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12th February 2016

Absence of choice

We often forget that in organising and providing ‘ordinary’ lives for service users, there is something rather precious we omit from the plan.

We work really hard to make lots of opportunities available to ensure we provide a range of experiences for people we support and to make sure they become consumers, regulars, members of the community in which they live. We work on social skills, using public transport, coin and note recognition and how to operate ticket machines. Of course this is highly commendable and a vital part of ensuring community presence, integration and respect.

On my way out of the office recently I collided with a couple of service users and a pair of care workers, heading out into the night on the way to the cinema. A few steps further on, off went another person with the plan to have dinner in the pub. A third was being assisted by ramp into the car to go bowling. I jokingly asked if I could tag along, but in reality I had other plans.

Social whirl

I have often thought that the social life enjoyed by the people supported in my organisation is way more exciting than mine. Although I don’t have to consider babysitters these days, or transport, or, happily, finances, I certainly don’t make a habit of going out to eat midweek. The cinema is a rare treat and, as for bowling – well I think the last time I did that, Duran Duran were in the charts

So what were my plans, I hear you ask. Well, aside from writing this blog and the obvious, cooking and eating my dinner, washing up, I had a huge and burning desire to do absolutely NOTHING. This plan was so appealing that I positively dashed home to get to it as quickly as I could. I arrived in my home, shucked off the shoes, put on the radio and prepared for an evening of completely nothing.

Now, this might be an alien concept to some people, those with families and commitments and pets that need walking and so forth. I was once in exactly that position, when free time was rare and ‘me’ time non-existent. Perhaps that why I value it so much these days, because it was hard earned.

Gaps in the schedule

While we are earnestly filling our clients’ diaries with exciting options for leisure, it might be an idea to think about the possibility of a blank page, once a week or so. By this, I don’t mean, “Lets stay in and watch telly” but instead, encourage the clients to fill the empty space themselves. It’s healthy to potter about aimlessly sometimes, especially when your life is pretty tightly regulated by shift changes, mealtimes, medications and the need to attend things. Choosing to not do something is not wrong; it doesn’t signify a decline in enthusiasm or a retreat into solitude.

Choose no choices once in a while, just to see where imagination might take people. If it takes them no further than the sofa, then that’s really okay.

Ginny Tyler

Learning Disabilities Specialist

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