Discover ME.

I just wanted to share a powerful moment in our Intensive Interaction workshop with Janet Gurney (Us in a Bus) last week.

Participants had been asked to reflect and see how they could put some of what they had learned on Day One of the course into practice before the second day.  In Day One we had spent time learning a little about how people may perceive the world around them and the need to observe a person’s, often non-verbal unique language – to watch and listen with all of our senses.

People shared some of their stories and then one woman, Jean *, said she’d been amazed by what had happened with a woman she supports.

Zoe * has lived in a shared house and been supported by agencies for over twenty years.   Zoe doesn’t use words to communicate and has little interaction with others.  Jean and her colleagues have supported her for around seven years and have always followed the written records, which clearly state that Zoe does not like physical contact.  The advice was to avoid contact wherever possible.

This opinion seemed to ‘make sense’ to the team as, for example, when anyone sat next to Zoe on the sofa she extended her arms, appearing to be pushing people away.

After Day One Jean observed Zoe with fresh eyes and started considering the sensations Zoe received from the movements and the physical contact she experienced whilst pushing people.  Jean wondered if Zoe may be communicating something very different.

So…. Jean sat next to Zoe on the sofa and sure enough Jean’s arms came out and appeared to push Jean away…..but this time Jean didn’t move away but instead gently put her hand on Zoe’s shoulder and said ‘Hello Zoe’.

Zoe didn’t pull away.

Jean then began to stroke Zoe’s back, applying a little pressure.  What did Zoe do?  She leaned forward, towards Jean’s lap, and gave a big sigh.

The people around were stunned and one support worker observing the interaction told us she had tears in her eyes and said ‘forgive us Zoe.’

Zoe is now regularly enjoying a gentle massage and her relationship with those around her is starting to lead to a life with magic moments of connection.

We often talk about the danger of the written record – be very careful – both when you read and write about anyone.

Be curious, be creative, always see potential, spend time truly valuing each person and discovering who they are.

* Names changed

** We had learned a little about proprioception in the course.




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