« Accompanying and building a passage towards adulthood » will be the theme of the conference given by Marie-José Villaret during the Day for Parents on September 20th. On this occasion, she answers our questions.
1. How do people with intellectual disabilities advance towards adulthood ?
For people with intellectual disabilities, no life pattern is identical. Most of the time, it is all just a game of hazard between the families, their close friends and the world of disability, may it be through institutions, organizations or the medical world without mentioning the region of France in which one lives in.
According to me, the first stage begins at about 16 with questions that get you thinking. What training should he/she pick? Work or not? What activities, hobbies should be chosen? Of course, all choices are not possible. Beyond the wishes of the intellectually disabled person, the choice (or non-choice) of the families comes into account, as does the way it is perceived and the suggestions of the professionals who are not always willing to listen, understand or be constructive in their discussions. At 18, one normally becomes an adult but for the MDPH (departmental houses for disabled people), a person can still be welcomed in a “child’s” establishment where, indeed, the orientation towards adulthood starts, a sometimes delicate stage depending on the institution. Between 18 and 20, depending on the establishment, they come out (possible stay until 20- no longer possible because of the Creton amendment) and are sent to an adult establishment or a family. It generally is the moment that provokes the most anxiety: time is getting short, families are worried, the hope of a “normative” life is quite often put aside and doubts are all the greater that families are usually associated to their child’s project at the end of the orientation process and agree with it without really having had the necessary elements to take a decision.
2. What are the similarities and differences with people who don’t have an intellectual disability ?
The uncertainty and the question of choice are the same for people without intellectual disabilities, among the same age group. However, their various experiences make their choice easier to make (one can register for university one year, change the next, start professional training, then go off somewhere else). A person with intellectual disabilities has less tools at his disposal; work experience, such as internships, require time and a lot of paperwork and, in real life, in specialized structures they don’t really get the chance of choosing for themselves. What’s more, the characteristics of people with intellectual disabilities (need to be given confidence, slowness, difficulty to make plans for the future) makes one doubt about the question of the choice: is it really the choice they want for their life? Is it made to please someone else? How much influence do the people close to them have? How to be sure of having understood correctly?
3. Are the people around them sufficiently prepared for this passage? What suggestion would you make to help professionals and families progress in this field ?
Each one of us, professionals, associations, must combine our efforts to help the person concerned to express his wishes and needs. The opinion of everyone is necessary in order to cross-check, confront the information that brings to truly knowing the young adult. Indeed, how can one help to build a choice of life without a profound knowledge and evaluation of the needs and capabilities of the person, without sharing the tools? The first question that needs to be treated is: “who are we talking about?”, if one wants to then bring a pertinent answer to the second: “What place is this person looking for in society so that she, my child, may find her well-being?”