When I got to work this morning there was a nice little present for me. Someone had written in to subscribe to Service, Support and Success: The Direct Support Workers Newsletter, and had attached to the subscription request a short note as people often do. She told me that she had heard me lecture many, many years ago and was shocked, at the time, at what I said about sexuality, relationships and the right to love in relation to people with intellectual disabilities.
Her background, she described, was very conservative and the things I said shocked her both because of the subject of sexuality and frankness with which it was spoken of but also because of the idea embedded in the presentation that people with intellectual disabilities had a right to, and would inevitably grow to adulthood. At the time she brushed off my presentation, saw me as another 'all talk' presenter.
Part of the reason for her reaction was because she and her husband had had a young son with intellectual disabilities and as they struggled to teach him some basic skills, they couldn't imagine him in a relationship, living on his own, being a fully contributing adult. My talk had shaken her up but not enough to change her views.
I didn't need to do that.
Her son did.
She said that he did eventually and inevitably grow into adulthood and he did have expectations of living a large life, much larger than she and her husband ever imagined. She said that today, he's going to ask his girlfriend to marry him. She is excited for him, her husband, she says with a couple of lols can't talk about it without crying.
I've written her back and asked her to let me know if her son's girlfriend says, "Yes."
I really want to know.
The email made me realize that those of us who provide education and training regarding people with intellectual disabilities need to realize that the real teachers, the real change-makers are the courageous and bold and strong people with intellectual disabilities who will live the life they want and will make their way in the world.
At the very end of her email she said, "If you want to write about this on your blog, please do." People know me so well.