Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Hidden Crime

I heard it distinctly, and I think he did too, the moment when my heart cracked open. On days when I do consultations with agencies, I am envariably exhausted when done. Everything is so intense.

In this case a young boy came in. I know he'd consider himself a man but if you are under twenty - to me you are still not quite 'growed up'. He seemed so small, so little, he took his seat knowing what was going to happen. That the people in the room were going to ask questions, listen to answers, that we were going to poke and prod through his mind. I watched him ready himself. He seemed to me, from my vantage point of nearly 60 years, to be a little boy who had a big, big problem.

We do what we do. We do exactly as he thought we would. Underneath his piercings, underneath his teen swagger, there unquestionably lives a frightened little boy. He knows what he's done is wrong, really wrong. He knows he is in big trouble. He never wants to be 'here' again in his life, never wants to hurts someone, never wants to have to talk about what his hands did. Never again. But it is the assessment dance, we lead, he follows, we ask, he answers, we show pictures, he points to the right one.

At one point he is asked the question; "If you had an uncomfortable feeling, who would you talk to?"

He looked at us seriously, as he had throughout, he answered honestly, "No one. I have no one."


There was such sadness in his eyes. He was alone in the world. True, he had care providers, he had family, all who cared - but none who'd listen. Not after what he'd done. Not after the trouble he caused. Now he was simply alone in the world.

Soon after this answer we called a close to the meeting. We had more to ask, but he had little else to give. He had been honest, honesty takes energy, and such he was exhausted. He got up nad shook our hands, thanked us for wanting to help him. And, he was gone.

We, the team, talked briefly after he left. "Did you hear ..." I was about to ask. After 3 hours of questioning, 3 hours of answers to difficult questions, my co-workers both said, "He's alone."

Loneliness and isolation are so often epidemic in the lives of people with disabilities. I wonder how many mistakes, missteps, and misbehaviours are made to simply feel less alone. I wonder what that desperation does.

"No one."

"How did we get here with him? How do we bring a young person through a supported and planned and programmed life, and find him here alone? How can we teach him so much and give him so little? What is our responsiblity in crafting loneliness and fostering isolation? We must be targetting it, it's so often the end result of years of programming and support.

I'm beginning to think that an assessment needs to be done. Questions asked. Tests completed. On a system who seems to keep churning out young men, young women, who come through integration without any rubbing off. Who come through inclusion without it ever taking hold. Who come through a crowded life and end up, at 17 alone.

His crime was caught.

Ours gets a pass.


Glee said...

I have long seen how I/we are tested but they are not.

Crikey Dave I feel sick. This young man's knowledge, insight and honesty are gut wrenching.


Glee said...

Me again. I despair in my private self of true social integration and acceptance for us. But I push my despair down daily just so that I can continue fighting for just that. Your story of this young man exploded my despair for awhile. When I say exploded I mean that my despair expanded hugely, almost overwhelmingly.

I'm ok tho.


Anonymous said...

Far to often the people that provide support think their job is to be a friend. Our funding in Ontario even encourages that belief. We provide funds to families encouraging them to hire respite or contract workers - to take their child out to the movies, to sports, to the community, to be a friend. We reward people for being great friends instead of helping one to find friends. The latter is a much more difficult job that many of us will not take on, that many that hire us don't want us to do. Its no wonder we end up with so many loney people surrounded by so many paid supports.

Anonymous said...

Thats so sad :o(

Anonymous said...

He was well alone before 17. I grew up disabled and alone. I had no agency trying to help me. I was just alone. It is not a failing of just the Agency. It is a failing of his peers, of the culture, to isolate and discriminate against the disabled. It is the cost of being seen as "Other." Hopefully he will heal.

You felt, therefore, there is hope to be had.

Kateryna Fury

Ettina said...

As another disabled person who grew up with no agency involvement in my life, I'd say that loneliness is not the agency's fault (though they could do more to help).

rickismom said...

This is why I think the following two things are VERY importannt in integration:
1. Staff have to work not only on acedemic integration, but social as well
2. From age ten or so, the special needs child needs SOME contact with other kids with special needs. For this reason I have been sending my daughter for the last four years to a "Down syndrome" club. Even though she is more advanced acedemically, she enjoys "letting it all hand out" at club. It has also helped her deal with the fact that she has a disability. (She discovered that the girls at club are also people.)

Anonymous said...

there's evidence (unsurprisingly!) that the brain ceases to function properly under the influence of rejection.

when there is no-one, and is no-one right during the period when the brain's rewiring itself for adulthood, that's a scale of rejection far beyond. under those conditions, it's amazing anyone ever gets it right, in anything. (in retrospect, I see that. not then.)

the wrong decisions, the wrong-doing are explained in terms of labels, and further rejection justified by those labels. his already exists. mine was personality disorder. no-one saw that the true label was isolation.

I hope his isolation is curable, and sooner and less randomly than mine was. you, at least, won't think that 'integration' means isolating him from those who have travelled similar paths.