Artlink’ s Ideas Team explores creative responses to the  everyday experiences of people with profound learning disabilities. It’s work is based on an in depth understanding of the very personal questions that arise when confronted with someone who sees and experiences the world differently.

“When I was a kid I used to think I could record the noises my sister who has profound learning disabilities made, play them backwards and they would make sense.”Alison Stirling, Artlink Artistic Director

There is a strong urge to make sense of the detail, to look for logic where none appears to be.  But that logic is there, it is hidden behind the necessary routines of medicating, washing, toileting, feeding and modifying behaviours – so hidden that we often don’t have the time to notice. To illustrate…..For people with such complex disabilities knowing that we are on the right track, that the detail we are reinterpreting is of any relevance takes a great deal of time.

For many we know it’s relevant when we learn what it means when the individual responds in a very  particular way I.e. They continue  to stay in the room, regularly responds in way that those that know him or her says is a positive.

We know we are not making headway when the individual doesn’t react, sleep, push us away or when care staff just aren’t interested.  It’s even more difficult when the individual’s passive compliance is more difficult to decipher, when sleeping, staring, no recognisable response does not necessarily mean that we are going in the wrong direction.  For these people we need time to work this out with staff who are invested in the approach.
For the majority of people we work with, just 5 minutes of undivided attention has an impact.  A sad reflection on the quality of interaction they have previously experienced. Stretch that 5 minutes over a longer time period and we find that we are seeing ‘miraculous’ results. Suddenly the individual reciprocates, it might be subtly but they do respond.  That’s the care worker and the person with profound learning disabilities.

It’s all about giving people quality attention over longer periods of time – taking the time to learn from them.

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