I spent two days last week doing a person centred planning training course. I’ve lived and breathed person centred planning since G was about 14 but have never had any official, accredited training. Needless to say I was expecting the course to be pretty much a waste of my time, something I needed to do (to get accreditation) but something I didn’t really need because I was already person centred in my thinking. However, it was a really good course!
It was really good because A) there are always new things to learn, and I did. B) The other people there were lovely, interesting, fun and great to spend a couple of days with and C) because it got me thinking about my own hopes and dreams! Something I hadn’t really done for a while…and in turn (as it always does) it got me thinking about people with learning disabilities and their dreams.
I’ve spent most of the last 20 or so years thinking about my hopes and dreams for my children, particularly G because he couldn’t articulate what his were. That’s not to say my hopes and dreams for my girls were any less important, they weren’t, it’s just that getting things in place for him was so much harder.
One of my dreams when I was younger was to be an actress. I wanted to be on the stage! I loved performing from an early age. I sang solo’s in the school choir and took part in every school production….and I loved it! I’d have loved the opportunity to do this for a career but for a number of reasons, which I won’t bore you with here I took another career path.
Not a long career path as it turned out because at the age of 24 I became a mum for the first time (another dream of mine by the way and a more achievable one perhaps!) At 29 I was mum to three, including G who took me on a most unexpected and unanticipated journey.
But, because of G I have a career that allows me to perform. Okay, maybe not the whole singing/dancing type performance I’d originally anticipated, but I get to stand up in front of an audience. I talk, I hopefully inspire and hopefully have an impact and yes I guess it’s a performance of sorts. My mum now says that my O’ level drama was the only useful exam result I got…she’s right of course the others were, quite frankly pretty crap!
I now get to do training and deliver workshops. I get to see that “light bulb moment” the moment someone just “gets it” and you physically see them light up. And, I get to make people think and maybe change their perceptions or their attitudes. I’ve been lucky in my career over the years (paid and unpaid) to do this with people from all walks of life, from students, fellow parents, professionals who work with us to politicians and Government Ministers and I love it! If someone would have told me 20 or 30 years ago this is what I’d be doing for a job I wouldn’t have believed it! Nor could I have a written it down as a career choice when I took my options at 14 because really…who would put “Mother of a disabled child” as a career option?
I also now have the added pleasure of watching my youngest daughter follow the very same path I originally wanted to take. She’s studying acting at university. I didn’t push her down this route as some kind of “pushy mum” who wanted her daughter to fulfil their own dreams, she came to it herself. Maybe it’s in the genes… who knows! But the pleasure it’s giving me is immeasurable, because she’s following her own dream.
This is something however that is often denied people with learning disabilities, because their dreams seem too out of reach or completely unachievable. I wish I had a pound for every time I heard a professional say …”we have to be careful not to raise expectations” or “their dreams are unachievable… he couldn’t possibly be a train driver, actor, dancer etc”. This was alluded to in Rosa Monckton’s programme “Letting Go” (recently blogged about and something I’m still pretty Peed off about actually!)
Well, our dreams are real, they are often unachievable for all of us but they are still important and within them there are other clues about our character, our gifts, strengths and our interests. We just need to unpick them a little bit, find out what it is about those dreams we like best and that are most important to us and then look for the achievable.
Unfortunately, at the present time for people with learning disabilities the control too frequently is in the hands of other people who have limited expectations (and I include parents in that because we’ve been conditioned to expect less throughout our children’s lives) We need to raise aspirations not quash them. We need to become enablers instead of disabling people more than they already are. We need to encourage people to dream more not less. Life is full of compromises for all of us and sometime those compromises can lead to a very good life… and our dreams can and do come to fruition, even if it’s not in the way we expect them too.
I love what I do. It gives me the most enormous job satisfaction. I honestly can’t imagine doing anything else that would give me the same buzz. Okay so a leading role as George Clooney’s love interest might have been pretty amazing too, but really, like that was going to happen anyway…but hey hang on a minute, what am I saying…. we can still dream can’t we?