Flip Reverse It
One thing has bothered me since I wrote the piece for the BBC website about the language of the social care world. In the article, I quoted someone from within the field who told me once that the reason why phrases like “accessing the community” are used is because there is a lot of pressure on staff to present everything the learning disabled person does as having a value. This was borne out from several of the comments on the BBC Ouch page where many professionals from the social care world echoed this belief – they may not agree with the language but it is important to promote the value of a learning disabled person’s life.
This is total bollocks.
I’ve started to write the Carespeak book and a recurrent theme through every chapter is that it is important to consider that the complete opposite of what is being presented to you may be the actual reality. For example, if you are having “independence” bellowed at you, you may find yourself feeling more restricted than ever. One of my favourite therapy books is “The Shadow in The Helping Professions”. The book explores the hidden agenda that may be at play, which is always an important aspect to reflect on. One of my closest friends has a brilliant operating position that “there is always a part of ourselves that is up to no good”. Once we acknowledge that, it is fine. The book makes a similar point – be alert to the shadow being in force when something is being forced upon you.
This weekend, I was reading a blog by a woman with three children, one of whom has autism. In her son’s care plan, she was bemused by the statement that her son is “engaging with rebound therapy five times a week”. This was news to her! It took her a while to decipher the code but eventually she realised that it related to the trampoline she’d recently installed in the garden. Rebound therapy has value – playing on the trampoline doesn’t.
By reclassifying the family activity of trampolening into rebound therapy, a whole industry springs into action. Social workers, care plan coordinators, psychologists, behaviourists all suddenly have a purpose. And that for me, is where the value bit comes in – it boosts their purpose, justifies their salaries. Calling it rebound therapy doesn’t add any extra value to the service user but by heck, it makes the system feel like they’re offering something valuable. And therefore, by default, the people in the system become valuable. It’s a self-perpetuating, self important illusion. A very normal family activity that the young lad gets an awful lot out of has suddenly become a vehicle for the sustaining of a whole industry.
I had a problem with Steven’s old social worker back in 2009. She wanted Steven to attend citizenship classes instead of going to his water aerobics group. “What did you learn at the citizenship class today?” having much more value than “who did you chat to at the water aerobics group?” And I think it was problem that we,as a family, organised the water aerobics group for him – she could claim no part in this part of Steven’s life. He went to the citizenship class once – didn’t understand what he was doing there, got terribly anxious and had a meltdown and never went back again. Compare that to the pleasure Steven gets at water aerobics when he’s chatting away to his elderly friend Sid, as they bop away to In The Navy. Something with “value” may not be remotely valuable to the person.
I don’t want to compromise Steven’s quality of life and the things he finds valuable, by enabling someone else to think they are adding value to his life when really it is about pumping up their own sense of value.
From → Social Care