Disability

  • What is a disability?
  • What if I’m getting medication or treatment for my mental health problem?
  • What if I had a disability in the past?
  • Checklist: Is my mental health problem a disability?

What is a disability?

You have to show that your mental health problem is a disability to get the protection of the Equality Act.

‘Disability’ has a special legal meaning under the Equality Act, which is broader than the usual way you might understand the word. Even if you don’t think you have a disability, the Equality Act may protect you from discrimination if your mental health problem fits its definition of disability.

The Equality Act says you have a disability if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a substantial, adverse, and long-term effect on your ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities.

The focus is on the effect of your mental health problem, rather than the diagnosis. So you need to show that your mental health problem:

  • has more than a small effect on your everyday life
  • makes things more difficult for you, and
  • has lasted at least 12 months, is likely to last 12 months, or (if your mental health problem has improved) that it is likely to recur.

Examples of ‘substantial adverse effect’

Simon has obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). He has to check and recheck whether lights are switched off and doors are locked. This can make him late for work or other appointments. His obsessive thoughts often distract him from activities that he is doing and disrupt his daily routines. His mental health problem therefore has a substantial adverse effect on the way he does things.

Examples of ‘long term’

  • Jenny has had depression for 10 months and the doctor says it will be likely to last at least another 4 to 5 months.
  • Selina has bipolar affective disorder. She had her first and second episode in January 2013, then a third episode in January 2014. Even though there was a gap between her second and third episode, her mental health problem is considered to have continued over the whole period (in this case, a period of 13 months).

What if I’m getting medication or treatment for my mental health problem?

If you are getting some treatment or taking medication for your condition, you ignore the effect of your treatment when deciding whether your condition is having a substantial, adverse effect on your daily activities. This means the law is looking at how your condition affects you without your treatment or medication.

Example

Mohammed has long-term anxiety and is being treated by counselling. Anxiety would normally make him find simple tasks difficult. Because he has counselling, he is able to get up and go to work.

The Equality Act says you have to ignore his treatment in deciding whether his mental health problem has a substantial adverse effect on his day-to-day activities and so he has a disability.

What if I had a disability in the past?

You are still protected from discrimination if you had a disability in the past. That means that if your past mental health problem had a substantial, long-term and adverse effect, you will get the protection of the Equality Act.

Examples

Four years ago, Mary had depression that lasted 2 years and had a substantial effect on her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. She has not experienced depression since then.

If Mary is treated worse by her employer because of her past mental health problem, she will be protected by the Equality Act.

Checklist: Is my mental health problem a disability?

You can ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do I have a mental or physical health impairment?
  2. Is it long-term (meaning lasting more than 12 months or likely to do so)?
  3. Does it have a more than minor adverse effect on my day-to-day living, if I discount my treatment or medication?

If you answered “yes” to all three questions, then your mental health problem could get the protection of the Equality Act.

If you want to get the protection of the Equality Act, you may find it helpful to get some evidence from your GP, or another medical professional. You can ask them to write a letter saying whether they think you have a disability under the Equality Act. It would be particularly useful if they can give their opinion on the answer to each of these three questions.

Example

Esra doesn’t consider herself disabled because she doesn’t receive disability benefits and she is physically healthy.

Esra has been living with an anxiety disorder for the past 3 years. Because of this, it takes her a longer time to do things like get up in the morning, dress herself for the day and do the shopping. She takes medication to control the symptoms.

Esra would be protected by the Equality Act because she has:

  • a mental impairment – an anxiety disorder
  • it is long term – she has had it for the past 3 years
  • it has a substantial effect on her daily life – her mental health has a major effect on her daily life when you ignore the effect of her medication  
  • it has an adverse effect – her mental health problem makes things more difficult for her.

What is disability?

A disability is any continuing condition that restricts everyday activities. The Disability Services Act (1993) defines ‘disability’ as meaning a disability:

  • which is attributable to an intellectual, psychiatric, cognitive, neurological, sensory or physical impairment or a combination of those impairments
  • which is permanent or likely to be permanent
  • which may or may not be of a chronic or episodic nature
  • which results in substantially reduced capacity of the person for communication, social interaction, learning or mobility and a need for continuing support services.


With the assistance of appropriate aids and services, the restrictions experienced by many people with a disability may be overcome.

Types of disability

The main categories of disability are physical, sensory, psychiatric, neurological, cognitive and intellectual. Many people with disability have multiple disabilities.

A physical disability is the most common type of disability, followed by intellectual and sensory disability. Physical disability generally relates to disorders of the musculoskeletal, circulatory, respiratory and nervous systems.

Sensory disability involves impairments in hearing and vision.

Neurological and cognitive disability includes acquired disability such as multiple sclerosis or traumatic brain injury. Intellectual disability includes intellectual and developmental disability which relate to difficulties with thought processes, learning, communicating, remembering information and using it appropriately, making judgments and problem solving. Intellectual disability is the result of interaction between developmentally attributable cognitive impairment, attitudinal and environmental barriers.

Psychiatric disorders resulting in disability may include anxiety disorders, phobias or depression.

Specialist epilepsy nurses

Specialist epilepsy nurses are trained nurses with extra qualifications in neurology, care of a patient with epilepsy and nurse prescribing.

We provide information and advice regarding epilepsy and its management. We can advise patients, their family or carers, other health professionals or other services such as employers about how to manage individual epilepsy needs. We also provide a point of contact between the Wessex Neurological Centre and GPs and other health professionals.

We hold five outpatient clinics a week to review patients after a first seizure, adolescents, vagal nerve stimulation and those with epilepsy that is difficult to control. We offer pre-conception counselling and support clinics. Patients can also access us via phone or email.

How the specialist epilepsy nurses can help 

Some of the issues we provide information or help with most often are

  • understanding and coping with the diagnosis of epilepsy
  • medication management and side effects
  • safety and first aid
  • issues for women (for example, pre-conception counselling, pregnancy)
  • epilepsy surgery
  • driving regulations
  • employment
  • social and leisure activities and travel
  • alcohol
  • national association contact details and local support groups.

Clinical assessment and monitoring

The specialist epilepsy nurses aim to assist patients with all aspects of living with epilepsy. They will discuss any information that has already been given, and review the management of epilepsy. They can also help patients manage side effects of medication and where necessary, adjust the dose. They will discuss the impact of the diagnosis and offer practical advice for managing this. They can also refer patients to other health professionals if necessary. Most importantly, they are here to listen to any questions and concerns.

Information resources

Information is given on an individual basis depending on the patient’s needs. We can discuss issues face to face, over the telephone or by e-mail. We have a large amount of written information on various subjects available for people to take from the outpatients clinic. We also have trained volunteers from the epilepsy information network run by the epilepsy society. 

The epilepsy nursing service also keeps a library of resources in various formats, such as leaflets, books, video tapes, audio cassettes and DVDs, on all aspects of living with epilepsy. These are available to borrow.

Education and training

The epilepsy nursing service is committed to improving and maintaining the standard of care for people with epilepsy.

We regularly run study days for patients and  where relevant, we provide support and training to employers and carers who work with people with epilepsy in the community. 

Voluntary organisations

We maintain strong links with the national associations and regularly teach at their national conferences. We also liaise with the local support groups in our region. Find out more about these in our sources of support.

Pet Therapy for Cerebral Palsy

Photo by Josh Hild on Pexels.com

Pet therapy, or animal-assisted therapy, is a great way for children with cerebral palsy to get greater benefits from physical therapy sessions as well as other types of treatment. Working with animals is proven to be beneficial in many ways and, when added to standard therapies, can help children meet their goals.

Parents should be cautious about choosing therapists and animals that are trained and licensed and have experience working with children with cerebral palsy.

What is Pet Therapy?

Also referred to as animal therapy or animal-assisted therapy, pet therapy is the use of specially trained animals to promote wellness, boost mood, aid therapy, and other broad uses in mental and physical health care. [1]

Pet therapy can be informal, such as when a therapy dog visits a nursing home or hospital to cheer up residents and patients, or it can be more formal with guided therapy sessions that include the animal as a central aid or participant.

Dogs are most commonly used in pet therapy, but all kinds of animals may be involved including cats, horses, and even guinea pigs. A study published by the U.S. National Institutes of Health indicated that “individual and social benefits gained by dog-assisted therapy may aid in the prevention, improvement and development of children with various disabilities.” [2]

Specific situations in which pet therapy may be used include chemotherapy sessions, dental work and other potentially scary or stressful procedures for children, or even adults, physical therapy to rehabilitate from an injury or a stroke, mental health therapy sessions, or for residents in long-term care facilities.

Pet therapy is also commonly used to assist children with disabilities, including cerebral palsy.

The Benefits of Working with Animals

For anyone, including children with special needs, there are proven benefits of working with animals of all types in unstructured or more formal settings. For mental health, being around animals and interacting with them has been proven to lower anxiety, increase relaxation, reduce loneliness, provide comfort, and increase mental stimulation. [3]

These benefits alone are helpful, but they are also useful in breaking the ice or any initial resistance or fear about going through a therapy session.

There are also physical benefits of working with animals, which include lowering blood pressure and heart rate, improving cardiovascular health, and reducing pain. Petting and being around animals has been shown to increase hormones like serotonin and reduce others, like cortisol, which together promote less stress in the body. Pet owners are known to live longer than people who do not have pets in the home.

Animal-Assisted Physical Therapy for Cerebral Palsy

One important use of animals for children with cerebral palsy is to assist with physical therapy. Physical therapy is an important aspect of treatment for most children with cerebral palsy because it helps with muscle tone and balance, mobility, pain reduction, and other physical issues. There are a number of reasons to have an animal in the therapy session, including:

  • Working with animals during physical therapy helps children meet their goals.
  • Therapy sessions are less stressful and children are more engaged and enthusiastic about doing the work.
  • Animals provide physical support to help children perform exercises.
  • Children are often more willing to use the animal than an object for support.
  • Animals motivate children to work harder, to meet their goals, and to return for subsequent sessions.

Pet Therapy Promotes Mental and Emotional Health

The role of animals in helping children with cerebral palsy is not limited to physical health and mobility. Children with cerebral palsy often struggle with mental health issues and behavioral challenges. For instance, ADHD, depression, and anxiety are common coexisting conditions.

Working with animals can help improve mood, reduce anxiety, and reduce stress. Animals can also provide many of the same benefits in behavioral therapy sessions as they do in physical therapy: motivation, support, encouragement, and someone to bond with and help a child be more engaged and enthusiastic about treatment[4]

Other Benefits of Pet Therapy for Children with Cerebral Palsy

Physical benefits and mental health benefits are important aspects of pet therapy, but children with cerebral palsy can also get other benefits from working with animals. One study of disabled children with cerebral palsy set goals for therapy and used trained dogs to assist.

The children previously were all unable to complete standard therapy sessions, but all completed the animal sessions and met their goals. The animals were able to help them break down resistance and fear and to carry on with successful therapy sessions.

These children also saw improvements in communication, becoming better able to tell others what they need or want. They developed greater empathy from working with the dog and were better able to ask for help and provide help to others as a result. Their social skills improved thanks to these benefits they received from working with animals.

Specialized Types of Animal Therapy

Dogs are often used as therapy animals because of how easy they are to train and their love of people, but other animals can be trained to work with special needs children as well. Two interesting options for children with cerebral palsy include equine therapy and dolphin therapy.

Equine therapy is working with horses, which may include riding, petting, or actually caring for horses. Exactly what happens in the sessions depends on an individual’s goals, but working with horses has the added benefits of getting children outside and improving self-confidence.

Dolphin therapy is not common, but it is practiced in some specialized settings. Sessions with trained dolphins can provide many of the same benefits as other types of animal therapy, but there are additional potential benefits.

For a child with mobility issues and pain, as are common with cerebral palsy, it can be easier to work in the water. However, dolphin therapy is relatively new and there is little available evidence that it helps. The number of facilities offering this expensive therapy is growing, and parents should be cautious and only work with those that are staffed by trained and licensed therapists.

Therapy Animals in the Hospital

Children with cerebral palsy may have to spend time in the hospital for treatments, for surgery, and for recovery after surgery. Informal visits from pet therapy programs can help these children feel more relaxed in a stressful environment.

They provide comfort, reduce anxiety, make the hospital setting feel more like home, and offer a feeling of love and acceptance for children who are struggling. They can also help children communicate with and relate better to doctors and nurses.

Pet therapy can be a great way for children with cerebral palsy and other disabilities to get more out of their therapy sessions. From meeting physical therapy goals for mobility to learning how to better socialize and be more engaged with treatment, animals can provide a number of benefits for children with special needs.

As long as parents are careful to select services with trained, experienced, and licensed therapists and animals, pet therapy can be a great addition to a child’s treatment plan.

Introduction & My Story Cerebral Palsy

Photo by ShotPot on Pexels.com

Hi and welcome to my new site set up for people with not only Epilepsy or Cerebral Palsy but other mental health issues as well.

I aim to post as regular as possible on this site as I still have Ken’s Devotions as my main site kenschristiandevotions.com

Along with the followers I already have I hope this site will help me pick up some more. Therefore it is my hope that I connect with people with any type of mental disorder

My Story

I thought to start my new site I would use a video blog that was originally posted on my main site which is the story behind my Cerebral Palsy. Please excuse the slow speech that is down to medication for my Epilepsy.