Hi everyone! I hope you are doing well and had a great week. This is the second week of my guest writer series and I have an amazing treat for you. Meet Clare, an advocate for people with learning disabilities in the UK, and read about her amazing perspective and guidance for how to communicate and understand people with learning disabilities. Enjoy!!
My name is Clare, and I am a manager at a residential home in England, UK. I work with young adults with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD). I have worked alongside people with learning disabilities for around 8 years now, and I like to think of myself as an advocate for the disabled community. I enjoy working with everyone I have met and see it as a privilege to know and be a voice for them also.
I guess as someone who supports people with Learning disabilities I have experienced both positive and negative experiences. Unfortunately as someone who is as passionate as I am. I take the negatives to heart and personally.
I must say that our local communities are sometimes amazing and sometimes not. We have to continue to teach the local and wider community about how to communicate and treat each of our young people with the dignity and respect that we all receive and deserve. It is surprising how many people still don't understand/accept people with a disability.
I think the main thing we experience is the person with a disability, who is attending an appointment or paying for the shopping, being spoken over by the people working at the facility we are at. They tend to talk to us (the staff) rather than the young person. I think it is very important to make sure the people who work at the facility we are at know who to talk to and how to communicate with the young person. This answer can be found just by asking, it means a whole lot to everyone. It empowers the stranger member and the young person to have a conversation.
We also find that other people don't understand our young people's ways of communicating, such as making vocalisations. I have experienced people 'tutting' or rolling their eyes at some young people. My worst experience was in a pub in the UK where we were shouted at by others because one of our young people was making some louder vocalisations to express their happiness. This time was truly upsetting and hard. Luckily the young lady I was with didnt realise it was aimed at her, and nonetheless we left the pub. Despite the negative experiences we have experienced, we also have had some fantastic experiences too.
These experiences were mainly from people who are aware of disabilities and what challenges they bring. I have been to many restaurants and shops etc. where the staff couldn't have been more helpful towards our young people. Things like making sure the door is held open for us, talking to them instead of me, making sure we have everything we need, or making sure there's enough space for wheelchairs, make all the difference.
I would love to continue to teach people around the UK or at least for now our community about people with PMLD, so they can understand how to approach and respect them. Communication is key and just a hello or a wave to our young people would mean a lot. It really is one of the best jobs ever and I work with amazing people who teach me new things everyday.