Thursday, 18 June 2015


Telling how it is
Not just with learning disabilities

Debs Aspland writes –
As you enter the Special Needs Jungle, you will come across many different types of people; the ones who will help, the ones who will hinder; the ones who make you smile, the ones who make you cry; the ones who inspire you and the ones who make you feel like giving up.
I have met some amazing people since entering the Jungle but I have also met some really nasty, soul-destroying, insecure, negative people who have made me cry, made me angry and made me wonder why I bother even getting out of bed on a morning.
As it's Learning Disability Week this week, let's raise awareness about the negative people we often encounter, and look at ways you can learn to deal with them.
Who are the negative people?
I call them "KNICKERs". What? Yes, that's right, KNICKERs! Why?
K-N-I-C-K-E-R is a mnemonic: She explains:
Debs Aspland's experience has been as a mother. My own experience of the World of Special was from the other side of the fence, as one of the paid help (a professional is the favoured term). Deb's account as I read it is about people in general, living in the real world. My own much narrower perspective was gained exclusively from within the microcosm of the professional services.

Over forty-odd years I did not come across a broad concept analogous to KNICKERs. There were lots of complaints about the awfulness and inadequacy of this and that, often specifically about her or him. Or them. There seemed little general analysis, beyond specifics, for example that teachers who worked in special schools and units were often themselves unsuccessful teahers looking for refuge from the classroom (they used to say he same about educational psychologists too). How far such things were and whether they might amount to a problem to be solved did nor get taken up.

It was easy to gloss over individual culpability for what happens by blaming 'the system'. Or by seeing the staff of institutions as also being its hapless victims, and thinking of the the punishments for those who do not toe the line, and the burnout that results – and the rewards for the careerists and Jobsworths who do.

One of the saddest minor themes in British politics in our process is to read yet another Parliamentary debate on 'special needs' in which MP after MP states unqualified admiration for the wonderful (talented + dedicated) teachers and other school staff who work with disabled children. Don't they listen to what they hear in their constituency surgeries.

In reality there are some absolute stinkers. What should one expect otherwise. Perhaps nowadays, with hideous revelation after revelation, we know that nurses and other NHS staff are not all angels – some are devils. Coppers are not all Dixon of Dock Green, careworkers and social workers are not all Clare in the Community. Doctors... ahem. Not to mention bankers.

In previous lives I have experienced this again and again, from the inside, in education, social work, residential care, juvenile justice, universities, charities, bureaucracies  and in my dealings with the health service. Who has not? Later my involvement in Conductive Education served me up a further share of such experiences, at home and abroad.

Often I experienced this as sheer wickedness, evil, though in many cases the basic problem may have primarily cognitive rather than moral – hopeless training (pun intended), poor educational level, just not intellectually up to doing the jobs expected of them and in which they claimed expertise. Excuses, Excuses.

They might well have their own excuses (if they think that they have a problem to excuse) and those looking in might offer altogether different explanations, There can be no question, though, that bad things do happen in the human services, not just those in the state sector, sometimes very bad. The question is the relative proportion of good and bad to be found out there.

It is hard enough even to mention this in the public domain. It would be harder still to legislate about it. So ignore it?

Congratulations to Special Needs Jungle for peeping under the rug.


Aspland, D. (2015) It’s Learning Disability week, let’s talk about the negative people we meet in the LD world, Special Needs Jungle, 18 June

No comments:

Post a Comment