An alternative to medication
Short-term Psycho-Education for Carers to Reduce Over Medication of people with intellectual disabilities (SPECTROM).


Many people who have intellectual (learning) disabilities are given medications (medicines) to control their behaviour when they become upset or distressed. These medications are primarily licenced for treatment of psychiatric disorders but NOT to manage someone’s behaviour for long term. A lot of these people are already taking medications for their physical problems. Often more than one medication is given, and the doses can be high. It is very worrying as often nobody is checking how the person is doing on the medication and if they are experiencing any side effects. Those who care for or support people who have intellectual disabilities can help in cutting down the use of medications. This can be done by training support staff on how to help people who have intellectual disabilities by working with them to find other ways to support them without using medication.

Although many support (care) staff currently receive some training on supporting distressed behaviours, it varies in quality and tends not to focus on cutting down the overuse of medication. We, therefore, developed a training programme by involving support (care) staff and other people such as doctors and nurses, and family carers from the beginning. We also asked and incorporated the views of people who have intellectual disabilities about the training. We also talked to a lot of people who support people who have intellectual disabilities to see what they think is the best way to develop a training programme for support (care) staff.

The training has two parts, (a) computer/paper-based learning and (b) face to face training. The training looks at the best way to help people who have intellectual disabilities when they are distressed. The training teaches support (care) staff about the medication, when they should and should not be used and what their bad effects are. The training will also teach support (care) staff the ways to support people who have intellectual disabilities when they are distressed without using medication. The support (care) staff will also learn how to handle their own stress. We gave the new training to a small number of support (care) staff to see if there is any problem with the training. In future, we hope to use this training in a larger number of support staff to see whether it works or not.

Although this training is primarily aimed at support (care) staff, we envisage its remit to extend beyond this group and hope that the information in the training programme will also be useful to service managers, family carers (care givers), Community Learning (Intellectual) Disability Team members, service provider organisations and commissioners. The training programme includes a manual to standardise the training across all settings. This is a standalone resource which provide instructions and PowerPoint slides to help the trainers to deliver the training. This resource is free to use by any trainers, organisations and support staff anywhere in the world as long as they are used for non-profit making purposes and the copyright issue is fully respected and the original source of materials is fully acknowledged in every setting.