Wednesday, February 27, 2008

20 Years Ago

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.

9 comments:

Belinda said...

How inspiring. Since I'm reading listening to the audio version of Malcolm Gladwell's book, The Tipping Point, right now, I'm wondering when the "tipping point" happened and the momentum towards comfort with assertion happened. That aside, this is a very inspiring look back, and you must be so proud to have been an integral and important part of a change in thinking that has brought so much rightful dignity to people. I'm celebrating 20 years. Yeay!!

Anonymous said...

My daughter, yesterday in the grocery store, came across a woman of about 30 in her wheelchair packing grocery;s into her front basket. The mind of a child is always amusing and she looked at the woman and in a child like loud voice said, "I wish I had one of those mom!" She is lucky she doesn't have to walk". In the moment of embarsment that i felt as i turned to look at the woman, she turned to my child and said - you should feel very lucky that you can walk but I am lucky too." My daughter may not have understood the profoundness of those words as I stopped to smile at the woman and turned to walk away however they will always stick with me. I thought of you as we were walking away. She was right. She is lucky.

Anonymous said...

http://www.whatkindofworlddoyouwant.com/videos/view/id/408214

Kei said...

I am grateful that you've been a major part of the shift in attitudes.

rickismom said...

Although I am sure that there has been a change of attitude, I'm not sure that people are so eager for "clients" to be non-compliant. But the spector of abuse is so much more known and visable, it may be pushing "carers" to allow the training that they otherwise wouldn't want.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dave,
Greetings from an all star lurker - I almost never leave comments on blogs but I just have to speak now.

Congratulations and Happy Anniversary of the first time you supported people in learning to say NO!
And thank you for persevering through the "small room" years. I recently discovered your blog (via Half Soled Boots)however I've followed your work for quite some time. I find your entries inspire, outrage, stress, and delight me - sometimes all on the same day and I've taken to not only recommending your site at staff meetings but quoting entries as well. You set the bar high and continue to push it higher when and as needed. And you do it with a voice full of common language and sense. Thank you and please don't stop.

Cheryl

ps - do ads/don't do ads - I will still come - this is your blog

shiva said...

A blanket "no carers" rule could *possibly* make a workshop inaccessible for some people - eg. those who use facilitated communication and need another person with them to communicate, those who need sign language interpreters... maybe people who might need assistance with eating/drinking or medication or some things like that (although, in the latter case, i guess someone could easily wait outside the door or something). But i see your reasons for that rule, and think they are good reasons. Of course, this leads back to the carer/personal assistant distinction as well...

Not really sure how to balance things in a case where an interpreter/facilitator is necessary for one person to communicate, but their presence would inhibit or intimidate others in the group...

The whole idea that it's desirable for disabled people to be "compliant" just makes me shudder with horror.

theknapper said...

I remember doing research 20 odd yrs ago re women with disabilities & violence & finding sm pockets of people/programs thru out N America that were starting on this path....folks who taught self defense/assertiveness, sexual assault centres who also wked with survivors of sexual abuse, theatre groups, individual counsellors etc...there was no google then; each resource felt like a piece of gold.
You have created/added/expanded/questionned ideas and approaches over the years. I will toast you tonight!
Thank you.

Ettina said...

" 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."

I'm shocked they actually admitted that.
In a book I got about how to teach your autistic child with ABA, the first step was establishing compliance, but *much* later they had as an 'optional' program something to teach assertiveness (though it didn't seem to teach *true* assertiveness, just therapist-mandated false assertiveness). No mention of how establishing compliance is inconsistent with encouraging assertiveness.