Learning Disability and Autism Awareness

Young man looking at his mobile phone

Learning Disabilities or Difficulties (LDDs) and Autistic Spectrum Conditions (ASCs) are often refered to as 'hidden disabilites' because they are not always apparent, especially on first meeting someone. A lot of people with LDDs use 'masking' or 'cloaking' strategies to cover up the difficulties they experience, due to a lifetime of negative responses and stigma.

Evidence suggests that people with LDDs and ASCs may be over-represented in the Criminal Justice System. Evidence also suggests that Learning Disability services could become better at identifying problematic drug and alcohol use, and that Drug and Alcohol Services could become better at identifying and responding to LDDs and ASCs.

Click here to go to working with drug and alcohol users with LD or ASC

Criminal Justice System

More than half of the people in the Criminal Justice System have difficulty in either:

  • Reading information provided
  • Filling in forms
  • Understanding certain words and phrases or rules and conditions
  • Expressing themselves
  • Making themselves understood
  • Telling the time

Would you or your colleagues like to:

  • Increase your knowledge of best practice approaches to working with people with learning disabilities, learning difficulties or autistic spectrum conditions?
  • Improve your confidence and communication skills?
  • Reduce misunderstanding and reduce conflict?
  • Provide more effective and fair support to people with learning disabilities, learning difficulties or autism?
  • Build better relationships with a broad range of people involved in the Criminal Justice System?
  • Meet your legal requirements under the Equality Act?
  • Help more people to move away from offending?


KeyRing Equal and Fair Project

Hugh has previously delivered training on Learning Disability and Autism Awareness in the Criminal Justice System to over 1600 people who work in the CJS in his role as Project Manager of the KeyRing 'Equal and Fair Project' through a grant from Comic Relief.

The training can still be commissioned from KeyRing for £650 per one-day session. It is delivered by Hugh and a co-trainer from the Working for Justice group with a learning disability, learning difficulty or Autistic Spectrum Condition who has been involved in the Criminal Justice System as an offender, detainee in police custody, prisoner or on probation.

To read a post on 'Ensuring Equality for People with Learning Differences in the Criminal Justice System' that Hugh wrote as a guest blogger on the Clinks website, click here.

In the clip below, three members of the Working for Justice group talk about their learning disability, how they came into contact with criminal justice, and their experiences of the criminal justice system:

The training explores what learning disabilities, learning difficulties, autism and related vulnerabilities are; signs that people may have one or more of them; and how these conditions might affect involvement in offending behaviour and the criminal justice system. The sessions will also help you to identify and implement more effective communication strategies and approaches. The training is always tailored to the needs of the specific audience. 


Some useful resources include:

Positive Practice Positive Outcomes - A Handbook for Professionals in the Criminal Justice System working with Offenders with Learning Disabilities 

Practice Guide for Support Workers – People With Learning Disabilities in the Scottish Criminal Justice System from the SOLD (Supporting Offenders with Learning Disabilities) Network.


There is also a good film about how Liaison and Diversion Services support vulnerable adults:



Supporting Drug and Alcohol Users with LDDs or ASCs

Evidence suggest that although people with Learning Disabilities are less likely to use drug and alcohol, they are more likely to experience problematic substance use if they do. Many of the risk factors for problematic drug and alcohol use, such as anxiety and depression, social isolation and unemployment are very common amongst this group. People with Learning Disabilities are therefore a doubly disadvantaged group and currently, drug and alcohol services are often not meeting their needs.

This training will be tailored to your services needs, but would commonly cover

  • Rates of problematic substance use in this group
  • Barriers to accessing services
  • Barriers to engaging with services
  • Psychosocial interventions that work well with this group, such as node link mapping
  • Improving communication strategies
  • Recognising what is 'poor motivation' and what is 'unsuitable support and service provision' 

More information about working with this client group is provided here.

Please contact us to discuss how we can work with you to improve the support that you provide.

Suitable for:
Anyone curently working in the Criminal Justice System or Drug and Alcohol

One Day

Prior Knowledge:    
Previous experience of work with drug and alcohol users or detainees or offenders in the Criminal Justice System would be advantageous

All training packages include a certificate of training for participants and a comprehensive participant's pack that can be customised to include your details.

Although Soma is based in Lancashire, in the North West of England, we deliver drug and alcohol awareness training across England, Scotland and Wales.