional support in putting new strategies in place, please discuss with your Regional Clinical Lead (RCL).

Provide clear information about the situation: 

The people we support want to feel that they are safe within their environment and with 

the staff working with them. The best way to achieve this is by talking openly about what is happening and providing honest answers to any questions they have. Level of communication and understanding will be different for each person we support so it is essential that we provide information through visual communication if required. Use words and explanations that they can understand and make sure you only use trusted sources of information such as the GOV.UK or NHS website. If you need any support with visual tools and/or social stories, please contact your RCL.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): an easy-read guide to looking after your feelings and your body


Be aware of your reactions:

Remember that the people we support can often take their emotional cues from the important people in their lives, so how you respond to situations is very important. It is important to manage your own emotions and remain calm, listen to and acknowledge any concerns that are being highlighted.

See further guidance provided below on how to look after your own mental wellbeing during this time.

Limit exposure to media and talk about what’s been seen and heard

The people we support may be more likely to become distressed if they see repeated coverage of the outbreak in the media. A complete news blackout is also rarely helpful as they are likely to find out from other sources, such as online or through family/staff discussions.

During this time consider limiting the amount of exposure to media coverage and try and keep conversations that may cause anxiety to a minimum.

If access to social media is something that cannot be avoided, the people we support may receive a lot of information through this platform, some of which they may not understand and might increase anxiety. It is therefore important to acknowledge and talk to them about what is going on and ask them what they have heard or seen in relation to COVID-19. Try to answer their questions and reassure them in an age-appropriate manner, avoiding too much detail that could cause confusion.

Create a new routine

Life is changing for all of us at this time but keeping a routine ensures that the people we support feel safe in the context of uncertainty. Please take this opportunity to work with your RCL and develop a new routine for the people you support – especially if they are not at school. Some suggestions are:

  • Create a plan for the day or week that includes time for relaxing, especially if people are highly anxious. Small changes may need to take place slowly and over time so that they can be processed effectively.
  • If people have to stay home from school, then we can contact the school for access to any educational resources and activities to support learning.
  • The people we support may need to continue to access the community for a walk to maintain wellbeing or go out for a short drive in the car, as this is something that they need to reduce anxieties. These activities can take place as long as we follow government guidance and keep a minimum two meter distance from the general public. Where possible plan time outside if you can do so safely or see Change4Life for some ideas for indoor games and activities.

Connect regularly

Please keep in regular contact with your Care Coordinator and RCL. If you have any concerns, then we are here to support you. If you feel like you require a debrief around anything ongoing or about a situation, then please contact your RCL.


Advice and guidance to support your wellbeing

Wellbeing and emotional support

During these challenging times we understand how important it is that you are able to look after your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. The RCN has provided some self-care tips that you may find useful:

  • Make sure you are getting your news from trusted sources
  • Limit your exposure to social media if you find it is heightening your anxiety
  • Think self-care, sleep, routine, rest. You may find yourself working longer hours or more shifts so take care of your physical health as best you can.
  • Stay connected to family and friends by phone, email or video calls
  • Check local arrangements for key worker childcare plans in your area

During these challenging times we understand how important it is that you are able to look after your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. Your clinical team are available to support you throughout this difficult time and have resources to do so, please contact us if there is any additional support you need by sending an email to: LDAClinicians@thornburycommunityservices.co.uk

In addition, you can access counselling and support services through the following:
Mental Health Foundation advice service
COVID-19: guidance for the public on mental health and wellbeing

Financial support

We know that our nurses and support workers are worried about having to self-isolate or becoming ill as a result of COVID-19, or even being out of work to care for loved ones who have contracted COVID-19 and the financial impact this will have. We have put some information together to help you identify what support is available to you during this time: click here


Finally, we want to take this opportunity to once again thank you for your support. We would not be able to get through this challenging time without the continued dedication you have shown to the clients you care for. We are truly grateful. Please continue to contact us with any questions you have. Stay safe and take care, we are stronger together and together we shall stay ♥