I was away for five days last week. It seemed kind of good timing as LB was a lot more like his old self. I was at the Nordic Network of Disability Research (NNDR) conference in Finland where several papers were about choice, autonomy and learning disabled people.
Rich took my mum and Owen to see LB while I was away. He was fairly disengaged and not doing much. Going to see him yesterday evening, after this break, was pretty disheartening. It made me want to toss the whole choice/autonomy agenda in the nearest skip.
His anxiety levels/aggression and hostility have seemingly reduced. Fab. At the same time, he basically spends every day watching DVDs. Unless there is the option of a trump card outing, a ‘b’ card; burger or bus museum. This is in contrast to his school timetable a few months ago.
We’ve consistently said/thought/believed/argued that LB, and dudes like him, should lead a productive life. [I’m seriously boring myself now saying this over and over again with no sniff of a productive life anywhere in sight round this way, but I refuse to give it up]. Outside of some small and hugely oversubscribed/or hidden away pockets of brilliance, there ain’t much substantive choice for young learning disabled people. Especially with current cuts and welfare reform.
Call me a crappily cynical old baglet (yep, please do, because I’d love to be proved wrong), but it strikes me that the ‘choice/autonomy’ agenda is a bit of a cheap and effective tool really. It doesn’t cost much to ‘choose’ to watch DVDs all day, with an occasional ‘b’ outing. The long term implications (outside of cost – health, social, emotional and political) of people leading lives like this are too enormous to even begin to wince at.
One of the presentations at NNDR (twitter feed #nndr2013), was by Alan Roulstone who talked about choice, autonomy, community and risk. One of his conclusions was the importance of engaging with a “realism that never lets go of ambition” and “ambition that never lets go of realism”. He was weighing up risk and vulnerability in terms of hate/mate/(and general neglect) crime, but I wonder if his focus on ambition is a bit ambitious in reality [sorry]. Ambition, for learning disabled people, is a bit of a stretch. And way too pricey.
There is a new realism for LB though. About doing very little with very little expected.