Zoe Belford

Hello, I am Zoe Belford. I am the owner of Occupational Therapy Consultants (OTC) Ltd. In this first blog, I would like to introduce myself and my company and provide an overview of the benefits of assistive technology (AT) and occupational therapy (OT) to people who have a learning disability (LD) and the community health and social care teams that support them.

I have been a Consultant OT for 12 years. My roles have included OT and AT project management and clinical services to local authorities (LAs), NHS trusts and care providers. The majority of my clinical experience has been consultancy services to community LD teams in England and Wales. We work with people who have LD of all ability levels, supporting their occupation in independent living.

OTs are experts in assessing activities of daily living and activity analysis. We use AT as an objective assessment tool and provide assessment for AT and OT equipment. This could include epilepsy sensors or a floor level bed to reduce falls risks. We also work on skills development to enable people with LD to be as independent as possible. Where appropriate we adapt the environment, our sensory integration trained therapists consider sensory needs, which is exceptionally important for people who are on the autistic spectrum. Our holistic approach has increased the safety, privacy and dignity for people with LD. We have enabled people to move on to the next stage of independent living, using the least restrictive approach to care, so people with LD fulfil their potential and get the care they want, when they need it.

OTC’s independent, objective and evidence based assessments have supported our clients (LAs, NHS etc.) to provide personalised care packages (just the right amount of support). We have a proven record of exceeding efficiency savings targets set for us by LAs. For example, we safely saved one LA over one million pounds, over a two year period. These savings are ongoing.

We believe OTC is unique, in the fact that we are consultant clinicians actually working in the client’s service at both managerial and ground level, with people with LD, carers and alongside the community team’s health and social care professionals. We have demonstrated that culture change is best done from within by successfully embedding AT into core practice and improving independence and safety for people who have a LD.

Here are some of my best practice LD and AT tips:

  • Understanding the specialist needs of people with LD are paramount
  • Support people with LD to be as independent as they wish to be
  • Care provision should be personalised to meet a person’s unique needs
  • Use objective, independent and evidence based practice
  • Change culture from the inside, on the ground to embed AT
  • Use a graded approach to introduce AT to people with LD
  • Care provision should be as least restrictive as possible
  • Be open, transparent and accessible to people with LD and carers
  • Ensure ethical considerations, mental capacity and best interests
  • Personalise AT to meet a person’s LD, physical, mental health, sensory and environmental needs and the needs of the people supporting them.

In my following blogs, I will detail the benefits of AT (or personalised technology) in LD services. In the meantime, please follow us on Twitter @OT_Consultants or connect with us here