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Spalding area columnist Callum Brazzo: "Are we deskilling with love?"

Tis the season to be jolly (or grotty if you’re feeling ill) and the gift giving comes fast and furious for friends, families and loved ones all round.

But the best gift we can someone this year is love...or is it?

There is nothing wrong with showing people that you love them by buying or making something that matters to them, temporarily like chocolate, or more permanent like a special photo calendar, but the intangible effects of showing love can harm more than they can help.

Callum Brazzo, Spalding.Photo by Tim Wilson.SG-130218-137TW (17311281)
Callum Brazzo, Spalding.Photo by Tim Wilson.SG-130218-137TW (17311281)


Some people would call it ‘wrapping up in cotton wool.’ We do things to protect our children but sometimes we forget that those children become adults…in cotton wool.

Some would call what we need to administer ‘tough love’ and I’m not sure that’s how I would phrase it. We just need to be mindful of the lessons we teach to our young, the way we handle the cargo of communication that is carried forward.

Never is this truer when there are vulnerable individuals in our personal or professional lives.

It’s far too easy to judge mental capacity on our internal assumptions like whether someone can verbally talk to us and it’s all too easy to fall into a sense of ‘failure’ as a parent or blaming something or someone for when a child isn’t currently, or ever, able to communicate as we expect.

But it’s also this attitude that, if built up over years, can set dangerous precedents for limiting people’s opportunities to thrive, authentically, as their own person.

What we put on paper in terms of diagnoses (and far too often misdiagnoses) can add to this problem too.

For example, someone who hits a member of staff due to her routine being broken is then seen as exhibiting ‘challenging behaviour.’

But from that point onward, let’s say when that individual transitions to college, they are seen as being unable to be with peers.

The individual grows lonely and seeks out contact with staff or whomever they see as important in their lives but they can only do this through non-verbal communication.

They try grabbing, biting, touching and all of these methods of communication are seen as ‘challenging’ or ‘appropriate.’

The college staff members might have thought that they are keeping the individual away from others with their best interests at heart but this is far from the case.

Of course, I made that scenario up and there are many questions to ask if that was real (but situations like this DO happen) however this happens at home too.

Family members can believe that, because they see the individual every day, they are always doing what’s in their best interests (and this is not to discredit their value) but often family and loved ones can make decisions, based on what they think they know and not what the individual knows inside themselves when given a different environment, different approach or just space to be their true selves.

We can all deskill individuals with love.

What they might have been able to do or wanted to do in school wasn’t nurtured in college so the passion died and emotions poured out into what we see as ‘challenging.’

What we didn’t think they couldn’t do might just be a slight change away from making a world of difference.

Sometimes the best intentions get the worst results. That’s a really difficult truth to bear for a lot of people because people don’t like to be wrong but it is so crucial that we presume competence unless proven otherwise to ensure that the individuals in personal and professional lives don’t go astray from their true developmental pathways.

Are there times when we need to formalise with diagnoses a set of needs in order to get the right signposts for support? Absolutely.

But so often, taking a step back can mean great leaps forward in the journey.

Ciao for now!

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