by Carole Hodgson
It’s Cervical Screening Awareness Week this week. It’s also Learning Disability Week. So it’s appropriate to be talking about health issues that affect everyone.
Cervical Screening, or a Smear Test as it used to be called, is something that I for one have always taken for granted as something I can access with ease. This isn’t always the case if someone has a learning disability or is autistic.
What do people know?
When we talk to people who draw on our support and ask what they know about cervical screening, the subject is greeted in different ways. There can be embarrassment to fear and all things in between, including no knowledge at all.
It has been surprising to find out how many ladies have never been supported to have a screening test, for many reasons.
The importance of health care
I’m Carole, I work for MacIntyre in Derbyshire, leading on the MacIntyre Inspired 4 Training (I4t) Group. I also take the lead on the newly formed local family engagement groups at the Lifelong Learning Centres here.
We cover many topics at i4t including lots around health. We work with MacIntyre’s Best Practice and Health Teams and have worked with the local Healthcare Trust.
The local family engagement groups talk about all sorts and often health care is discussed at length.
How to support people with Cervical Screening
At a recent meeting a query was raised by a mum how best to support her daughter to have a Cervical Screening test done.
Looking at language
We have looked at the language we use because sometimes the biological terms for parts of the body cause embarrassment. We also recognise that we have to be careful to not pass on any negative feelings of our own about a procedure.
Some expert accessible training
Sometimes it’s best to consult with the experts! We are really lucky and have a Learning Disability Strategic Health Facilitation Team here in Derbyshire who have been very happy to visit our i4t sessions to talk to the ladies about topics like this, and so we invited them to the Queens Park Lifelong Learning Centre and last week Lynn and Jodie visited.
One lady didn’t want to join in, but we left a chair for her to join in when she felt comfortable, which she did. Another lady was very quiet and sat with her arms folded the whole of the time. Lynn and Jodie explained why it is important to have a test and started by asking ladies to name parts of the body, and added them to the outline drawing of Jodie.
Inevitably the word for ‘down below’ cropped up, it caused giggles but everyone knew what was being talked about and knew babies came from there. Once that was out of the way the conversation flowed.
Top tips for the appointment
Lynn and Jodie passed on Top Tips like:
- wear a skirt
- ask for a longer appointment
- take a friend or carer
- ask to meet the nurse or doctor before the appointment
- take something that gives you comfort e.g. music or a stress ball.
A good outcome
They talked about what happens at an appointment, and what equipment is used. The ladies got a chance to handle the speculum and the brush that is used. They found out that you can ask for the appointment to stop at any time, that if the speculum is too painful there is likely a smaller one can be used, that everything is their choice and can be done at their pace.
Everything was done in a relaxed way and best of all two of the ladies we support were going home to ask about going for a screening test.