Learning Disability Week 2020
Mencap is marking this year’s Learning Disability Week #LDWeek2020 #MencapFamily by celebrating friendship because lockdown can be harder if you have a learning disability. Advocate, Alex Osterritter, talks about how our It’s My Life self-advocacy group in #WestBerkshire is keeping everyone connected during lockdown.
During lockdown the importance of keeping in touch with friends and family has been magnified for most of us. Adults with learning disabilities often find it hard to keep in touch at the best of times, so for our It’s My Life self-advocacy members in West Berkshire we have not only been keeping in touch with them as individuals but also helping them keep in touch with each other.
We have held Zoom sessions and the excitement of being able to see peers and friends on a computer has been almost tangible from the facial expressions from our members; I’m not going to pretend that it has been easy for them to adapt to speaking through the computer screen but the positive feedback is that they loved seeing and hearing from their friends and cannot wait to meet them again in person.
We also have members who do not have access to suitable devices or support to be able to use them, however, those members have enjoyed being on the phone on loudspeaker whilst others are supported to use video conferencing. Feedback has been both positive and negative from the members; whilst most say they loved it and want to do it again, there are a few who say it hurts too much to hear from friends when they know they cannot go and see them and that it might be a long time before the group will meet up again.
Singing and doing the actions for Head Shoulders Knees and Toes is very entertaining and even if we are all out of time as well as tune, we all enjoy it and end up laughing.
To have a friendship we have to have ‘respect and trust’ with the other person; our group has respect and trust for us as group leaders; and whilst we can’t be classified as friends in the traditional sense, we are keeping in touch and we are a friendly voice of both reason and caring.
We have been told on a daily basis how much our calls to members mean.
"I really enjoy the phone calls from Alex and Jenny; they check on how I am and also find me things to do and send me things. I’m not able to see people I want to see yet and miss my family but love all the calls I get with people keeping me updated on what’s going on. It’s nice to know you’ve got friends!”