called in yesterday. Dad had accidentally left the ‘phone off the hook – again – so we were not expecting him. Dad was out inspecting a sale of woodworking tools with mate Neville (Neville claimed he needed a band saw) so I made my godfather a cup of tea and let him talk about Tom. Tom is his grandson….the black sheep according to Tom’s father….the mentally off-balance young man in need of help according to his grandfather. I am inclined to his grandfather’s view. My godfather is a kind man, a very kind man but he is not under any illusions in respect of Tom. He knows Tom is not going anywhere in the world and that Tom is not going to get the sort of help he needs.
I do not know what you do with the Toms of this world. He should be taking medication. When he is feeling fine he does not take it. He does not understand that, because he takes it, he feels fine. If he is feeling bad then he will sometimes more than the recommended dose so that he does feel fine. At other times he will lash out or simply go back to bed. He does not persist. He needs a minder. He needs to feel good about himself. None of it is going to happen. But, at least Tom communicates after a fashion. There are no services for people like Tom. We have closed those in favour of 'integration' into the community - the 'dump them and leave them and, if we are lucky, their families will take responsibility' policy.
I blame disability activists for these policies as much as government. It is what the articulate minority wanted - and got. It is fine for them. They can communicate. They can handle the world. They can get aggressive and demand their 'rights'. The biggest problem among people with disabilities is an inability to communicate and, all too often, a fear of even trying. That does not matter to the articulate minority. That is what they are there for - after all, they claim, they know best. Do they?
After my godfather had left I headed for the library to pick up a book. It was a cool 12’C and showery with it. Despite that the girl is sitting in the rotunda in the park. Nobody else is likely to be there today so she at least has shelter. Early in the morning she heads for a local coffee shop. She buys the iced coffee that comes in cartons that she can choose for herself. That way she does not need to make any sort of contact with the people behind the counter. She buys chocolate in the supermarket. I think the chocolate is her lunch. Terri, who runs the coffee shop, has tried to make contact. I have tried to make contact. Nothing works. She spends her days wandering around or, more often, sitting in the park next to the library. She always sits alone. If anyone esle sits on the bench she has chosen she will move. Once, when she could not get into the rotunda because other people were there, I tried to get her to come into the library because it was pouring with rain and she was soaked through - but she looked so absolutely terrified I backed off rather than distress her more. I think she lives in a "group house" somewhere. It is run by a warden. The girl gets sent out at 8am and told not to return until 5 pm. She spends almost her entire day just sitting and staring into space. I find it frightening. I am frightened for her. I wish I could do something to help but she does not seem to want help or be able to accept it. She cannot relate.
I have talked to some members of the articulate minority about this situation. They insist "she is better off than she would be in an institution". I just think she is becoming even more vulnerable.