August 29, 2012 by dontbringlulubook
We have looked at Louise’s life in and out of residential schools and institutions as a child. Being an adult with special needs has its additional problems.
During part one of ‘Home Sweet Home’ Louise had experienced mixed treatment. Yet her last school had been set up by an individual with experience of learning difficulties and Lulu thrived.
Once Lulu turned 16, however, she had to leave the school where she had progressed so well. She was transferred to Laughton where the staff were caring but Lulu’s behaviour and enjoyment in life worsened. The ‘time out’ method was frequently used – placing the ‘troubled’ person in a secure room until they calmed down; a method so controversial that it has now been stopped.
Lulu stayed at Laughton Lodge with mixed responses. Her tantrums, when released, were worse than ever and her increasing strength as she grew made them dangerous. She would be withdrawn, quiet and almost retire into her own mind. On other occasions she would be on stage in pantos, happy and relaxed.
Lulu may well have stayed there for the rest of her life had a new initiative ‘Care in the Community’ not come about. With this push for people to be included in their own homes and not in a bigger institution, the Lodge was to be closed.
This was a great turnaround for Lulu. A house in Eastbourne with a garden in open countryside. Only seven residents, each with their own room. Lulu had a ‘key worker’ and together helped to change Lulu’s life. Trips out, shopping ventures where Lulu had a say in what she bought, eating out, holidays to the Isle of Wight. She attended College, learning how to cook, and went swimming, achieving a basic swimming certificate.
Her progress was remarkable and eventually she moved into another house deemed to be more like your usual house-share rather than a dedicated specialist home. Her tantrums were reducing and she even started to accept that if someone said they would be there at 2pm, they might not actually turn up on the second.
She continued her education – numeracy and literature, horticulture, sewing and knitting – and even held a paid job. Socially she expanded to 10-pin bowling, cinema & theatre visits.
Like everything in life, the negatives would start creeping back in again. Violence and screaming fits were increasing and then a move to a new home because of the deterioration of the building did not help matters.
Yet crumbling buildings and closures of homes was not the only causes of additional turmoil in Lulu’s life.
Residential care is expensive. There is no denying this. However money is one of those motivators for change and this the Councils had attempted to do.
After Lulu had settled in yet another care home, the Council attempted to move her on because of the cost.
Once again, her social life and achievements were dismissed out of money. It was only the stubbornness of the Onions family, rallying together to fight this decision, that Lulu was able to stay in the right environment.
Life was not straightforward. Yet that was all Lulu and her family wanted. Care, education, and a safe, happy environment. They were not asking for much.
Nowadays information is easier to find; organisations have been set up to assist families looking for the right environment; care ‘watchdogs’ are in place to ensure no substandard treatment occurs. Of course even now, with all these ‘helpful hands’, the right quality of care is still difficult to find.
Back then, you had to accept what you were given – for better or worse – unless you had a close-knit family with the strength of characters to fight for what is right.