Regular followers of this blog (love you all) will know that LB’s future plans (and lack of opportunity, ‘capabilities’, ‘a good life’) are weighing heavily on me at the moment. This is causing me to examine everyday family life closely.
So. I had a meeting in London today then picked up LB from his after school club on the way back. Tom (12) was just home after playing football in the park with his mates. Later in the evening, Tom came downstairs to say goodnight. This is a new development. He no longer expects or wants us to go and say goodnight to him in bed. Half an hour later, LB was sent to bed. After a series of verbal (nudges) orders to “clean teeth, wash face, get pyjamas on” he was ready for bed (and released from our surveillance).
Then I could hear a series of exchanges. Tom was asking LB to turn off his light. This involved various prompts, all cheerful. After an encouraging, responsive exchange, the light was turned off. A further “goodnight” exchange followed. Sorted.
I started comparing Tom’s interactions with LB, with our exchanges with him. Tom, Rosie, William and Owen all talk to or with LB differently to us. As do their mates. They don’t have the baggage of the ‘special needs’ label or of growing up in world in which difference was largely hidden away, influencing their exchanges. They chat. They talk to him as a brother or a friend’s brother. They negotiate, or adapt their chat, to accommodate LB, but it’s still chat.
I can’t help thinking that we need to learn from their chat, their interactions, their casual yet ready acceptance, if we want to allow or enable dudes like LB to lead ‘a good life’. It’s just difficult when his whole life is framed within a ‘special needs’ space with alienating structures and processes dominating it.