Living long-term with acquired brain injury in Ireland: towards a counter discourse

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McGowan, Phil
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University College Cork
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Irish literature on Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) is very scant and is mainly deficits and/or needs based. The focus is generally on how to manage the short term needs of the younger population with ABI. The starting position of my thesis is that people living long-term with ABI are important participants in developing knowledge about this social phenomenon, living with ABI while accepting that their brain injury does not determine them. Six mature adults with ABI and their six significant others participated in this longitudinal study. Using a narrative approach in interviews, over twenty months, five repeat individual interviews with each of the twelve participants was held. From this I gained an understanding of their lived experiences, their life-world and their experiences of our local public ABI/disability services, systems and discourse. Along with this new empirical data, theoretical developments from occupational therapy, occupational science, sociology, and disability studies were also used within a meta-narrative informed by critical theory and critical realism to develop a synthesis of this study. Social analysis of their narratives co-constructed with me, allowed me generate nuanced insights into tendencies and social processes that impacted and continues to impact on their everyday-everynight living. I discuss in some depth here, the relational attitudinal, structural, occupational and environmental supports, barriers or discrimination that they face(d) in their search for social participation and community inclusion. Personal recognition of the disabled participants by their family, friends and/or local community, was generally enhanced after much suffering, social supports, slow recovery, and with some form of meaningful occupational engagement. This engagement was generally linked with pre-injury interests or habits, while Time itself became both a major aid and a need. The present local ABI discourse seldom includes advocacy and inclusion in everyday/every night local events, yet most participants sought both peer-support or collective recognition, and social/community inclusion to help develop their own counter-discourse to the dominant ABI discourse. This thesis aims to give a broad social explanation on aspects of their social becoming, 'self-sameness' and social participation, and the status of the disabled participants wanting to live 'the slow life'. Tensions and dialectical issues involved in moving from the category of a person in coma, to person with a disability, to being a citizen should not demote the need for special services. While individualized short-term neuro-rehabilitation is necessary, it is not sufficient. Along with the participants, this researcher asks that community health and/or social care planners and service-providers rethink how ABI is understood and represented, and how people with ABI are included in their local communities
Acquired brain injury , Everyday, every night living in Ireland , Self-sameness, not a new self , Social qualitative research
McGowan, P., 2008. Living long-term with acquired brain injury in Ireland: towards a counter discourse . PhD Thesis, University College Cork.