When things are routine for Tim he can get understimulated and needs to create his dopamine hit. Tim lives with inactive ADHD and Autism. Tim is very passionate about his lived experience. Damien feels the need to ALWAYS be cognisant of the words he uses. Tim takes offence to anything he considers to be ableist language. Damien is continually feeling the pressure to be perfect with his words. This takes a lot of effort for him. Damien continually seeks out support from his trainer and from Huma, his shift supervisor, when he comes across a new pattern of behaviour that causes a change. Huma has asked Damien if he would like a rest from this support and to work with someone else for some time as Damien and Tim currently spend 42 hours a week together.
The last time Huma offered Damien the opportunity to work somewhere else he flatly refused but his response this time was to question what that would look like. Damien indicated he enjoys the work he does with Tim, and he wants to continue. Damien decided it was time for a holiday, thinking a little break can help him. Damien takes leave for two weeks and during this time used 2 days to attend a training workshop with Choosing Harmony on Neurodiversity Affirming Practice. On Damien’s return, he shares with Tim some of the things that he’s found in his research. Damien is quite excited because he feels like he has strategies for moving forward in all areas of communication with everyone, not just Tim.
Damien has collated information about what he believes to be affirming practice, and what Tim refers to as Ableist. Damien did this so he could understand the differences and how can he change his mindset so that it is not something that continually causes him anxiety.
Damien, while talking with Tim, was careful to clarify each of the points with Tim, to be sure they were both of a shared understanding. Affirming practice allows and provides for alternative communication methods, understanding the reason, thoughts, and feelings behind behaviours and/or actions. It focuses on reducing stress, accommodating differences and helping us to understand that everybody is valued by using special interests to engage. It respects that some people may or may not engage in eye contact, and respects when an answer is a no. It considers the needs and wants of individual goals and interests to be supported promptly, that’s beneficial for everybody.
This allows Tim to decide what functioning level is ideal for him, and what that would encompass, allowing Tim to define what success is and how to successfully achieve his own goals. How do we know that the goal that Tim has identified as wanting to obtain is something that he can physically support without it causing him stress?
Ableist practices include where we only allow for spoken communication. When we label behaviour and actions without understanding the cause and effect or the reasoning behind the actions. It is also when there is a focus on reducing symptoms, that we equate worth with ability. It can also be withholding a desired object or activity, using rewards, punishment, and stipulations to achieve compliance, by relying on typical developmental milestones as well as the general neuronormative expectations. When the focus is on changing Tim’s behaviour for measuring success, we find neuronormative capitalist standards need to be financially rewarded for the work to be considered a success (anyone who is reading this and works as a support worker understands this to not be true, and not just for our clients. Success can come in many forms other than financial). This focuses on the need for independence -self-regulation- without considering the need for co-regulation.
It is great what Damien has done regarding his report on his ongoing relationship with Tim, however, what’s even more important to consider, is what Damien has done for himself and his work practice going forwards.
Damien was able to identify an area of practice that was causing him stress and anxiety. He was able to discuss this with his shift supervisor. Through ongoing discussion, both Damien and Huma were able to put strategies in place to not compromise client care. Huma as the shift supervisor provided support and education for Damien so that he was feeling competent in his practice and when necessary, access to appropriate services.
Huma was able to offer alternative work options for Damien if he required. FYI- behind the scenes, Huma’s duty of care also extended to making sure that Tim felt he had choice and control with the support he was offered.
Tim was very direct in how he felt supported by Damien and the thought of having a different support worker was not something he wished to consider.