Accepted paper:

Making clients to decide for themselves: turning people with learning difficulties into "modern subjects"


Zdeněk Konopásek (Charles University)
Michal Synek (Charles University / Masaryk University)
Radek Carboch (Masaryk University, Charles University)

Paper short abstract:

We discuss the practical, ethical and theoretical problem of "autonomous decision-making" in the context of social services for people with learning difficulties. How to de-attach (emancipate) the clients of these services from professional assistance? By what specific re-attachments?

Paper long abstract:

In our study of social services for people with learning difficulties we focus on efforts aiming at their emancipation, i.e. at making them as independent on institutions and professionals as possible. Emphasis is being put on what is called "autonomous decision-making" about one's life - what to do, what to buy, where to go and when. These decisions are to be based on authentic and unrestricted expression of clients' desires and passions. Professionals are instructed and trained to move from making decisions on behalf of their (passive) clients to providing sensitive support for the activity of decision-making, performed preferably by the clients themselves. But how to make clients to "decide for themselves", co-creating a world for them, which would resemble the world of all other people? How to de-attach them from professional assistance? Sometimes it may seem that a simple redistribution of passivity and activity among professionals and their clients suffices. Even the official instructions and guides often imply that the less support from the others is offered, the more free and autonomous ("normal") decision is made by the client - an ideal, desirable, but not always achievable situation. However, a closer look at the emancipating practices reveal that: (a) a lot of carefully orchestrated professional action, including enormous amount of paperwork, is mobilized to make one do things; (b) it is the quality of particular attachments - and not a reversal of activity/passivity - what makes a desirable difference. Misunderstandings about this may bring about perverted results.

panel B05
Crafting attachments, making worlds