I was thinking about good manners this afternoon...while sewing actually. And I remember how strict we were when we had our people...
They had to say 'please' and 'thank you' otherwise we'd come down on them like a ton of bricks and not having speech was no excuse...
But we needed to be stricter...is that the right word...than normal families with normal people...our people had multiple disabilities and caused quite enough consternation when we were out and about without adding to the general public's dismay by being rude as well...
Geoffrey lumbered about for instance...he was awful tall and a bit clumsy, always falling over his own feet...and he'd sort of lurch into an unsuspecting woman pushing her shopping trolley or trip over a babies pushchair...so Geoffrey's first lesson was to remember to say he was sorry...and then to sound as though he meant it. One lurch into somebody's trolley Geoffrey and you'll stand outside while I finish the shopping...sometimes that worked...sometimes it didn't.
He did quickly learn about apologising though...encouraging him to sound as though he actually meant it was slightly more difficult!
Kim was altogether different...a truly miserable little woman was Kim...always had a sour expression on her face and only spoke if under duress...that'd have been me giving her a sharp poke if someone said hello to her and she ignored them. Kim used to wander off as well the minute we took our eyes off her...I bought one of those wristlet and bendy plastic ropes people use for toddlers...her wristlet hidden under her sleeve as was mine. That way she couldn't suddenly decide to disappear...you couldn't hold Kim's hand...she make her hand go all limp and sort of moist if you did.
No-one needed to teach Trevor basic manners...the problem with him was the fact he went totally over the top with a hundred thank you's when one would have sufficed...he was a bit of a creep actually was our Trevor. And he'd lie in his teeth about anything and everyone...very convincingly. Even his Social Worker called him a lying little toad...Trevor just laughed like a drain and asked were there any cakes in the kitchen because he hadn't had any lunch...which he had of course.
John had Down's...he was a big cheerful sort of a chap who loved Himself to bits...and he adored the television, especially anything remotely violent...he wasn't much of a problem all things considered. We used to have John on respite care to give his foster parents some time to themselves...
Richard...we had two Richards...the first Richard was the victim of severe neglect in his early childhood...it had left him with huge problems. The most pressing was his epilepsy which was virtually out of control...he wore a leather helmet for protecting his head when he fell over...which was frequently. He pulled the wash basin off the wall while in the throes of a seizure and taking him out anywhere was pure hell...you could guarantee he'd be sick and he'd fit until the cows came home the minute we arrived...be it the seaside or the local shop. Richard was also a foster child, who we took for weekends and holidays...
The other Richard had spent his entire life in a long stay hospital...he was a miserable, grumpy man in his fifties when he came to us...devious and crafty and exceedingly violent when he was angry, Richard was very nearly beyond help...we struggled with him...and in the end he had to go. It was some time afterwards, when he'd returned to the hospital he'd come from, that a Social worker told me his notes had...clearly written in bright red ink...not ever to be released into family care...on the cover. I'd felt guilty you see that it hadn't worked out...
Little plump Georgina had Down's...she had very limited speech and couldn't dress or wash herself...she could be a total sweetheart and then again she was more often a thorn in my side. It was Georgina...with her speech hitherto limited to Mummy, Daddy, Loverly Sue and Loverly Neville...who heard and repeated me saying 'oh buggar' when I dropped a dish of lasagne...she greeted the 'bus driver and the assistant on the 'bus the following morning with a loud and perfectly clear 'Oh Bugger'...they fell about laughing...she said it in shops when we were buying cream cakes for tea...in the Sea World Centre when we were intent on picking unwilling sea creatures out of the 'petting' pond...she said it in clear perfect upper class English when her sister came to visit...her poor sister almost had apoplexy on the spot while I suddenly found something terribly important to do elsewhere...
I'd started this blog with the intention of telling you about Makaton, which is a simple and easy to use sign language for people who have a learning disability and no speech...then I sort of drifted away from what was supposed to be the main topic.
I know when I've written before about our people you comment about how wonderful we were...we were just one of five small homes in the area...we took those who were described as having challenging behaviour...but all five couples took on the people who would otherwise have been forgotten about...usually rejected by their families and pushed about from one big institution to another, they landed up with us and people just like us.
We did all of us, approach the care of our people in quite different ways...you did need the ability to constantly change your boundaries...but don't think we were in any way special. It was simply what we did.