Sunday, 30 March 2014

Story Fifteen - Toasted Cheese Sandwich

Upon admission to the Unit, a whole army of professionals entered our life. We had psychologists, Speach & Language therapists, occupational therapists. And more behaviourists than you could possibly shake a stick at. A whole troop of people sprung into action to assess why Steven's behaviour at the Unit was so challenging and to develop strategies for dealing with it ("SEND HIM HOME"). One of my theories about why Assessment & Treatment units exist is to fund the enormous troop of people that spring into action. The salaries alone must run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

This is the story of one of our adventures with the SALT. She was a great believer in symbol programmes. Every aspect of Steven's life could be covered by symbols.

One Moday afternoon during one of the home visists as part of the fake transition home plan, the SALT turned up to demonstrate her symbol and verbal programme for supporting Steven in making a toasted cheese sandwich. Steven had been making his own toasted cheese sandwiches for ages and I’d never seen him become anxious whilst doing so. Once again, it was a case of ignoring the little things that are so important to Steven – he always had a ham sandwich on a Monday home visit; toasted cheese sandwiches didn’t fir into his Monday schedule. The SALT wanted to observe me supporting Steven with the meal and gave me instructions on how to verbally communicate the steps to Steven. Basically, it was never use more than four words: “GET BREAD FROM CUPBOARD”, “PUT BREAD IN TOASTER”. I cam a cropper on “CUT CHEESE WITH KNIFE” and was reminded to draw the word “cheese” out as if I was “stretching a piece of plasticine”. Steven thought that I’d gone mad. I could see that he was confused by me telling him how to do something he already knew. But more alarmingly for him, I was talking in a strange voice. During “SPREAD BUTTER ON TOAST”, he said, “Dad’s talking like…..?” trying to understand what I was playing at or who I was impersonating.

 Eventually the toasted cheese sandwich was completed and the SALT told Steven to take the plate into the living room (she actually used six words for this instruction but I thought it impolite to point that out) whilst she “debriefed” me in the kitchen. She told me to encourage all his support workers to use this approach; four word sentences with every syllable stretched out. When we got back in the living room, the sandwich was sitting uneaten on the dining table like a piece of modern art. She asked Steven if he was going to eat it, to which he replied, “just have ham”. As I was showing her out, Steven legged it into the kitchen; threw the sandwich of the toasted cheese variety in the bin and set about making a ham one. Unaided. The support workers who had been stifling laughter all through the visit, collapsed on to their chairs. My instruction to them: STOP LAUGHING YOU BASTAAAAAARDS”.

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