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Thursday 20 June 2013

Thas a rummun, bor


Somewhere between Norwich and the East Coast

This conductive upbringing, thas a rummun – as we say in Norfolk

I mean that it is a bit odd now and then.

Sometimes I wonder what I am doing when I work for years with children through to their adulthood, teaching and guiding and watching all that they achieve. With what they achieve they can often at last join in with the games and sports that their non-disabled siblings and friends take part in. Sometimes this is very dangerous, but what do we do? We have encouraged them to be active, taught them how to ride a bike, motivated them to ride a horse, encouraged them to go out in the big wide world and take part.

Do we suddenly say ‘Hey, stop, that it is too dangerous’?

No, of course we do not.

Yes, we make sure that safety precautions are taken but we are not there all the time to keep an eye on things. Sometimes when our clients are out there alone in the big wide world, where we have encouraged them to be, something happens. Sometimes eyes get blackened – Jolly Prof. had one of them last week and Little Princess piped up with ‘I had one of them too, I ran into a post’. She did too, rushing around in the playground.

At other times heads get knocked, teeth get broken, and arms and legs get covered in bruises. Rarely in my experience, however, has a client worn a plaster cast because of an accident, only after an operation.

Laddo’s news

I got news of Laddo yesterday. Laddo has always been a bit of a tearaway and even though he will be 23 years old next week he still is likely to get up to all kinds of mischief.

This time he got out the big go-kart that he received for a birthday at least ten years ago and drove at full speed down a hill. I have no idea where he was as there are no hills in his garden so I assume that he was out and about in the village where he lives. Needless to say he crashed. Now this is nothing new, he is always crashing something. He sat in a car and took off the hand brake once and crashed that!

This time it was different, this time that he crashed he hurt himself. Over the years there have been broken teeth and stitches in his forehead where his glasses have cut him during a fall, but there has not been anything really bad since as a youngster he ran himself a bath as he had seen his brother and sisters do and then got in to it, burning himself.

Summer break

There will be no conductive upbringing at home this summer for Laddo as he is off sick for several weeks with a plaster cast on his arm and stitches in a head wound. There are no broken bones, just torn ligaments but these often take longer to heal than a bone.

Laddo has athetoid cerebral palsy. He has learnt over the years to use his hands well, well enough to drive a go-kart! His left hand cooperates and does what he wants it to do more willingly than his right hand and, thank goodness, it is his right hand that is in plaster, but even so he cannot do much at all independently without his right hand to help him, except eat and drink! Fortunately he learnt at an early age to climb the stairs to his second-floor home without holding on. At that time he could not easily grasp anything and there was nothing there anyway to hold on to, so he learnt to do it without!

Dangerously inclusive

When I receive news like this of Laddo’s plaster cast and just a superficial bump on the head, I wonder about my work and I think what a rummun this conductive upbringing is.

I would not change it for the world and it was lovely to exchange emails with Laddo’s Mum yesterday and know that she thinks the same. It was just another crazy action from Laddo, when his learnt skills and increasing abilities lead to dangerous, inclusive activity with the occasional accident that the family just takes it in its stride.

Mum described the accident, the operation and the plaster cast to me, and then she wrote –

 Es war wieder eine typische Steffen Aktion‘.
It was once again a typical Steffen event.

I remember when Little Princess had learnt enough to go home alone with her rolator or on her bike. Oh what a worry that was, but I have long forgotten that worry and the care that we took to keep her safe – the wave at the door, the peering out of the window, a phone call to Mum that she was on her way, and then waiting till she was in Mum’s sight!

Her bike has tipped over a couple of times she has had her fair share of bruises from ice hockey and football games. There have been no accidents on the roads or on the paths, only when she has been racing around in the park with her brother. She has called and called for help when she got stuck in the drain cover and eventually her brother came looking for her. She has had a couple of black eyes, a stitched tongue and that’s about all. She has probably had far less injuries than I had by the time that I was ten-years old.

The joy of life

But that is what we are teaching these children to achieve, their independence. To be able at a certain point in their development to go out and about in the world alone, just like the other children in their schools.

I remember when Laddo first went home on the bus alone, with me following two hours later on the next one. I remember the first time that Jolly Prof went to the baker’s to get the Sunday-breakfast rolls and how soon after he found he was able to travel to school on his bike alone.

I remember many occasions when I have realised that children and adults have learnt enough to go out in the world on their own. I do not often think about the occasions when Jolly Prof’s bike tipped up, when Laddo slipped over on the ice, or when Little Princess’s rolator got stuck in a drain grate. They all managed and got up and carried on another day. They are all participating in lives to the full, now and then with a plaster cast, a black eye a few stitches and bruises but on the whole getting through unscathed. I do not think about the accidents, I think of the joy that they have taking part in life.

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