This morning I looked at my book shelf and decided on a topic for the blog based on the book titles. Most of my work is based around supporting people with disabilities or supporting children in main stream or special school settings. But what do we mean, as a society, when we talk about supporting? When I began my career as a support assistant many years ago I was required to offer physical support to a young woman who lived her life in a wheelchair. The physio team came to the college and showed me how to lift her using the hoist, transfer her to the table so that I could then follow the exercises to ensure her muscles were kept working. In the group was a young man who also lived his life in a wheel chair, he had more movement but needed help with opening doors and going up and down hills, (these were the days before DDA, ramps, stair lifts and accessible doors were not a legal requirement). So the support I gave to all of the young people in the group was very much physical. It was all that was expected and all I knew, but looking back I now realise it was much more.
In another role I began to work with people who had other needs, learning difficulties, we didn’t use that terminology then, I cant remember what umbrella term we used. I was working in a local college of further education, here I had my first encounter with Autism. His name was (we’ll say) Brian. Brian had a fascination with cars, he had no reading skills, and few writing skills although he could write his name, his speech was very limited, but he didn’t have nay behavioural issues. I worked a lot with Brian and together we learnt some reading skills using car logos as the tool for learning letters and sounds. It seemed obvious to me then that Brian could learn to read if the learning could be done around his interests. This was almost 20 yrs ago, and yet even today main stream educators dont see this! Brian and I worked together for about 4 years on and off, and the last time I saw him he was in Tesco shopping independently. I also met Colin (again its not his real name) at this time. My first encounter with him was a brief introduction from my manager “Ok Allison this is Colin, you can work with him.” That was all the information I had, I sat in the classroom with him and then found out he had poor vision, a hearing loss, and ADHD. Never having heard of the condition it was a difficult time but we managed to build a good relationship and found ways to allow him to be impulsive and run around. Again I could see the need for him to do this so that he could then focus when he needed to. The last time I saw Colin he was sitting a food hygiene exam, and had secured a part time job.
Over the years I have learnt a lot about different conditions, but I tend to look at them from a different angle to most educators or learning supporters. I use the skills people have and try to understand how their ‘conditions’ affect them. From that information I adapt how I support them.
Support is not just about physically helping someone, it is about making them feel included, involved and able to take part. Building confidence in abilities and building self esteem, allowing people to be themselves in our society. There is more to supporting a person with Autism or ADHD than making them fit into our neuro-typical world, we need to support everyone else to accept differences and help each other.
Lets support each other form now on, regardless of abilities or differences, we all need support at some time.
Enjoy your day and I’ll blog again soon