Dear Áine

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Troubled Traveller
Q.

I am an 85-year-old widow living in Dublin, and my health has recently started to fail. I have a son who is in his 40s, who up to recently has lived at home with me. He has a maintenance job in the local Learning Disability Service. When he lived at home he was able to walk to and from his work every day. I was told he has a moderate learning disability. He knows all that is going on and can chat away to those he knows, but his speech is very indistinct and only his family and some staff can understand him. He recently got a place in a community hostel attached to the service in which he works. He now travels to work on his own and he knows where to get on and off the bus. However he does not know his address so he cannot tell anyone where he lives. I am too old and tired to teach him but I am very worried. If the bus broke down or anything happened he would have no idea how to get home or how to tell anybody where to take him. I am afraid to approach staff as they might think I am not grateful for his hostel place and send him home to me. What should I say to the staff? Whom do you think I should talk to?

A.

I am really pleased to hear your son is such a competent traveller and I think the difficulty you are worried about can be fairly easily solved. I do however understand your worry. I think that perhaps two simple things might solve this problem. Firstly, you might ask the staff to ensure your son has a card with his name, address and telephone number, in case of an emergency, and that he carries this card with him in his wallet at all times. I am fairly certain that staff will have done this for other people in the past. Secondly, your son needs to know that he should approach the bus driver and show him this card if something unforeseen happens. It seems to me from what you tell me that your son could learn this very quickly.

Unsettling Offers
Q.

Our son is nearly 40- He got a few years with a mental handicap centre when he was school age, but he’s been at home with my husband and me since then. He helps his dad in the garden and me in the kitchen—he even goes to the village shop for me sometimes. We don’t use the car anymore. Last week, the service in our area contacted us, saying that they could offer our son ‘respite service’ in some house in the town for a weekend, and that maybe they might see about getting him a job! We don’t understand where all this is coming from—we got so little help when we needed it, when our son was small. We taught him almost everything he knows, and we get along quite comfortably until now. In fact, I don’t know what I’d do without him when my husband has to go into hospital next month. What can I say to the people who want to unsettle all this?

A.

Congratulations on all you have achieved with your son over the years. It is very obvious you and your husband enjoy having your son living and working with you. It must be a bit of a shock after all these years to have a service contact you with offers of respite and a possible job totally out of the blue. I would suggest you contact the service to find out in detail what exactly they have to offer. Then you and your husband may like to discuss these offers with your son and your family to see if they are likely to meet either your son’s immediate wishes or your long-term needs. This type of situation may not be unusual as services develop new options for people with disabilities over the years.

Working for a living
Q.

My daughter completed her special school education three years ago, and she has attended a local training centre since then. She has enjoyed being with her friends there, and I know she’s matured somewhat too. Now it seems like we should look for something more challenging for her. The centre is very much under-staffed this year, and they have not offered us any advice. Susan is really quite capable—with a bit of help we think she could take up an ordinary job of some kind, but we do not know how to go about finding something appropriate. We live about five miles from a good-sized provincial town. Whom should we contact?

A.

It is wonderful to hear that you think your daughter should be doing something more challenging. Over the past twenty years many people with disabilities now form part of the regular work force on either a part time or a full time basis.

As a first step in looking for a job for your daughter I suggest you contact your local FÁS office as FÁS is now charged to help anybody looking for a job. You might also like to contact the Irish Association for Supported Employment. They may have ideas about a possible contact person in your area. I hope you will be successful.

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