"Sledging" by SB, February 2011
Before my break in England, now sadly over, I was working with a family in their home. As usual when I work in homes and families, it was very hard to get five minutes to myself, Although I am not always on demand it does seem like it sometimes.
When I am not working with my client I am constantly trying to solve as many problems as possible that occur while I am there. That is after all the purpose of my being there.
On the buses
Our second journey of the week on public transport was to visit friends in Paderborn. The people we visited are not only our friends, one is also a conductor. The visit was all part of the long-term conductive upbringing of this twenty-year-old young man who wishes very much to become more independent. This is not only in dressing and eating, cooking and cleaning, this young man has learnt all of that. Now it is really important to work on furthering his social skills, travelling skills and the skills that he needs for building relationships, both at work and at play. Using public transport is one of our projects these days, as using it takes us to meet people, visit museums, eat at restaurants, drink in cafes, shop for clothes, go to the cinema and do whatever else takes my client's fancy.
From our visit in Paderborn my client travelled home alone. This is the third time now that he has done this and it is becoming the norm. I, as is also now the norm, took the next and last bus back, two hours later.
This client has three siblings and he has always complained bitterly that unlike them he could not go out alone. He says he cannot call up friends and go off to see them on his own. We are trying now to make up for lost ground, but there is a lot to do. Many of those skills that one picks up when travelling around as a small child with Mum, or with friends, are missing, skills like holding on when the bus starts to move, because that is what Mum always said, or holding the door to step down off the bus if the path outside is slippery. Or choosing to sit near to a door and not walking all the way to the back of the bus, as perhaps Mum would have done when a child would hold her hand.
This client has athetoid cerebral palsy. Until a few year ago he could not venture out on his own although he had learnt to walk independently when he was about three or four years old, long before I met him. He occasionally goes for walks alone in the village where he lives, but getting from A to B under his own steam without someone accompanying him is still new ground to be broken.
Always being accompanied by someone has made it difficult for him to learn all that he needs to know to make it safe on the street for him, but he is there at last. Now he needs to learn how to organize himself to make arrangements for appointments, and how to get to them.
Since my client performed the role of St. Martin in his village he is becoming a bit of a celebrity in the local community. As people get to know him better he becomes more and more involved in the local activities.
One recent motivation for my young client to better his riding skill is that he heard, on the same evening that I arrived, that he will be asked to play St. Martin for the village pageant on a regular basis. The elderly man who usually does the job pronounced that after more than fifty years it is time to hand the role on to someone else.
Not only is my client learning to snorkel in order to improve his breathing rhythm, to keep his mouth shut around the snorkel, to increase his lung capacity, to increase the strength in his legs, and learning how to balance his body in the water. He is also learning to snorkel because his teacher has promised that when he can do it he will take him with him somewhere abroad on a snorkeling holiday! Mum and I hope that we will be asked to join them!
My client was really proud to be able to tell his swimming teacher at the next lesson that he had been practising with me. His teacher was motivated to try the next lesson with the flippers on! An athetoid young man with flippers on, whatever next?
There were a few difficult moments during the start of my work with this young man, this often happens as we get to know each other again and my client is confronted head on with what he can and cannot do. I always suggest he thinks of a few things that he wants to learn or improve while I am with him.
Despite often wondering over the years of working together what on earth I am going to do to motivate him I always know that inspiration will come from somewhere to help us continue with this long-running conductive upbringing. I do get despondent when I feel that I am I not getting anywhere, when I question whether I will ever find something to motivate a twenty-year-old to carry on learning.
At work my client has a group leader who is prepared to help him learn how to fit in socially with his colleagues. The group leader and fellow workers are teaching him about the importance of cleanliness, tidiness, and good behavior in the work place and encouraging him in his quest to find friends.
We hope that this attitude towards work will improve through the activities that he now takes part in. We have made a plan that will keep him busy in his free time. He has extra riding lessons so he can one day ride St. Martin’s horse without someone leading him, he is learning to swim and snorkel for his promised holiday, he is working in the evenings in the family business instead of hanging out in his room watching TV for hours, and he is learning to use the phone to make appointments in order to fill up his Saturdays with activities when taking trips to his other conductor.
When I was discussing the problems of motivation for this twenty-year old young man with a colleague recently, he said to me:
As I write this posting I realise that between us, my client and myself, and the people in his ever-increasing world, we did a really good job in just a ten-day visit, of finding the circumstances to produce new motivation. We are back on the conductive road. Full steam ahead!
During my visit I was ill and I had to stay in bed for a day. When I did not arrive upstairs for breakfast it was my client who came downstairs to find me feeling very poorly in the bathroom. It was also he who came to visit me about four or five times during the day, only once finding me awake enough to talk to him. He perched on the side of the bed and told me what had been going on all day, then he left the door ajar and spoke to me as he painted in our work room next door. It was my client who asked me whether I wanted tea to drink and asked me if I wanted at last to join them for something to eat.
It certainly was hard but what great results we got! We re-discovered motivation.
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