Here is the second in what I hope might be a series of guest blogs from Shared Lives carers and their families talking about what it’s like for children growing up in a Shared Lives household. Many thanks indeed to PossAbilities Shared Lives scheme and to Jamie, Amanda, Jonathan and Thomas and their household for sharing their inspiring story:
Our children Jonathan and Thomas have lived with people with learning disabilities permanently from infancy. Michael and John moved in with us in 1998 and shared all aspects of family life with the boys. Ranging from: shared swimming lessons, to boarding a plane for the first time on our family holiday.
Jonathan and Thomas viewed John as a third Granddad and watched his beloved Formula 1 racing with him each Sunday. John had had a stroke and had limited speech Jonathan and Thomas would always try to listen to his thoughts without causing John any frustration, putting the motto ‘we’ll get there in the end’ to practice. Sadly, John passed away in 2007 this was a difficult time for the boys but fond memories of him remain. They still watch Formula 1 each Sunday as a result of their interaction with him from such an early age.
Michael was more of a friend to Jonathan and Thomas as they had shared interests including: swimming, superheroes and trips to visit Bradley Bear in the lakes. Michael is still part of our family and despite the boys being aged 17 and 18 they are still referred to as ‘Kid’ by Michael, even when they are driving him for a burger.
Louise joined our family in 2003, initially she was joining temporarily for the weekend but refused to go home. Her mum and sister said she had made her choice and she has been a pivotal part of the family ever since. Louise doted on the boys from day one, and this was replicated by them. Unfortunately, Louise fell ill in 2013 and had to undergo chemotherapy. This had a profound effect on the boys as well as the rest of the family. Jonathan and Thomas were exceptional in aiding Louise throughout her time of need, from running for the ‘sick bowl’ to watching movies with her, always trying to make her smile. We must mention the close friends of the boys who provided fantastic support through this time. They often visited Louise, and were always enquiring over the phone how Louise was doing following trips to the hospital. They were thankfully able to attend the celebration of Louise overcoming her illness at our home. A fact which brought great joy to Louise, who had a wonderful evening.
Wendy came to live with us in 2008, though she was already a member of our extended family, living with the boys’ Gran, in her role as a Shared Lives carer. As a result of this, they knew Wendy well spending many family holidays together as well as family functions. Not to mention when visiting their Gran every Friday evening. The boys have always had a close relationship with Wendy enabling them to have a great time in her company. Jokes are often shared between the three of them at family meal times. We feel this is a true indication of the effects their experience has had.
Jonathan and Thomas have never known any other kind of family life. We have developed our skills as a family throughout the years. We feel our family life within the Shared Lives community has had an extremely positive effect on the development and education of the boys. Their experiences have allowed them to become well educated, polite young men, they are able to see the person not their disability. As a result of this we are very proud of them and our family.
Jamie and Amanda x