Starting Uniquely Me and U has been a learning curve for me. Three and a half years on, I could not have envisaged so many challenges to overcome.
As I explained in the introduction, taking my son out of the education system and being left to ‘get on with it’, and the isolation that was a consequence of that decision. A decision that had further far reaching effects on family/siblings. This will be in more detail in my book. As I then set upon an unknown road, devoting my life/time trying to help my son. Which I have no regrets, only the emotional/physical and financial cost to myself and family. I was driven by the love and concerns for my son’s FUTURE. Every parent will be able to understand and relate to.
When I decided to start Uniquely Me and U for adults with learning disabilities. I had it worked out in my mind how I wanted it to develop slowly, and keep it small in numbers. A very important issue if it was going to achieve the outcomes of friendships/confidence building. Having already searched far and wide for suitable groups, my experience helped set out what was needed for my son and others.
There was one part of all of this I had not taken into account or even thought would be a problem. What the support workers were going to be like who accompanied people to our group? I expected enthusiasm and co-operation from them to help and encourage the person they were supporting to get the best from the group. In most cases this did not happen. This area has caused problems developing group sessions. To offer a quality service for the members, it requires interaction from everyone to make it enjoyable for the members.
As I have explained of my commitment to my son’s development, and now running my group sessions. I am very disappointed with the level of training of some of the support workers, and lack of understanding of what is expected from their role. I have to face up to some very difficult realisations since starting the group. Very limited expectations are put on people with learning disabilities. I am striving to change that assumption.
Over my son’s life I have experienced prejudice, and attitudes of ‘why are you bothering, he can’t do anything’. Given opportunities there is no limitations. This is what I am trying to achieve in the groups. Being able to express themselves through art/music, is having positive outcomes to their lives.
Putting on a performance for the community and an art exhibition, is showing others what they are achieving. It is building their self confidence, and feel part of their community. I try to involve our group in projects whenever there is an opportunity. Our art group contributed to a very large mosaic displayed in Tamworth Castle grounds, to celebrate the anniversary of Athelflaed. This years project is our second musical show, which the members really enjoy taking part in.
We have met some wonderful people over the three and a half years who have been part of our team. Sadly, due to lack of support from their providers, those people are not able to carry on coming to us. This is an area that I felt needed addressing; what was expected from them when they came to Uniquely Me and U. This led to the group having a policy to help support workers understand what we are about. The policy is on our website. I ask anyone interested in joining us to read it before bringing someone to the group to try it.
I would like at some time in the future, to raise these issues with local councillors/government. Also, to find out if this is a local problem or similar in other counties?
Some years ago, whilst being involved in a lengthy court hearing with my son’s father, regarding care for my son. My solicitor made a statement to me that has haunted me to this day. He said, ‘You will have to lower your standard of care you want for your son’. My reply was ‘Never’. Details will be in my book.
This is why I have high expectations for Uniquely Me and U. I devote my time on a voluntary basis to make it so.
Our motto is:
Love Me, Respect Me
In Me Believe, Given Opportunity
I Will Achieve.