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23rd January 2015

Handed on a plate and Spoon-fed

Diverse Hands Holding the Word IndependenceIs it better to provide people with what they need, or support them to go out and find it themselves?

This week I have been pondering the world of students. This is because next week I have to go and teach a bunch of them, but also because I am becoming increasingly depressed by the behaviour of a number of students in social networks I belong to.

You see, the trend at the moment seems to be that, when given an assignment, the default is to ask everyone else where to get the information for it. An example – one chap has an assignment that concerns learning disabled offenders, he has asked in a professionals forum and has been given a wealth of ready information that he can use without the need to read a page. It seems that Google is great but not nearly so easy as getting someone else to find things for you.

Researching things yourself.

I’m an old fashioned gal, I think you get more from researching things yourself. One of the best by-products for me of writing these blogs is the access I have to dozens of reading lists, newsfeeds and journals. Each one can take me off into a realm of fascinating topics and in turn leads me to buy, borrow or download books and articles I would otherwise have missed.

OK, maybe I am being unfair, but this exploitation of other people’s knowledge banks got me to thinking how easy we have made things in the world of the wide web. I can remember my student days and the near-hernia we got from lugging books to and from the library. Our tutors were tough guys, our assignments often teasingly vague, meaning we had to really work to grasp and understand the subject and then work harder to discuss it on the page. Handwritten, largely… but enough of the nostalgia!

When we work with people who have to learn about being independent and develop coping skills, I wonder if our approach is being influenced by this easy access to knowledge. Are we providing people with the answers, rather than teaching them how to seek?


Marcus is 19 and is just about to leave the children’s service for a place in a shared house. The last few weeks have been spent getting him prepared for a new way of life, one where the laundry does not magically just appear, ironed, folded and in the closet. Where meals do not arrive on a plate in front of you, which disappears once cleared to be replaced by another. The care team have been complaining that poor Marcus will really struggle to manage with these new demands on him. He sure will.

The mature, motherly team lead quipped that if no dinner appeared, Marcus would probably sit there waiting for hours. She added that her own kids had learned that food needed to be found, prepared and cleared away when she had to go to work and their dad was out. Maybe Marcus needed to get more savvy too. Now, I’m not suggesting that fending for himself is a great care plan for Marcus, but perhaps if we looked at the skills needed to go out and get what we need, rather than wait for it to be handed to us, more independence would flow.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing. Use of this material is subject to your acceptance of our terms and conditions.

Ginny Tyler

Learning Disabilities Specialist

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