In the first of this 13 post series I wrote about how it came about that Lucy went onto the pitch with the team at Batley Bulldogs for their championship game against Halifax Panthers.
Most of the messages inviting her to come along to meet the players and have a treat of a day came in the evening after she’d gone to bed and I replied to them all saying wow, great, yes and thank you. Then I thought more. Was this the right thing to do? Who was the most excited about this? (Drew pointed out it was almost certainly me.)
There were two main worries in my mind. Lucy’s learning and communication disabilities mean that she lives life in the here and now. Yes she’d found her way to the page she has to talk about the rugby but my ingrained training as a Speech and Language Therapist had me questioning did she REALLY understand what she said? Was all this fuss coming under false pretenses?
I was also worried what this meant for her ability to choose for herself about an experience like this. Again though, she is a here and now kind of a person. She would not have a full understanding of what was being offered at the moment. Given the complexity of her needs she may never. So where does that leave her? Never taking opportunities because she can never completely say her preference beyond the here and now? That seems unfair and massively limiting.
So, having been true to form and finding worries in the possibility of a truly wonderful experience I chatted to Daddy vs AAC (Drew) and gave myself a bit of a talking to.
Not one person in the community at Batley raised the question of whether she had ‘really’ asked to watch the Bulldogs. Every single person presumed competence and attributed meaning to what I shared. What are ‘presuming competence’ and ‘attributing meaning’ you might ask? They’re fancy terms used a lot in the community around AAC (Alternative and Augmentative Communication) that basically mean ‘listen’ and ‘believe’. This came naturally to all involved except me. Why didn’t it come naturally to me? The scientific training of a Speech and Language Therapist has us question everything and interrogate every action to find proof maybe. Natural, fun and spontaneous moments like this are at odds with the medical assessment- intervention model we train in. In short I was over analysing, I was not presuming that she intended even some of what she said. She needs everyone in her life to believe her and listen. At this point everyone, including strangers, was doing this except me.
Then to the worry about what Lucy would have chosen to do. Honestly I don’t always worry so much about this. We’ve always been keen to give her lots of experiences and see what she enjoys and to take it from there. We’ve had wins and fails (win: skiing fail: donkey sanctuary).
I think the fact that this was going to be so public made me really think a bit more about it. So I chatted with Drew, what do we know about Lucy? We know that she likes going to Mount Pleasant and enjoys the atmosphere. We’ve got enough proof of that. We know she likes meeting people, she likes fresh air. She likes movement in her chair. All good reasons to think she would absolutely LOVE the plan to meet the players and go out onto the field.
So what was the outcome, win or fail. I’m sure you can guess. It was a win but with some definite learning about how Lucy has developed over time. She was not quite as easy going with lots of new people as she’s been in the past. She’s growing in awareness and maturing. On balance it’s a good thing that she understands that a little waryness is needed in a new situation.
More on that and how we used strategies to prepare her for the day in post number 3 tomorrow.