HELLO, THIS IS ME

Reviewed by Yvonne Duffin, Senior Clinical Psychologist, St Catherine's Services, Newcastle, Co. Wicklow

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Respite care is one of a variety of supports offered to parents of children with intellectual disability. It is widely seen as an important form of family support, with the potential to enhance caregivers coping resources (Rimmermann 1989). Although respite care may be provided by a host family, this book deals with the provision of respite in a community-house setting and was written to share the authors’ experiences in this filed. The authors offer a new model focused on the child’s abilities and emerging levels of independence, one which highlights the importance of partnership between parents and staff.

Respite is defined by the authors as ‘a gift of time for both children and their families’. This definition moves away from traditional models where the emphasis was primarily on supporting the family and reflects the philosophy of this book where both the child’s and family’s experience of respite are given equal consideration.

The first chapter examines the development of partnership from the individual perspectives of the parents, the child and the staff. It stresses the value of effective communication between parents and staff and also the involvement of the child in the planning of respite. Chapter Two explores the development of the ‘Hello, this is me’ model, dealing with practical planning issues and demonstrating how carers calculate the amount of support each child will need. It also outlines the methods and goals of four orientation workshops for staff training purposes.

The practicalities of planning, implementation and evaluation of the ‘Hello, this is me’ approach are covered in detail in the following four chapters. Individual case studies and anecdotal evidence from parents illustrate each stage. Teaching activities are included for the reader who wishes to explore each component in more detail.

Chapter Seven (Making the model work) takes the reader through the assessment sheets and other documents needed for ‘Hello, this is me’. The authors highlight that in their evaluations of the model’s implementation, the impact of ‘Hello, this is me!’ is most powerful from the perspective of the child with disability.

Health and Social Policy in the UK is discussed, and while the legislative overview is informative it is not relevant to the Irish situation. Nevertheless, the critique of research into the efficacy and benefits of respite is valuable for those working in the field. The authors place the needs of children and families for access to quality respite care firmly in the political and social arena.

The next step for this model is the planning of transition into adult services and this topic, although touched on, needs a more detailed response. One issue raised is the ‘lost memories’ of individuals with an intellectual disability as they move through different services. One suggestion made to address this was creating a record of life for the each person which is updated each year and owned by them. This strikes me as a straightforward but meaningful exercise.

In summary, this model is presented in an easy-to-read, step-by-step format with assessment/ evaluation sheets included. It successfully marries theory with practical administration and is applicable for children of all ages and ability levels. Providers of specialist care for children will find this clearly explained approach to care planning an invaluable tool.

HELLO, THIS IS ME: Planning care for children in respite settings by Helen Laverty and Mary Reet (2001). Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 116 Pentonville Road, London N1 9JB. Stg£15.95. ISBN 1 85302 936 X, paperback.

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