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Living Room

January 1, 2014

I thought I’d start the new year with an untypical cheery post – the story of Steven through his living room wall.

Yesterday, I wrote the post about the awful FACS assessment and how I don’t recognise Steven at all from the reams of paperwork it produced. What I’d love to do is to send them a photo of his living room wall and say – “Stick this on the front of your file – it tells you everything you need to know about him”.

When we moved into Steven’s new home in November, I was determined that the living room would be his room, in his house. Walk into the room and there is very little sign that I live there at all. All my stuff – my books, my DVDs are in my bedroom. And everytime I go into the living room, I smile as the shelf units and the pictures on the walls, show that Steven lives there. He is living in his living room. He has a life that is lived.

There are six pictures/posters on the wall – all of them absolutely crucial to Steven. He chose them. From right to left they are:

Raj’s Painting of the stream:

Raj is one of the new friends Steven has made this year. You may remember that he got banned from Virgin Active after a few dreadful women from the water aerobics class complained that he was too noisy. That was that and on Mondays he now comes to work with me at the Arts Centre. Steven and his support worker use the music room where they listen to a compilation tape and play guitar and piano, pausing at “half time” for a cherry bakewell and an orange juice. In the next room is an art class, run by Raj. They hit it off immediately and a few weeks back, Raj presented Steven with a painting he’d done for him. With perfect timing, it was the week before me moved. Whenever Steven looks at the painting, he talks about Raj, and Arthur and Stan, the new friends he has made at Southlands. Such a contrast to the bitter attitude of the aerobic ladies.

Coronation Street calendar:

Steven loves Coronation Street. One interesting thing about that show is that it seems to allow Steven to express an emotional reaction that he is comfortable with. Feeling sad and crying usually throws him and can lead to a meltdown. The other week, he cried when Roy Cropper cried over the news that Hayley was dying and he was able to keep it in perspective. Steven was sad because Roy was sad. Coronation Street also feeds Steven’s love of impersonations and lookalikes. Not only does he think I look like Fred Elliott but I can do an impression of him as well. Whenever Steven meets someone new, he will do a Coronation Street lookalike thing with them – Raj at Southlands looks like Dev; Stan looks like Jack Duckworth and Arthur looks like Percy Sugden. These things play an important part in his communication and interaction with others.

Certificate from the gym:

I’m not quite sure why this certificate is so important to Steven. It goes back to 2009 and was awarded by Adam, Steven’s personal trainer at the time, after Steven broke his personal best on the rowing machine. Adam was great and always made a big deal when Steven had a successful breakthrough, so I guess the certificate represents pride for Steven. The gym was always more about the people there than the exercises for Steven and when Adam left, Steven started to lose interest. The gym changed hands and is now a much bigger affair and Steven started to find the crowds there quite unsettling. It’s a shame but the certificate represents a golden period when we saw the real benefits of people taking a genuine interest in Steven and how he responded.

Family Photos:

Beneath the certificate is a frame with about 12 family photos in. All his favourite people are there but interestingly, pictures of people that Steven never met – my mum and dad for example. With the photos, Steven loves to build up an extensive collection of back stories. There’s a picture of me and my sister in the paddling pool as kids. Steven wanted to know all about the neighbours, what song was playing whilst we were in the pool (Blockbuster by The Sweet), what crisps we ate after we got out of the pool (blue Golden Wonder crisps), where Nanny Beryl and Grandad John were at the time (Beryl was making cheese on toast and John was having a shit) and he’ll round off the story by announcing that, although the picture is probably 1973 and he wasn’t born until 1990, he was in his mummy’s belly at the time. Family are really important to Steven and this collage of photos provide an important narrative to his history, present and future.

Abba World:

We took Steven to Abba World, the exhibition of all things Abba for his 20th birthday, the year Steven was in the Unit. It was touch and go whether we’d get there because the Unit felt it was too much of a “risk” for him to go. This was a few weeks before the first DoL and in hindsight, I know that they had already started making plans. We thought we’d have to kidnap him to get him to the exhibition. Once there, he had a ball and the photo on the wall is a snap of Steven and me singing along to Dancing Queen. It was a great day – we rode in the helicopter from the cover of the Arrival album and appeared on stage with the Abba puppets. People who don’t know Steven well get confused when he throws in the odd Sweden reference. Whenever we pass a reservoir or a small lake, Steven gets excited that he’s seeing an archipelago. He will talk to complete strangers about Michael Tretow (Abba’s sound engineer) or Uwe Magstroem (their costume designer). Abba are a good “let’s try and distract from this meltdown” tactic. A quick enquiry into what colour jacket Bjorn is wearing in Fernando, normally stops a meltdown in its tracks.

Whistler’s Mother:

Pride of place goes to the print of Whistler’s Mother. Visitors get a bit thrown by this work of art amongst all the popular culture in the room but everything falls into place when Steven tells them what happened when Mr Bean went to America. Mr Bean saves the day on so many occassions. First thing in the mornings used to be a tricky time for Steven – all theat unfilled space of the day lying ahead. Now, we start each day in the same fashion: bath, fruit and then a DVD/video. Monday is Top of the Pops; Tuesday is Men Behaving Badly, Wednesday and Saturday is Mr Bean; Thursday is Gladiators; Friday is Fawlty Towers and Sunday is Coronation Street. They start the day in a settled mood. Steven has an encyclopedic knowledge of Mr Bean and is never happier than when he’s recounting one of his adventures. As usual, every story must have a backstory, so we know what sandwich filling Angus Deayton had in the park bench scene, why Robin Driscoll had suddenly become blind at the bus stop scene and who was driving the army tank when Mr Bean’s car got flattened. Of course, there was once the time when Mr Bean nearly cost Steven his liberty. I’ve written about it before but the Unit were compiling their evidence to send Steven to the hospital in Wales and they had put together a whole page of “incidents of concern” where Steven had been throwing things like jars of coffee, bottles of sauce and a tub of marmite, onto the floor. I tried to explain that Steven was acting out Mr Bean and pointed them in the direction of the episode where Bean redecorates his flat and drops all the above items on the floor but they wouldn’t have it and these “acts of aggression” remained on file as evidence of his challenging behaviour. And it still satisfies me that Steven’s lookalike for the social worker from 2010 is……. Whistler’s Mother.

There are other things in the room that mark it out as Steven’s space – his Basil Fawlty mask, his proud collection of Take That and Beautiful South CDs, his Gladiator annuals with the cover of Jet, who makes him go a bit soppy and red, on display. The latest addition to the living room is a set of Abba coasters that my sister got him for Christmas –

“Dad – it’s a?……….

“They’re Abba coasters Steve. Place mats”

“Dad – a coaster is a?…….”

“A coaster is for putting things on”

“Putting things on……..”

And with that, the Abba coasters now have a remote control placed on each of them.

This post may not be a FACS assessment. But I think it’s a good snapshot of who Steven is, what floats his boat and what makes his life worth living.


From → Social Care

  1. Cathy B permalink

    A Heartfelt Happy New Year! I totally get Steven’s wall. I recently moved house and the wall in my living room/bedroom is an irritating shade of pink that I have to look at it every waking hour. Before my health failed I would have redecorated without a thought but now I’m not well enough to even arrange for someone to repaint it for me. Then I hit on a solution: I write on it! I use it as therapy. There are song lyrics (Spandau, Eminem) and quotes from Douglas Adams, TV vampires and the Last Dalek. An Arabic translation of a Florence & The Machine lyric has pride of place, waiting for a time when I’m well enough to get it tattooed around my wrist (I have an idea it will act like a protection spell – I watch too much “Supernatural”!). The wall is no longer the hated pink monstrosity that invades my space but it’s now part of how I get through the day. I think we all need a wall like Steven’s in a way.

  2. Jo Curphey permalink

    Happy New Year to you and Steven! I loved reading this post. As a mum of an Autistic son who is passionate about Thomas and Dr Who, I know how blissfully happy it makes him to be surrounded by all his favourite things. Steven’s wall sounds brilliant.

  3. You’re so right! I feel the people concerned with all the bureaocracy never get to know the real person – it’s very sad and makes estimates so inaccurate. Happy New Year to you and Steven!

  4. angela permalink

    please please if you can time can your post a pic of the painting of whistler’s mother……i cant imagine it but it sounds amazing…and the thought of it always makes me smile…thanks for sharing x

  5. Kay permalink

    For Angela:

    and the Mr Bean version:

  6. Karen permalink

    I am more and more of a Steven groupie….Corrie is the very best! 🙂

  7. Emily permalink

    Happy New Year to you both. I hope that 2014 brings stability and happiness xxx

  8. Reblogged this on arthur battram|musings|scraplog and commented:
    This is why I’m not entirely happy with what passes for ‘reflective practice’ in our beleaguered occupation of work for, and of, play, which I love.

    I learnt a long time ago, from Carol Benson of HIPPO, a playscheme charity for children with disabilities in Bradford, that we can learn so much about playwork, in an accelerated, more vivid way from playwork with these lovely and challenging special children.
    In the same way, Mark Neary’s disgust at the form-filling butterfly-impaling, data-grinding mechanisms of a machine which processes the raw material of human love and compassion into targets met and outcomes ticked off.

  9. Kay permalink

    Interesting reflection on the necessity for multi-linguicity (is that a real word or did I just make it up?). Anyway, the need for people to communicate with others in a language that the others can understand:

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