Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Dave Does Disabilty 08

I am as captivated by them as many of you are, those year end lists. In the last few days I've read the 'top celebrity break ups' the 'top career comebacks' the 'best movies of the year' the 'top songs' the 'hottest celebrity pairings' ... I admit to it, shamefacedly. So I've decided to do a version of the same. I've never managed a top ten, so here are a dozen things done two at a time about the year.

Top Two Things in the News

1) More children are born with Down Syndrome than in previous years. More parents are making the decision to keep their babies (newspapers said 'in spite of') because of the diagnosis. This is a strong signal that something is going right and a cause for lots of bubbly to be openned.

2) Euthanasia becomes a big story again. The killing of Danny, the twenty some, footballer in England is a low point. Newly disabled and dealing with anger and grief over his life in a disabled body he becomes depressed and suicidal. Parents support his decision to die so he doesn't have to live a 'second class life'. Perhaps their view that he's gone from first to second class is part of the problem (but we're not allowed to say that). It is a chilling message to people with disabilities that social change isn't the answer to exclusion and segregation - death is. For awhile there you couldn't turn on the television without another story about the wonders of offing yourself.

Two Things that Prove The World's Gone Mad

1) A judge determines that a Grandfather and Two Uncles who have routinely raped a young girl with a disability will get suspended sentences so they can continue to care for her. If there is search for intellegent life in the universe, here is not the place to start.

2) Sarah Palin became a poster woman for the disability rights movement because she had a baby with a disability. Can someone explain this one to me. I was constantly lost as to her qualifications to speak to the issues of disability simply because she had a months old child with Down Syndrome. I'll retire to bedlam.

Two Things that Held Out Hope

1) Tropic Thunder and it's disphobic use of language and it's demeaning portrayal of someone with a disability did not go quietly into the theatres. People got mad. It's like for a second the disability community set down petty squabbles and stood together and said, loudly enough for Hollywood to hear 'Enough'. This blog took part in that protest and got some of the fallout from the 'get a sense of humour crowd'. I was so proud that we didn't simply tuck tail and run.

2) The Royal Ontario Museum hosted a small exhibit on the history of disability. While the exhibit itself lacked bite and it seemed to strive to be 'nice' ... the fact that it existed at all was proof that there is a gradual and grudging acceptance of the concept of a 'disability community' in the halls of academia.

Two Things From The World of Books

Edward Sawtelle was published to great success this year. A primary character with a disability, and whose disability is ever present from first to last, exists in a book without disability as a theme. Now that's an interesting and refreshing concept.

Anarchy and Old Dogs continues a series of books set in Laos wherein one of the main characters is a man with Down Syndrome who is the assistant to the coroner. Even though 'Anarchy' was published this year, it's best to start with 'A Coroner's Lunch' the first in the series. Though he is often treated by others with disrespect, he's always treated by the author and his team with great respect. Long Live Mr. Gueng.

Two Big Moments from My Career

1) I lectured in the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow! A long way from church basements in Ontario. We had stage hands help us set up and I was on the prettiest stage with the nicest backdrop. I had butterflies the size of eagles flapping about my gut (yes, I know, at least there's room) but the nerves only served to give me energy and I ended up having a wonderful time.

2) The NADD conference in Niagara Falls, for personal reasons, was a huge moment in my career this year. I was asked to speak on a new topic, 'Trauma'. I wrote a new keynote and set my self the task of delivering it with the passion it deserved. I don't remember much of the speech, but I remember the elation of a new talk given well. It was an important moment where I needed to do well.

Two Big Moments from My Work

1) Working with Manuela on the first ever presentation of the 'Reduce Abuse' project within Vita and seeing, laid out on paper how much work had been accomplished, how far we'd come, and how courage infused the process. Big things will come of this next year, but to see the groundwork done and knowing what it meant brought tears to my eyes.

2) Seeing real growth and development in those I supervise. From anxious nervous applicants to strong teachers and advocates - it's an amazing journey. I never really got supervision before and never put much energy into it - a folly of youth. Having the opportunity to be part of someone else's journey, to shape how a team approaches things, to develop an ethic in others - wow - it's another way to immortality.

Well, that's it. My take on a year. I'm wondering what others thought the high and low points were. Please leave your lists or items in the comment section.

(to those who saw the Sex in Liverpool post and are wondering what happened to it. it published accidentally, I wrote it for fun a long while back and just gave it a post date months in the future ... oops the day came and I was surprised to see it on ... I may repost later, but I'd planned this one for the day.)


Andrea Shettle, MSW said...

Things that prove the world has gone mad, #3:


(I learned about this article via this discussion on the BBC Ouch Board: http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbouch/F2322273?thread=6190905)

Sadly, this story from the UK simply serves to highlight the kind of issues you talk about in your posts entitled "Cold" and "Life Lessons. And shows that the undervaluing of the lives of people with disabilities can cross national boundaries.

Stephen said...

the death of the young man in England was truly awful, so sad and disturbing that his parents could not even see any value in his life. On another down note, I read an article that suggested that the reporting of the downs syndrome statistics was a bit misleading. While more babies with Downs are being born, it is likely this is mainly due to increasing numbers of people having children well into their 30's and 40's which of course raises the statistical likelihood of the baby being born with downs. My understanding is that the percentage of parents given a downs diagnosis who decide to terminate remains stubbornly, depressingly in the large majority.

Thank you for your comments on supervision, an important reminder of this and more inspiring than many a supervision course I have attended!

And I'm glad I caught the Liverpool post before it dissapeared, hope to see it resurrected soon, very funny!

Reformed Anon. Girl in Pain said...

let's not forget Brent Martin as well in our list of horrible things this past year.

Reformed Anon. Girl in Pain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reformed Anon. Girl in Pain said...

I followed your lead Dave and did my own list. I was going to make it totally different than your ideas but some are the same because when I reflected on the year I thought that if I hadn't seen your posting, I would still have included them.
here it is: http://chronicallyrandom.blogspot.com/2008/12/so-it-is-time-again-to-bid-farewell-to.html
Soli Deo Gloria