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What sort of society allows the social worker, without the parent present, to interview the ‘client’, and after half an hour decide a flat in the community is an appropriate setting?The atmosphere in the house is that of any group of young people living together.She is unable to tie her shoelaces or her dressing-gown cord.She cannot put her hair in a ponytail or go out on her own.In those cases, the person with the disability is as self-aware as anyone is, but when you are dealing with a mental disability the issues are much more fraught.The looming question, that colours every decision I make, is: what will happen to Domenica when we are no longer around to look after her?This young woman is not capable of making such a choice, and needs support and guidance, not another packet of crisps.Another mother wrote to tell me that an Adult Services Reviewing Officer had written to her daughter, asking her to think about her ‘goals for the year’, and what she was ‘hoping to achieve’.
For the past 28 years he has lived and worked at Bystock Court, a residential home in Devon for 35 adults with severe learning disabilities.
I have to make sure Domenica has certain skills that will perhaps, in the future, enable her to get out to work, and be part of a community.
She has already done a week-long waitressing course at Chalk Farm Hotel near Eastbourne, which employs and trains only people with learning disabilities, and I will encourage her to do more in that vein.
There is no allowance for the fact that a disabled child will become a disabled adult, seemingly no understanding that a lifelong learning disability is exactly that – lifelong.
There needs to be a recognition that a learning disability does not change from childhood to adulthood.