Camphill and Asperger syndrome

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Sir, – I wish to correct some serious misapprehensions in your report of March 16th, headlined “Man injured by tree felled during storm awarded ¤165,000”. You describe the injured man as “an inpatient of Camphill Communities of Ireland” and the Dunshane Camphill Community, Naas, Co Kildare, in which he lives as “a healthcare facility”.

Although I cannot speak for the victim, whom I do not know, and though I have no authority to speak on behalf of the CCI, I find this misleading.

First, Asperger syndrome is not an illness requiring or susceptible to medical treatment. A learning disability is not the same as a mental health problem. Learning disabilities are a life-long condition which may impair a person’s intellectual ability, communication skills or social interactions.

Second, as its website makes clear, CCI is “part of an international movement supporting people with intellectual disabilities, autism, mental health issues and other special needs”.

It adds: “Residents share their home, spiritual and working lives with those who are motivated to meet them as individuals out of a recognition of their humanity, and not as carer and patient in the conventional sense.”

In other words, the essence of the Camphill way of life is an attitude of mutuality and interdependence. Camphill communities are not medical treatment centres.

Dunshane describes its households as “abodes for cultivating human relationships that enable us to learn from each other’s strengths and weaknesses. By helping each other fulfil a task, we enrich ourselves and empower the other to take responsibility for themselves.”

Though adult social care comes under the umbrella of the national health service, it is important to understand that mental health and learning disabilities are not the same. Camphill communities create inclusive and participative models of support, not medical facilities where individuals might seek recovery from illness. Camphill residents are not “patients” but people who need support to live their lives to the full. They have active roles in their communities despite (or sometimes because of) whatever challenges they might face. This difference is significant in the way that people are supported and accepted as participative citizens of their community, and in the respect that Camphill communities attach to each individual within them. – Yours, etc,

JULIAN HAXBY,

(Chair,

Alliance for Camphill),

London.

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