Friday, June 03, 2011

Cause for Celebration

I set the criteria at 10.

I reached it a couple days ago.

You see with the abuse prevention trainings, I offer to people with disabilities, I get a unique opportunity. I get to sit in the room, up near the front, and watch people arrive. I don't sit right at the lecture desk, that would give too much away. I sit off to the side. Many of the front line staff who bring people in for the training, don't know I'm the presenter, many think I'm another client in the agency. That's OK with me, I get a look at service, unsupervised. Well, service is always supervised by those in care, that that's an almost universally unacknowledged form of supervision isn't it? So, staff are doing what they are doing when they think no one's watching. Well, there is always someone watching, but I guess here, the idea is someone up higher in the 'higher-archy'.  So, I get the real thing.

When I started twenty years ago, many people were brought in by angry staff (they aren't allowed to stay) and they'd be pointing to chairs and saying, 'Sit there,' then they'd issue a command or two, 'take off your coat' 'don't slouch' and then they'd warn them, 'you'd better be good and participate.' Then they'd leave. Now, of course, not all were like that, but an uncomfortable majority was. Wow.

So I decided that I'd have me a little celebration when I'd run 10 sessions in a row with no one being ordered to sit in any chair, where conversations would replace demands and where staff were by and large comfortable with their role and with who left and who stayed.

It's been many years since the very first time I had that happen. It was in England, on one of my trips there. The next time was in California, on a trip there. But there was a long time between these two firsts. As time passed, as the approaches to service slowly changed, the number of sessions wherein power was not abused, commanding voices were not used, and staff were pleased, not insulted, that they couldn't attend, started to increase. Twice in the last two years I got up to 8 in a row with fully positive interactions.

Then a few weeks ago, (I'm not counting the train the trainer ones as there are a lot of staff in the room and those bringing people in are very much aware of who is there from the 'higher-archy' and behave accordingly.)  But in my last session with people with disabilities, a typical session, with Joe and I and them. It happened. And it happened for the 10th time running.

It took over 20 years for this achievement to happen, but I think it's significant. It means that people are beginning to understand the nature of the relationship they have with those in care and a respect for the job of respecting those in care.


and I say again:



ivanova said...

Awesome! I like progress. I hope the "streak" goes forever.

Anonymous said...

That is absolutely amazing!!! What a great way to start off the almost weekend!!!


Joyfulgirl said...

HooRah for sure!

Andrea S. said...


Sometimes when I look around and see how far we still have to go to achieve full disability rights it can be so discouraging. It's refreshing to occasionally stop and consider what has gone right.

Colleen said...

Dear Dave:

Thank you for this unique perspective on progress. I agree with Andrea, sometimes it is hard to see progress. But this is real progress - staff are treating the people they support with respect - even when no one is looking.


Walrilla said...


Anonymous said...

What a thoughtful and telling thing to measure. HooRah.

Louise said...

Hoorah indeed. But how ironic that it happens in the same week that the Panorama programme on the BBC revealed horrific and sadistic abuse here in the UK. If you haven't seen it, do look. It was broadcast on Tuesday 31st May and is still available on iPlayer. You will weep. As the psych they interviewed said: these staff do not see their patients (it was in a hospital for people with developmental disabilities and autism) as human - if they did they couldn't do this. Systematic abuse and a failure of the regulatory systems to pick it up, despite the people concerned, and one staff member, speaking up.

Anonymous said...

HooRah & Yeah...and Go Canucks!

Daisy said...

That's fabulous. I love hearing your stories about how far society has come. This is good news for both providers and users of services since it makes space for everyone to be the best, most authentic version of themselves.


Tamara said...

I'm really happy to hear you're seeing progress. I was at my first Special Olympics event about a month ago, and there were a lot of "teams" there from various group homes or sheltered workshops or other agencies. I was kind of overwhelmed at all the groups and the way the people interacted. It was really my first experience to the interactions between staff and the people they're supposed to be caring for.

Since I wasn't just observing, but trying to get my son where he was supposed to be, I didn't really notice all that much. But I did notice a couple of situations where the staff seemed to be talking pretty angrily to the athletes. And I saw more of people who were just so condescending - talking to an adult as if they were speaking to a two year old child.

It really made me face the reality of what my son might have to deal with someday. So, I hope the progress picks up the pace soon! Twenty years is too long to have to wait!

Anonymous said...


Noisyworld said...

WooHoo! Brilliant :)
Shame it's taken so long :( and that there are still people working in the sector that need to learn to be "humane" beings!

Kristin said...

That is awesome!