EDIT: 5th February 2019
Tweet from National Holocaust Centre and Museum:
"Thank you @CollarCuffsCo for relating #HMD to the important role we all play in improving the lives of young people with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD). We have a duty to create an appropriate reflective and sensory experience for them: https://goo.gl/Jx8pqA "
Observe and Remember
Practitioners working with children or young people with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) are often asked to consider ways to offer experiences that will include them in observing particular calendar days, from Remembrance Sunday to Children in Need. The merits or benefits of doing this are frequently debated, however from scanning through a range of practitioner forums over the past few days it seems that many are being asked to do something to mark Holocaust Memorial Day - some are positive but unsure what to do, while others feel uncomfortable with the idea but have very little power to refuse the request. I feel there's a duty to respond and support colleagues, and to offer something that will, at the very least, create an appropriate reflective and sensory experience for these children and young people - you can download the resource I've written below.
The Holocaust and genocide are tremendously important and sensitive topics in contemporary society, and continue to inform discourse around human rights, religion, culture, gender, sexuality, and also disability. People with PMLD are frequently neglected or ignored by the government, local authorities and health and social care services, and are often denied access to most of the world beyond their homes or schools by a lack of even the most basic of human rights: truly accessible, hygienic and safe toileting facilities; see the Changing Places campaign.
Society at large tends to pity and patronise them and perceives them mainly to be suffering, rather than thriving; see Joanna Grace's TedX talk for a full and frank exploration of this. As practitioners we see and hold dear the potential of each individual we work with: we recognise their needs and preferences, their thoughts and feelings, their senses of humour and interests, their contributions to the world - no matter how big or small that world may be - and we continue to advocate for and with them alongside their families and carers. Within our sector, the Core and Essential Service Standards for Supporting People with Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities have at their heart a complete dedication to ensuring the full participation, autonomy, voice and rights of a group who would, at the hands of Nazi Germany, potentially have been part of the T4 euthanasia programme. Holocaust Memorial Day is a perhaps an annual reminder or call to action for why we must keep on championing the rights and needs of people with PMLD; as part of the constant commitment to remembering the Holocaust, the often used words are 'Never Forget' and 'Never Again' - let's make sure we don't and that it never does.
Relating Holocaust Memorial Day to the important role we play in improving the lives of people with PMLD perhaps opens a new space from which to engage in this annual day of reflection, and there is a simple activity suggested here to support this. This session is drawn from the work of Liz Collar, a special education teacher with nearly 40 years of experience working across a wide spectrum of needs, and whose dedication to making art, music and history accessible and relevant to young people with PMLD has inspired so much of my own practice - she's also my mum! It is also informed by my time as an academic in the field of Religious Studies, where I developed a specialism in Holocaust Theology and Jewish History.
For more information about Holocaust Memorial Day visit: www.hmd.org.uk