Perceptions of learning disability and appropriate behaviours

We’re living in a society that doesn’t allow discrimination and rightly so. Gender, ethnicity, religion….. disability? Physical disabilities are generally obvious and I feel in the most, people do their best to ‘understand’ and intend to help whenever and wherever they can. Unseen disabilities are another matter though.

I’m talking about learning disabilities mainly, (I know there are lots of other mental health problems that people have daily battles with and hopefully, these are becoming more ‘socially acceptable’). What I’m so knarked about is our lack of understanding as a society about what is viewed as appropriate behaviour. Now, I’m definitely not talking about unacceptable behaviour, things that cause other people harm, but the actions that lots of people view as ‘weird’.

Little children with learning disabilities can ‘get away’ with it to some extent as they’re only young but at some point, I’m thinking probably around 7 or 8, any differences become really obvious and how are typical kids of that age supposed to learn about human differences if the adults around them can’t (or won’t). Once a child with learning disabilities turns into an adult with learning disabilities, why do their relaxation choices have to change if they don’t want to? Because society says so? So what if an adult wants to watch a Disney film by themselves and rewind their favourite part several times? So what if an adult wants to play with kids toys? If these behaviours are not negatively affecting themselves or another, why not? I’ve had carers come to Safe Play unsure at first that the venue is too childish for the people they support. Surely that’s for the adult themselves to decide what is relaxing and fun for them – if they haven’t language, behaviour is most certainly communication and a good carer will know with some time and effort what the adult they are supporting likes and dislikes. How frustrating to have your choice taken away from you.

My professional background in behaviour therapy dealt a lot with changing inappropriate behaviour which was interfering with an important area of life such as learning or looking after one’s self. When a person has their down time though, why can’t they do what they enjoy? Everyone needs time to relax and unwind. I certainly wouldn’t choose fixing broken computers like my husband does but I’m sure he wouldn’t choose a coffee and chat with my friends! Just imagine being prevented from your favourite thing just because someone else didn’t agree with you…..

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