Thursday, 25 August 2011

'How I'd like my Life to be' by Chrissy - A #Specialsaturday Post

A chance call from the Challenging Behaviour Foundation & a chat with two parents of other adults with complex needs have forced me to think long and hard about the journey we’ve been on with Chrissy over the past few years.

After 27 years of fighting to get Chrissy what I think she needs I’ve become entrenched in trying to sort out failings in the systems designed to support her. Am I failing Chrissy myself because I’m too exhausted and overloaded with information to think clearly anymore? It got me thinking… Have I lost sight of how she would want to live her life?

If she could speak for herself this is what I think she’d say…

‘I’d like to live in my own home with all my own things around me, including my computer, my DVD’s, my foot spa, multi-coloured hairbands, books and favourite pictures. A garden that I could go and sit in on sunny days would feel very calming. I could blow bubbles and play ball out there too. I’d have my own chair and table outside with a sun umbrella for hot days so I could draw or watch my portable DVD, or sit quietly listening to the birds and looking at flowers with my favourite drink or snack in front of me. It would be fantastic if the garden was big enough for me to ride around in my trike, or close to a safe space where I could ride it with supervision. It musn't be too overlooked because I need my dignity respected when I lose control of my emotions & strip off on the lawn!

My home must be close to my family’s. I stay with them overnight once a week and would love to see them even more often, either at their home or mine for shorter visits. No one else could evict me or take my home away from me - it would be mine for as long as I needed it & furnished with my needs in mind. I wouldn't be forced to move to any more unsuitable places where there's no bath, nothing to do, or a string of strangers to care for me who don't understand my needs.

A wall-chart with removable stick-on symbols to help with my daily routine and planned activities for each day so that I'd have plenty of interesting things to do when I’m feeling up to it would be nice. I'd also like daily home-based activities available as I can’t always get out and about.

A bath with a rail so I could climb in and out more easily is a must. Showers are a definite no-no; the spray on my skin feels horrible. My body reacts to the world around me differently to most people's. Sensations that you don't notice, like a breeze blowing in my face, or sand under my feet feel very uncomfortable but broken bones & missing toenails don't seem to bother me. So you need to keep an eye out for unexplained swellings or hidden injuries. I have problems with balance & spacial awareness, & take my time walking on uneven surfaces, around obstacles or up & down steps. I can’t regulate my own body temperature well but fans on hot days & wearing gloves indoors if my hands are cold help. If I ask to wear a coat, scarf and gloves on a hot summer’s day, indulge me - they won’t stay on for long.

Sometimes I appear to have understood what's said to me but, actually, I may not have done; I need lots of time to process information. I can be helped through difficult times by having pressure applied to the backs of my hands, a cuddle, sitting with my weighted blanket on my lap or a massage. If an outburst threatens, I sometimes respond to tried & tested distraction strategies or basic sign language and symbols to de-escalate my distress. You may find it helpful to try & identify a trigger so it could be avoided or minimised in future. If I lose control, I don’t like other vulnerable learning disabled adults around to witness it & react with their own disgust, fear or anger. I can’t cope with other people’s challenging behaviour around me either. My own problems are more than enough to deal with.

Consistently applied behaviour support approaches are vital for me to remain as stable as possible, along with verbal communication, appropriate symbols and sign language. Any staffing or routine changes must be carefully planned and should only take place if they benefit me, & for no other reason. I need help to dress nicely, take care of my clothes & other possessions, shave my legs, keep my hair untangled and my teeth clean. Like most women, I lap up compliments & love to look nice. I especially need help to ensure that my diet is healthy and that my weight is kept under control because the medicines I'm on make me ravenous & food-obsessed.

On good days, I’d like enough support to go out for a walk, maybe to the local shop, or a drive to a garden centre or park. On bad days, I need space to rest undisturbed in my room, or have a good scream. If I'm hurting myself, I need to be kept as safe as possible, with carefully positioned cushions or sharp edged furniture moved. I'd need a safe area in my home, to which I can be directed or carefully moved with planned physical interventions if necessary as a last resort.

If I say I feel sick or start looking vacant or smacking my lips, look out for an epileptic seizure, & help me sit down somewhere. Even short seizures sometimes wipe me out & leave me confused & disorientated, so I may need a sleep to recover.

The local GP and learning disability team must be fully briefed about my condition and able to respond in emergencies – an appointment several weeks ahead is no good as my condition is very changeable and unpredictable. They'd need to be open-minded about what works for me as I'm extremely sensitive to many medications & they can sometimes induce rare adverse side-effects.

My senses get overloaded by any clutter around me at the table when I’m eating or doing an activity. I’m compelled to have two of just about everything from tissues to dollops of tomato sauce but cutting one slice of toast in half or ripping a tissue in two is fine. If I ask 100 times what’s for dinner, try to be patient & distract me but be firm with me, & please don't overfeed me to sedate me. Oh, just one last piece of advice for now - if you don’t make my bed covers all square and neat around me and turn my pillow (I call it ‘cushion’) over when I ask, I may shout at you and throw a strop.

Yes, I know I'm a diva but I have to be to survive in your world.'

This blog post is part of the awareness raising campaign - Special Saturday - raising awareness of people living with special needs around the globe. Please join the cause by joining the facebook page - Following on twitter - @Specialsat and retweeting hashtag - #specialsaturday Reading and following the Special Saturday Blog -">

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