Thursday, June 11, 2009


I am here in Butler to do a series of presentations starting with a Train the Trainer session on abuse prevention. Typically I meet with the newbie trainers for about an hour and then run a class for 15 to 20 people with disabilities, then take questions from the trainers afterwards. It may not seem like much but it's a simple class to learn. Powerful lessons can be taught with a sense of fun and opportunities to practice.

Well, we hit a snag when only 2 people with disabilities showed. A decision had to be made so we asked them if it would be ok if I just taught it with them and all the staff joining in to do the activities and role plays. They were generous and said sure. I felt a wee bit silly at first but got into teaching and forgot to be nervous. I noted and hoped all the new trainers noticed that even though there were only two people with disabilities there, they were laughing, participating and learning.

We got to the discussion of the four basic feelings and something wonderful happened. One of the two spoke deeply and with great feeling about what frightened him. He was well spoken, his words well chosen and he spoke with an intense honesty that gripped us all. What he said connected with everyone in the room. He spoke of a fear that is very 'modern' and completely timeless at the same time. In that instant I think we were all glad to be there, all glad to be learning together from each other and from him in particular. It mattered that the session had been run.

It amazes me what can happen when people with disabilities are given time, opportuntity and THE RIGHT QUESTION. Too often our questions of people with disabilities are 'white blouse or blue sweater' 'chocolate milk or diet soda' 'everybody loves raymond or two and a half men'. Choices are wonderful but they are conversation stoppers not interaction starters. Here, today, a man had the opportunity to answer a question he'd clearly been waiting to answer, 'What things scare you?' Questions we ask of people we are interested in. Questions we ask of people who matter to us. Questions we ask when we value the answer.

For a moment he gave me a real hope, a hope that one day someone will ask the right question about disability and someone, somewhere, will finally hear the right answer.


Tamara said...

"It amazes me what can happen when people with disabilities are given time, opportuntity and THE RIGHT QUESTION. "

Yeh - the right question and the time to answer it - Saving that with my Dave quotes -

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

The right question - an educator's quest!

Today is graduation. Dave you have educated these students through your books, your writing and a guest speaker who you trained in the Ethics of Touch. They know your name,they have read, discussed and written about some of your books and some of your blogs, they remember it because what you write is real, genuine and honest. It challenges them and reassures them.

So here's to you Dave, an educator. Your students are graduating today - here's hoping they make a difference - and ask the right questions.


CJ said...

Yes, and often folks w/ disabilities aren't given the interest from someone else to say what is on their minds.

How I wish communication abilities weren't so impaired with autism.

awesomeangel said...

Hi Dave, my 13 year old daughter Angel is creating a Celebrity Charity Cookbook and we'd like your submission for the book. Funds raised through this book will be shared between Variety The Children's Charity and Pediatric Care at three Vancouver Island hospitals. I've searched high and low for an email or contact address for you and cannot find one on the net. Can you please email me at and I'll send you back the info on the cookbook. you can read more about Angel by visiting her site

thanks, Cheryl magnussen on behalf of Angel

FAB said...

Even though we hit a snag and had two people with disabilities in the audience as opposed to ten, it worked and it worked well. What was great about the training was that you did it for all of us pretty much like you typically would, and I was as enthralled as I am when we hear you speak any other time. The material wasn't "dumbed" down as some people tend to do, and I loved participating in that class. For all of us who routinely develop and give trainings to people with intellectual disabilities it was great to experience your approach. It reinforced that what's enjoyable for me in a class is still enjoyable for EVERYONE else too! So I think yesterday was also a lesson in humanity, humility and much more.

I loved the moment that you're talking about...when the rest of us are yelling "snakes", "spiders" and so on, this gentleman gave a genuine answer, and it reminded me at least to keep trying to ask "the right questions".

You were awesome today as well Dave...I can't wait for Friday even though then you'll be leaving us!:(