New programme helps people with learning disabilities stay strong on their feet

22 September 2023

An innovative new class has been developed by the Adult Learning Disabilities Physiotherapy team at Salford Care Organisation, part of the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust, that is providing a unique way to tackle falls prevention in the learning disability community.

People with learning disabilities are at similar risk of falls throughout their lives as older people with 20-40% experiencing at least one fall per year. It is estimated that one-third of falls by people with learning disabilities result in injury and they also experience higher rates of fractures from falls.

The Adult Learning Disabilities Physiotherapy team, made up of Caroline Scallan, learning disability physiotherapist, Keith Lofthouse, learning disability physiotherapist, Emma Jones, therapy assistant and Jonathan Harley, learning disability physiotherapist and team lead, deliver physiotherapy services to their clients in their homes, working to help them gain or maintain their mobility. They noticed that some of their clients could benefit from a focus on increasing strength, confidence, and mobility outside of their homes as well.

Jonathan Harley said,

“We did some research on falls clinics or classes for adults with learning disabilities and couldn’t find anything in the area or even the Northwest that specialised in a falls exercise clinic or class for people with learning disabilities.”

So, we decided to develop our own programme and designed a series of circuit exercise classes that we now hold each Friday to help our adults increase their strength, confidence, and mobility outside of their home.”

The team have been holding 2 classes every Friday at Eccles Gateway centre at 10:30am and 12:30am since June. Each class features a circuit of exercises that focus on balance, strength, and movement. The classes run for 45 minutes and include a warmup, 2 rounds of circuits and a cool down. Each cohort session runs for 8 weeks, and participants receive take home exercises and a certificate for completing the course.

“Most of the people attending our classes come to us from our client base, but we can also take referrals. The only thing I would say is that, for someone to truly benefit from our classes they need to be mobile and should be able to do at least ½ hour of moderate exercise, as well as be able to understand and interpret basic instructions,” said Jonathan.

For people who are interested in attending the classes, the team will conduct a full assessment at home to ensure that the classes will be beneficial to them.

The classes are fully interactive, and attendees can even choose the themes and music for each session. Past sessions have included music from Grease, Northern Soul, disco, and Disney. Family and carers are also encouraged to get involved so it’s a great way to socialise and make new friends.

Jonathan adds, “We are seeing real progress in our clients who have been attending our classes. In fact, one of our attendees recently shared with us that he managed to get a job as an office cleaner after only 6 weeks in our programme. He said he felt much more confident getting around and it has helped him get back out into the workforce.”

For more information contact the team at

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