We came on holiday – myself, partner and her son aged 18. He has autism and is described as having a learning disability. On our first night out at the entertainment provision at our holiday village (a gated community of mobile homes) he disappeared. About half an hour later he reappeared, having treated himself to a session at the bungee jumping attraction on site – not jumping off bridges but a more modest arrangement where one is strapped into a harness and hovered over a trampoline.
He looked like he’s had a good time and it struck me that this was probably the first time he had ever gone solo like this – usually he would have a support worker with him. In addition to this he was in France !
The following night he got himself a temporary tattoo. He organised it all himself and was soon sporting a mermaid on his upper arm. When we went to the beach he spent ages well out from the sand doing his own meditative thing.
Over the next couple of days he ventured further. He sat in the cafe and ordered his own food. He played pool with who-knows which friends he made for himself. Some kids heard him speaking English and practised their few forbidden words in English “Hey, suck my c*ck !” – but these seemed later to be the mates he was playing pool with. A couple of them walked past us as we lay by the pool – wow, that young woman looks quite hot ! But what if they are taking advantage of him ? Then we counted up the cost of bottles of Orangina on site and knew that he’d bought himself one a number of times.
His mum is a Makaton trainer. (Makaton is a language assisted programme using signs and symbols for people with communication difficulties) She signed, long distance, her concerns that he was ok. He reassured her. I tried my few signs. He cast his eyes to heaven and ignored me.
We forget how little opportunity some people have in life for basic privacy and the chance to make one’s own decisions. The chance to travel on one’s own, to go shopping or to choose un-approved friends is something that young people have to fight for. How much more difficult is it for those already adult to claim the same right ?