Be curious, be creative, always see potential
I just wanted to share a powerful moment in our Intensive Interaction workshop with Janet Gurney (Us in a Bus) last week.
Participants had been asked to reflect and see how they could put some of what they had learned on Day One of the course into practice before the second day. In Day One we had spent time learning a little about how people may perceive the world around them and the need to observe a person’s, often non-verbal unique language – to watch and listen with all of our senses.
People shared some of their stories and then one woman, Jean *, said she’d been amazed by what had happened with a woman she supports.
Zoe * has lived in a shared house and been supported by agencies for over twenty years. Zoe doesn’t use words to communicate and has little interaction with others. Jean and her colleagues have supported her for around seven years and have always followed the written records, which clearly state that Zoe does not like physical contact. The advice was to avoid contact wherever possible.
This opinion seemed to ‘make sense’ to the team as, for example, when anyone sat next to Zoe on the sofa she extended her arms, appearing to be pushing people away.
After Day One Jean observed Zoe with fresh eyes and started considering the sensations Zoe received from the movements and the physical contact she experienced whilst pushing people. Jean wondered if Zoe may be communicating something very different.
So…. Jean sat next to Zoe on the sofa and sure enough Jean’s arms came out and appeared to push Jean away…..but this time Jean didn’t move away but instead gently put her hand on Zoe’s shoulder and said ‘Hello Zoe’.
Zoe didn’t pull away.
Jean then began to stroke Zoe’s back, applying a little pressure. What did Zoe do? She leaned forward, towards Jean’s lap, and gave a big sigh.
The people around were stunned and one support worker observing the interaction told us she had tears in her eyes and said ‘forgive us Zoe.’ Zoe is now regularly enjoying a gentle massage and her relationship with those around her is starting to lead to a life with magic moments of connection.
We often talk about the danger of the written record – be very careful – both when you read and write about anyone.
Be curious, be creative, always see potential, spend time truly valuing each person and discovering who they are.
* Names changed
** We had learned a little about proprioception in the course.
Here’s the text I sent….
“Hi there Jo,
I have to share this with you. I had the most amazing couple of hrs with Karen, a 16 year old girl and her family today.
I was asked to meet Karen* and facilitate a plan to support her planning for when she leaves school. When asked by the Local Authority to meet her the message was ‘we really want to try this but you’ll probably get nothing out of her. The young woman is in a residential school with 2:1 support, the family are confused by the lack of joined up thinking and action by education, health and social care. They are understandably very concerned about the future. When I arrived the parents seemed far from happy to meet me I could see them thinking ‘another b….y professional!’
It was beautiful. Within the first 10 mins and with me having spoken of the love the family have for each-other, Mum was in tears. Loving tears, tired tears, relieved tears.
The whole session, with a great link worker, support worker, and social worker there as well, turned into a positive gathering. The young woman stayed for the whole time, cuddled next to Mum and Dad and when asked what was important to her about her family she said Love and Kisses. Mum cried again. There were laughs when the dream for the future was to be a ‘mad scientist’. Who knows what could happen eh? The posters really help guide the conversation in an engaging way.
It really so simple isn’t it? A real conversation. Honesty, compassion, valuing of family, curiosity and intentional listening.
Mum and Dad said they haven’t experienced anything like it before and left determined to ensure their daughters voice is heard.
Great day BUT it will only remain great if that Karen and her family are supported by ALL the professionals involved to ensure something positive happens as a result of the time together.
See you tmw.
* Name changed.