'What if's' of Independence

Independence… our minds boggle with scary what ifs when that word comes to mind, especially so for those we care for with learning disabilities.

Travel training will give them the skills to catch a bus and walk to their destination but what if the bus doesn't come...what if they lose their bus money…

They may learn how to shop in town but what if they lose their bag, phone or bus pass (or all three!)…what if they get lost…

What if someone is horrible to them or takes the mickey...

So I have a choice; do I protect her from these what ifs or allow her the same freedoms I have allowed my other children?


On her first bus trip and trip round town she was followed by me, darting behind people and hiding in shop doorways so she couldn't see me! The next time I sat in a coffee shop, nervously waiting for the phone to ring or a desperate text. Heidi's phone is full of numbers of friends that she can call if she has a problem; I explained her situation to each of them and they were all happy to help her.

'Stranger danger' is regularly reinforced and thankfully, having two brothers, Heidi knows exactly how to defend herself from a would-be attacker! As Heidi now attends college in town my antics are no longer possible, so I decided to visit two cafes and shops with Heidi to give her somewhere safe to go if she needed help. All of them were delighted to help and she is now a frequent and loud visitor to their premises - not because she needs help but to eat her lunch!

Heidi has also made her presence felt at other shops (the Christian bookshop "enjoys" her singing most days and Clinton Cards love her visiting them). I pop in occasionally just to check that she is being ok.

I was delighted when Chloe explained to me about the Safe Places project that she was starting, with Heidi and others with disabilities. Safe Places is a more formal version of what I have done for Heidi; shops/restaurants will be asked if they are willing to help people with learning disabilities if they have a problem while in town. If they agree, they will display a sticker in their window and hopefully will help people with learning disabilities if the need arises.

People with learning disabilities will be given cards displaying the Safe Places logo which they can show to the member of staff who is helping them. The cards have questions and pictures to help with any communication difficulties

I know it is scary allowing those we care for to spread their wings, but we must do it for their own good and at their own individual pace. We will not be around for ever. They need to develop their skills while we are still around so that they can be as independent as possible and have the freedom that they want. And remember, you are usually only a phone call away.


For more information about Safe Places, contact Chloe Ingold on 024 7663 1040 ext 106 or find our more here.


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