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The Finger of Fate

April 27, 2016

I’m just resurfacing for air after Seven Days of Action. There’s a heck of a lot about the week to process and I suspect that I’m going to be doing that for a long time.

Two things that immediately seem to be occupying my head space though.

One thing that I expected to come out of the campaign didn’t happen. I thought we would hear stories in defence of ATUs. Three years ago, I wrote a blog post about St Andrews hospital. Straightaway, the post attracted comments from staff at the hospital pointing out that it was a great place to work and a much needed resource. Even now, three years on, the post attracts about 100 views a month and gets the occasional comment that I had got the place all wrong. I was really hoping for some positive ATU stories, for no other reason, to answer the question – why do they exist? It never happened.

I’m left with the picture of ATUs that I’ve always head. The seven stories and their accompanying photos reinforce the idea that no assessment takes place and from the pictures of carpet burns, broken teeth and bruises, the only treatment consists of massive doses of medication, physical restraint and terrifying isolation.

The other thing that I’m left with is that whatever they think their purpose is, ATUs will never succeed in their “treatment”. For one simple reason is that they can’t con the dudes who they build their empires on. The straight forwardness and embarrassing directness of the typical autistic dude means that they King is constantly being exposed as having no clothes on.

I love Sara Ryan’s story of Connor being taken to the “Emotional Literacy” group at STATT. He stayed for a couple of minutes and then gave the group the finger and returned to his room. One single finger demonstrating that he had all the emotional literacy he needs, thank you very much. Now, if only the Southern Health board had been taking part in the emotional literacy group…..

I was repeatedly told by staff at the ATU Steven was held in that the Unit was “the jewel in Hillingdon’s crown”. Imagine you truly believe that. And then you invite Steven to view your crown, only for him to consistently expose that it is in fact the turd in Hillingdon’s crown.

I wonder whether this daily exposing of the truth of these places by the dudes backfires against them. Are they punished for expressing the truth? I’m not saying it’s a conscious decision to punish but it must be pretty shaming to hear Tianze constantly singing his “Back Home” song. After seven years of “treatment”, it must be galling for the professionals to hear Eden say that he still wants to live in Shepherds Bush. Is there a price to pay for that searing honesty?

I suspect that despite campaigns like Seven Days of Action, it will ultimately be the dudes themselves that bring about the downfall of the ATUs. The fact that even after many years incarceration, their will still hasn’t been broken and the wonderful trait of directness remains intact will be the ATUs undoing.

The finger of fate will win through. In all its glorious emotional literacy.

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From → Social Care

4 Comments
  1. I reckon you’ve got a good point there.
    Thinking back, I had a pupil who was an elective mute. Even trained experienced teachers found this very hard to cope with, because the condition is so personally rejecting.
    At times I had to remove the pupil from fraught situations & a couple of teachers simply couldn’t bear the child in their classes.
    But my pupil had me to pull her out & I had my own room where anybody could be safe and quiet for as long as needed. You don’t get that in an ATU. 😦

  2. Sally permalink

    What has gone wrong with ATUs? People,who end up in them are usually there because their behaviour has become such that the people they live with can’t manage and want help for them.
    The expectation is that the problems will be assessed and so better understood ,and that a plan of treatment will be carried out. I guess the hope is also that when the person goes home other sorts of treatment or assistance will be in place .,The families will have had a breather, . They would have a better understanding of what is going on and feel better equipped to press on. It sounds a very necessary provision. There are times when it is just not possible to do this at home.
    However, I don’t hear of assessment and I don’t hear of treatment-proper treatment with reasonable goals- being carried out.
    Are the ATUs misnamed? Are they now more like holding bays for when home can’t cope and nothing else is around?
    I have friends who would walk over fire to get their young person into an ATU if the ATU could do what it’s name suggests.

    • It beggars the question, why the learning disabled and autistic, cannot be coped with at home.

      They are not mentally ill but can be made so by poor diagnosis, not attending to physical problems and the side effects of drugs.

      And, what difference removal to an ATU makes ?

      And, as these poor people, appear to be a lot worse than when they went in, if we had US system they, and their parents could sue for compensation.

      If, they are so ineffective and abusive, why are they paid on average £4,000 per week of public money, and why if the treatment is so disastrous, do they continue to exist, and can we have not only our children, but our money back.

  3. weary mother permalink

    Finger of fate pointing at Katrina this morning.

    Is she in the headmasters office?

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