Active support

Person-centred active support was developed as a way of helping people with learning disabilities to engage in meaningful activity and relationships as active participants. Instead of doing things for people or to people, it involves working with people to enable them to take part in all the activities of everyday life, no matter how disabled they are. The inclusion of the phrase "person-centred" along with active support, denotes that this approach involves more than just providing opportunities and direct assistance for activities - the ultimate aim is to support people to live the lives they want to live, doing the things they want to do, following their agenda and respecting their decisions. For many people, especially those who have experienced limited opportunities and support in their lives so far, staff and carers will need to support and encouragement them to try new things and experience success.

Taking part in activities is the basis for personal growth and development, for developing new relationships and increasing social inclusion and for increasing choice and control over one’s life. Evidence from research shows that the quality of support which staff provide is one of the most important factors influencing the quality of life of people with learning disabilities – especially for people with higher support needs. Person-centred active support is a way of providing the right kind of support. Although specifically focusing on people with higher support needs, active support is also used successfully to promote independence, provide real choice and control for people and support social inclusion in those with lower support needs as well other user groups such as people with physical disabilities.


Compared with gentle teaching

According to active support, taking part in activities is the basis for personal growth and development and for developing new relationships and increasing social inclusion, while in gentle teaching feeling safe and loved in relationship with a few important others is seen as the basis for growth and expanding the circle of relationships. Also in gentle teaching we don’t blindly follow the choices of a person. When we see f.i. that a choice is made out of fear we try to diminish the fear first, so the person gets an opportunity to make a real free choice.


The focus on teaching new skills and activities and the systematic way of working in the method,

may cause that the caregivers are not aware of the social-emotional vulnerability of a person. The person may become functional independent as a result of his newly learned skills and activities, while emotionally he feels very lonely, because contacts with other are not directed to the heart, but focused on the activities.


This doesn’t mean that the insights of active support cannot be used in combination with gentle teaching. It can very well be part of working in the 4thdimension.