Abstract

The project will enter into research partnerships with people who have Learning Disabilities in order to explore the role of religion and spirituality in their lives, with a view to developing effective educational materials and at the same time enabling the development of communities which can effectively meet the expressed spiritual needs of people with Learning Disabilities.

The study has the potential to open up improvements in the quality of life for people with Learning Disabilities by providing religious and non religious communities with currently unavailable resources relating to the meeting of their spiritual and religious needs. The structure, content and approach of the study also has the intention of helping to develop forms of community within which  people with disabilities are acknowledged, valued and accepted in every dimension of their lives: spiritual, didactical, relational and environmental (ie relating to the nature of the environment provided by religious communities).

A unique aspect of this study is that the insights and materials that will be produced will emerge directly from the experiences of and according to the wishes of people with Learning Disabilities who will be viewed as co-researchers throughout the project. As well as enabling access and inclusion, the project will provide theological and practical insights which will be of great benefit to religious and non religious communities.

Research Aims

The project aims to achieve the following:

  • develop new practical knowledge and understanding of the role of religion and spirituality in the lives of people with Learning Disabilities and how this relates to religious and non religious communities, and to use this to develop, implement and assess concrete practical strategies for enabling effective spiritual care and support
  • develop training/educational materials that will enable carers and support workers to understand, participate in (this adds in the personal spiritual growth that may occur), recognise and help to facilitate this dimension of the experience of people with Learning Disabilities. This may comprise of an educational handbook, a CD-Rom or it may comprise of a formal educational programme for individuals, groups and/or religious / non religious communities. The most effective method of delivery will be determined by the findings of the report
  • develop a method for mobilising religious and non religious communities to cultivate strategies, theologies and ways of being that will enable the full incorporation of people with Learning Disabilities
  • develop a deeper understanding of the essential role of disability within an ongoing study of ecclesiology and the vital role that the theology of disability has within the spiritual and communal development of religious and non religious communities as they impact upon wider society
  • contribute to the body of methodological literature that seeks to discover effective ways of communicating and researching with people who have Learning Disabilities

The project will challenge religious and non religious communities truly to become communities of resistance ie communities that have made a conscious decision to resist accepting culture’s devaluing assumptions about people with Learning Disabilities and its consequent failure to craft valued social roles that allow everyone to bring their gifts to their community.

This project has now been completed.