I have just returned from an inspiring, and informative meeting
at a local residential college for disabled young people. As I
drove away I pulled into the side of the road and howled. I howled
with grief and rage because I had not known about this place.
It is less than five miles away from my house and I had not
known about it when it might have helped my son Robbie. He killed
himself three years ago because he could not cope with trying to be
“normal” any longer in society when his disabilities made him feel
so different that life felt intolerable to him.
This college could have helped both him and us as a family deal
with the many difficulties that Robbie’s condition and personality
produced, but we were in ignorance of it and what it might have
I toured the building seeing the many facilities that my boy
would have loved – especially the theatre, gym and swimming pool.
In my mind’s eye I could see his enthusiasm and his whole-hearted
involvement with it all. I saw the caring staff engaging with the
students and imagined Robbie exasperating them in his incorrigible
way and yet drawing their care and attention, seeing him kicking
against the boundaries and being held firm within them.
I saw a future he can never have now and I blazed at myself for
not having found this place and I blazed at all the professionals
along Robbie’s 22-year journey who failed to direct us there.
This is not the first time recently that I have come across
facilities that existed but were not made known to my family when
we needed them. What makes it worse is that my experience is not
unique; wherever specialist knowledge and provision is required it
seems a common occurence.
Why is help and information so randomly come by? We live in an
age of technological wizardry with a colossal amount of information
about all number of things.
Yes, I am angry. I am enraged by the waste of Robbie’s and his
quality of life and I am further enraged as I see it being repeated
in other families’ lives. I cannot bring Robbie back but I do have
a friend with a disabled son who also lives locally and also does
not know of this college’s facilities. Maybe, just maybe, he can be
helped by this knowledge.
Anyone involved with the care of disabled people – whoever they
may be – must work with the assumption that somewhere, somehow
there are the facilities that can bring hope and practical help to
the situation that they are in.
It takes persistence, determination, networking, recording,
communicating and – in the last resort – creating facilities where
they do not exist. There are ways forward in this society for those
who suffer due to the rough hand they have been dealt with in life.
We all have a responsibility to make them known.
Judy Clinton’s son, Robbie, had cerebral