Wednesday, 14 March 2012
A pro-life perspective on letting go
Rosa's 16 year old daughter Domenica has Down's Syndrome, as did some of the other young people featured. As far as Domenica is concerned the sky's the limit when it comes to planning for her future - she loves dancing and at the end of the programme was thrilled to secure a place at a stage school which teaches special needs students together with their mainstream peers - but Rosa is only too painfully aware of the harsh realities her daughter is going to come up against as she tries to find her niche in the world.
This theme was repeated amongst the other young people and parents that Rosa talked to. Like all parents, those we met in this programme wanted to encourage their children to live their dreams and achieve their full potential; like all parents, they knew that the normal course of things required them to let their chicks fly the nest and live their own lives, for their own good. Unlike the majority of parents, however, they were painfully aware that theirs wasn't quite the normal course of things and that there would be special challenges to address. One of the young people, a young man with Down's Syndrome, had already come up against some of those challenges. His attempt to live an independent life in his own flat had gone very wrong, despite a lot of support from his parents and carers, because his neighbours insisted on being so cruel to him that they made his life in the flat miserable and ultimately untenable.
All but one of the young people featured were still living in the parental home. The one that did have her own home - a 28 year old - was still very dependent on her parents who came round daily to give her care, because as she lacked a formal diagnosis (although she very obviously suffered from a syndrome of learning and physical disabilities) she was not eligible for state funded care of the sort she needed.
It seems that so many people who are carers for relations with mental or physical disabilities end up struggling at some point to get necessary assistance or facilities for them. It is an extra worry and burden that no-one needs when they are already expending (however willingly and lovingly) a demanding amount of emotional and physical energy on supporting their child. A particularly demanding aspect of that support lies in encouraging your child to be happy and positive and see their future as worth looking forward to. The parents of these young people were happy to sacrifice themselves to give their children all the backup they needed, but at the same time were worried sick about the future care and wellbeing of those children once they were no longer in a position to help, and the combined strain showed.
I'm afraid I can't remember the exact words she used, but at the end of the programme Rosa commented that if a society is judged by the way it treats its most vulnerable members then our society is sorely lacking. We need to take a long, hard and deep look at why that is - starting from the very beginning.