Voting with His Feet

This week is Learning Disability Week, when work is being done – allegedly – to promote public awareness of what it is like to have a learning disability. I have yet to see any such promotional activity. However I can do my own small part : Joshua has a learning disability and as a result, yesterday afternoon he was subjected to an assessment of his mental capacity, when he really wanted to dose. We had just got back from a shopping trip and a lovely lunch out, so he had asked for ‘music’ and he was lying on the settee, with the windows open to cool him down as it was a hot day and his boots were off. He was just nodding off when a lady from Social Services arrived for her 2pm appointment. As a part of their application for his Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS) they have to assess that any restrictions placed on Joshua are in his best interests and that he does not have mental capacity to make his own decisions.

So she arrived and I showed her into the lounge as she said she wanted to ask him some questions and I warned her that he would not be impressed to have his quiet time interrupted: She introduced herself to him, showed him her ID and asked him to repeat her name. He simply and clearly told her ‘Don’t Mess!’, which is one of his favourite phrases. I could not bear to watch the forced interaction, so I went to the kitchen to make her a cup of tea and when I brought the teapot into the lounge, he was still lying on the settee with his eyes closed. So we started to talk , she explained what she had to do and I poured the tea. Joshua stood up, grabbed me forcibly by the wrist and dragged me out of the lounge and away from her. he took me to his den, where I put Nemo on for him to watch as he settled down in peace again. We moved into the snug with our tea, to be closer to him but not as in his face. After about 20 minutes in den, he came into the snug again, grabbed my wrist again and asked for ‘music’ so he went back into the lounge, where he originally asked to be.

For DoLS she needs to assess if he has mental capacity to consent to:

  • being continuously supervised
  • Not being free to leave if he so chooses

I explained that I thought that in the first 5 minutes of her visit that he had clearly shown that he is able to make some choices in his life, and one was that he did not want to interact with her or even be in the same room as her! She agreed that she did not want to upset him by pursuing him and that she had enough for her forms for the court application. I insisted that all of the restrictions that are placed upon him are for his own personal safety and protection: The door on the landing with two handles so that he cannot access the stairs during the night, the locked front door and gates to prevent him from access the road outside and risking his life with traffic and the video baby monitor for instance, that allows us at night to see if he has got out of bed or is having seizures. All of these measures, may well deprive his liberty, but they do so in his own best interests.

Joshua, due to his learning disability, makes very few choices of his own : I dress him in what I want him to wear, I feed him what I want him to eat and I take him where I want him to go. We chose which school and which daycare facility he would attend, based on our knowledge of him and his likes and dislikes. One of the few ways in which Joshua can object to the choices that I make for him is to object; he can refuse to eat what I place in front of him or he can refuse to stay in a situation that he does not like, as happened yesterday. He could not make her go away but he could take himself away from her! I think he demonstrated perfectly his level of understanding and his free will.

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