20 years ago, when I first put together an abuse prevention workshop for people with intellectual disabilities, almost no one came. Getting agencies and parents to register someone with a disability for the training was beyond difficult. I think what made it even more difficult is that care providers are not allowed to attend the workshop, it's for people with disabilities and that's it. "Oh, but he's a behaviour problem," "Oh, he won't be comfortable without me there," "Oh, he won't understand without me there to help explain," I've heard them all. Sometimes, though very rarely, the concern is valid. Most times people do just fine without their 'carer' sitting beside them 'caring'.
20 years ago, when I first put together an abuse prevention workshop for people with intellectual disabilities, we used a very small room. With virtually no-one there, the classes were small and some of the role plays difficult to do. One role play requires 5 participants. Sometimes that meant there was no one to watch the role play. I think what made it even more difficult to get people to attend was the fact that the brochure says clearly that the workshop is about teaching the word 'no' - 'promoting non-compliance,' 'creating more problems for staff,' 'setting them up for failure,' I heard them all. None of that happened. People simply learned to recognize abuse, 'say no' and report. That's the purpose, that's the effect.
20 years ago, when I first put together an abuse prevention workshop for people with intellectual disabilities, I couldn't anticipate that the world would change. Next week, I'm doing one of those workshops up in Orillia, as part of the service offered by the Sexuality Clinic at York Simcoe Behaviour Management Services, and we have standing room only. We've had to turn away more than we've room for. In fact we are adding two more workshops just to deal with the demand. This lights a fire in my heart and warms me. Times have truely, truely changed. People don't fear individuals with disabilities learning assertion - they welcome it. People don't feel the need to be right beside someone and controlling every moment - they easility let go. People see opportunties for someone in care - and take them.
20 years later, I feel encouraged. Beyond belief, feel hopeful. We are all growing and changing. I was going through my notes this morning (I might as well I have to go for blood tests this morning and am not allowed to eat for another few hours) and as I've kept all my notes from over the years, I see how the workshop has grown and changed over those 20 years. How I'm, myself, growing as a teacher, how I'm trusting my audience of people with disabilities more, how I'm allowing them to reach farther than I did all those years ago. Yes, there's hope.
Even for me.