Published in the highly-acclaimed Human Horizons Series, the pre-eminent list for people with disabilities, the elderly and the afflicted, and those who care for them, written by the leading experts.
Despite the recent shift away from full-time residential care to day care in the community, many mentally handicapped people still tread a very narrow track between the parental home and the Day Care Centre. They have very little contact with society, nor society with them. In this innovative book, Jodie Walsh points out that such a life would be extremely limiting to most of us, and is no less so to mentally handicapped people. Real community care, she argues, means not just day care by local authorities, but the personal involvement of real people, who can fulfil the human needs that the social services can never supply, and who will in their turn learn more about disability from direct contact than from a dozen public education programmes. “Handicapped people are their own best envoys” is her firm belief.
This book describes two experimental schemes carried out in Ireland, bringing the handicapped and unhandicapped together in their everyday lives. In the ‘Friendship’ scheme, volunteers – single people, couples or whole families – each befriended a mentally handicapped adult in their area over a number of months. They invited them to supper, or for the weekend; took them to the pub or cinema or a disco, on country walks or to the local theatre or art gallery.
Another scheme, ‘Break Away’, was geared more to mentally handicapped children, and matched up children and host families for two-week periods, giving the children’s own families a chance to relax and go on holiday.
Careful structuring and generous backing by the social services are of course crucial to the success of such schemes, and these aspects are covered in full detail. Families of mentally handicapped people, and professionals who work with them, will find here all the material they need to initiate similar schemes in their own communities, and help make the social integration of handicapped people a reality.
Jodie Walsh has worked for six years researching, evaluating and setting up innovative services in the area of mental handicap with St Michael’s House, Dublin, and the Medico-Social Research Board of Ireland. She has published numerous articles in international journals. Her principal interest is in helping people to reach their maximum potential in the enjoyment of life.