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

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Exploring learning disabilities: supporting belonging

1 Caring relationships

It is known that people with learning disabilities need support from other people. But what may surprise you is that people with learning disabilities can also be carers, providing support to their friends, partners, parents and children.

Activity 1 Relationships in the institutions

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Watch this film about Gloria Ferris and Muriel Mussett. Gloria and Muriel met when they both lived in St Lawrence’s institution and their relationship continued when they moved into the community. Afterwards fill in the table below.

Download this video clip.Video player: Video 2
Skip transcript: Video 2

Transcript: Video 2

GLORIA
Hello.
SHIRLEY
Hello, Gloria.
GLORIA
How are you?
SHIRLEY
Can I order your cab?
GLORIA
How are you? Yes, please.
SHIRLEY
Morning, Jen. It's Shirley at Life Care. Can we have a cab for Gloria to go to White Hill? Yeah, that's fine. Thank you. About 10 minutes.
GLORIA
OK.
SHIRLEY
All right?
GLORIA
Yes. Yeah.
NARRATOR
Today, Gloria first has to take a bus and then a taxi to see Muriel, who now lives with others from the hospital in a small specialised unit not accessible by public transport.
GLORIA
Well, it's country, and it's sort of quite-- I'm not saying it's not nice. It is nice. And it's nice for them to be out from the actual hospital. And again, it's a shame it's out of the way of anywhere. She's quite able to understand what you're saying and aware what's being done. I do much the same thing, except I’m more of like a mother, as well as an advocate to her, because I visit her twice weekly. If I could see her every day it would be nice, as well, and do the things that I used to do with her.
That's putting her to bed, and feeding her, washing her, dressing her. But quite often, she’ll help herself a little bit. They see me as an advocate and a friend. I mean, I go around talking to all of them. I know all the ones that are here from the same ward as Muriel-- Moira, Sibile, Helen, most of those from the same ward.
And they're all wheelchair people in the same sort of position that she's in. And I often help them if they need help. I've had experience of lifting and with them pulling their weight.
[LAUGHING]
She's woken up. I quite enjoy being with them. I mean, she's quite enjoying in the way as she is now. She's doing quite well. And I'm the only one that she's got, as well. So it's both ways, isn't it?
End transcript: Video 2
Video 2
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Table 1 Gloria and Muriel’s relationship

Terms that Gloria uses to describe her relationship with MurielTasks that Gloria helped Muriel withThings that made Gloria and Muriel’s relationship difficult after Muriel left the institution
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Words: 0
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Discussion

Table 1 Gloria and Muriel’s relationship (completed)

Terms that Gloria uses to describe her relationship with MurielTasks that Gloria helped Muriel withThings that made Gloria and Muriel’s relationship difficult after Muriel left the institution
  • mother
  • advocate
  • friend
  • washing
  • feeding
  • dressing
  • Muriel lives far away
  • the transport links aren’t very good
  • they don’t see each other as often as Gloria would like.

The one term that Gloria doesn’t use to describe her relationship with Muriel is that of ‘carer’. This is despite the fact that Gloria was very involved in Muriel’s care in the institution – and after. You may have been surprised to learn that people like Gloria had caring roles in the institutions. However, it has been argued that institutions were only economically viable because some people with mild or moderate learning disabilities did unpaid work when they lived there.

Watching the video you can see that Gloria didn’t resent taking on this role of ‘carer’ – indeed she was very happy to care for Muriel in this way. But the film also shows that the relationship between them was not only about caring. Gloria says ‘it’s both ways’, suggesting that the two women became good friends. Gloria also talks about being ‘like a mother’ to Muriel, suggesting their relationship was deeply felt.

While most people with learning disabilities were very happy about being moved into the community, it did present difficulties for friendships. Gloria and Muriel spent much less time together after leaving St Lawrence’s. Very sadly, other people completely lost touch with their friends after leaving the institutions.

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