Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging
Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging

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Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging

4 Listening to people who do not use words to communicate

Three of the people you met in Video 2 in Section 1 – Shaun, Cian and Dayo – would be labelled as having mild or moderate learning disabilities. They can lead their lives with some support from their families, friends or paid staff. They also have views on what they want their lives to be like, and can share them.

However, people with profound or severe learning disabilities cannot communicate as directly. Finding out what support they need to enjoy life requires imagination and empathy. Watch this short clip of Ronke, a support worker, who explains how she found out that her ‘client’ loves to invite members of her family to Sunday lunch.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 3
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Transcript: Video 3

Some people might think it's hard work to deal with the family, so they just try and avoid any sort of communication. I think that's rude. I think you should try your best to make sure that person is OK with everything as opposed to avoiding the situation for example.
Can you put it over there?
My client was always eating by herself and I know that she used to enjoy having a good chat at dinner times and things like this. So I thought it'd be a good idea to encourage her family to hang around for dinner. So they sat down and they started enjoying it. And now my client was like, you know, my brother was asking where are you? Like he wants his Sunday dinner next time he comes. You know, it's not something that we have to do. It's not in place, it's not part of her care plan. It's just something I thought was nice for her because she used to enjoy those times sitting around a table.
A little bit of gravy. Without pouring out [INAUDIBLE].
I just think it's nice for my client because she's not always the happiest bunny and it's nice to see her when she's happy.
End transcript: Video 3
Video 3
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Were you impressed with the way Ronke pieced together little bits of information to find a way to make her ‘client’ happy?

In the next activity, you will try using your own imagination and empathy to work out how to ‘listen’ to people who do not use words to communicate.

Activity 3 Listening to people who do not use words

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Video 4 shows short clips of people who do not use words to communicate.

As you watch it, note down three things you could try to help you find out what they enjoy doing.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 4
Skip transcript: Video 4

Transcript: Video 4

Bhavin is 26 years old. He's been living at home until last December. He has autism, epilepsy, and behaviour that challenges.
One of the first memories I have of Bhavin-- I remember seeing him as a baby and thinking, I'm looking forward to seeing him grow up and to develop into the person that I am. Unfortunately, I wasn't to be. I wasn't going to discover how he was going to learn to speak, and how to understand other people, and the natural development the average individual takes.
We're disabled by association because wherever you go, they look at you, you know? We felt we were not part of the community.
There's many things I would see a lot of my friends and their family’s doing, which actually we as family could never do. We could-- very rarely did we ever go away as a family together.
Sometimes he can be very aggressive. He can be very aggressive when he's agitated. And he has obsessions with papers, flowers, collection of key rings. And if he can't get it, if we don't allow him, then mommy gets the kick. You know, it backfires.
I have support. Thank god for that. And they know my daughters for a long, long time. It's not from the first time you can trust people. But when you see they look after your son or daughter, after that, you give your trust.
We are the thing that changes in people's lives. Families aren't. Families stay. We come and go. Some people come to us in their 30s or 40s. They've had a whole life before they got here. And looking at a social work file can give you so much. But actually sitting down with someone who's been there and been the active and responsible person for that period of time is the best way to get information.
So if you don't take time to find out, you are more ready to jump into conclusions. But it’s you that needs to make effort. When you show effort to communicate with them, they see that you carry them along and they feel valued.
End transcript: Video 4
Video 4
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Here are some ways you could find out more about the people you met in the video.

  1. Spend time with them at different times of the day.
  2. Try lots of different experiences and observe how they respond.
  3. Find out from people who know them well what they enjoy doing and who they like to spend time with.

Clare, whose daughter Elinor appeared near the end of Video 4, explains how she found out what Elinor likes doing.

Elinor loves doing lots of things – music, gigs, swimming, food. How do we know? By her behaviour and responses. By the sensual delight she takes in the feel of water in the swimming pool. By her smiles when songs she likes are played. She gives us clear messages.

In the next section you will think more about how the lives of people with severe or profound learning disabilities can be improved.


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