‘We want to be parents like everybody else’: stories of parents with learning disabilities

Kate Theodore, Daniel Foulds, Paul Wilshaw, Alison Colborne, Joyce Nga Yu Lee, Lisa Mallaghan, Mary Cooper, Julia Skelton

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Objectives: This project represents a unique collaboration between creative and research processes using an inclusive qualitative methodology. Method: Semi-structured interviews with five mothers and three fathers with learning disabilities were led by learning disabled researchers, and thematic analysis conducted with input from people with learning disabilities. Results: Five main themes are presented; (1) subjective experiences of becoming parents, (2) perceptions that other people assume people with learning disabilities are incompetent parents, resulting in a need to prove worthiness, (3) experiences of services, (4) overcoming ‘knock-backs’ and (5) support for the rights of other parents. An additional subgroup analysis is presented: fathers feel ‘left out’. Conclusion: Parents felt criticized by others, who they felt questioned their competence as parents unfairly by comparison to those without learning disabilities. The collaboration between academic research and an inclusive theater group allowed dissemination of parents’ stories to wider public, and professional, audiences through creative performances.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-194
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Developmental Disabilities
Issue number3
Early online date8 Jun 2018
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jun 2018


  • inclusive research
  • parents with intellectual disabilities
  • parents with learning disabilities
  • qualitative research
  • thematic analysis

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