Monday, March 12, 2018


We had taken our seats in the movie theatre and were enjoying the trailers. People were still pouring in and choosing seats whispering louder than a normal speaking voice. I love the movies, I love being in a room full of people there for the same experience. I was relaxed into my wheelchair and just enjoying the feel of being there.

Most people chose to come in, turn immediately to their left and go up the stairs to choose their seats. But two women entered, the one in the lead chose to cross in front of us and go up the far staircase. When she passed in front of us I recognized that she had an intellectual disability and was being accompanied by her staff. Just past us she stopped and looked up at the seats.

You can tell the quality of service that an individual gets almost instantly. The first words that come out of a staff's mouth, the tone, the texture, the content and the feel of those words will tell you everything. The staff leaned into her and said, "Where do you want to sit?" The woman considered for a moment and then pointed at seats that would have been about midway up the theatre. She lead and the staff followed.

That was it.

That was the whole interaction.

Those were the only words spoken.

But I know a lot. I noticed that the woman had a choice and she showed no fear or hesitation in making that choice. She didn't look back at her staff for affirmation that she'd made the right choice.

There is no choice where there is fear.

I noticed that the woman led the two into the theatre, she was not guided to a 'right way' of finding a seat. She didn't follow the crowd and was not expected to nor was she urged to make the same choice.

There is no choice where there is expectation of conformity.

I noticed that the woman's sense of leadership, the sense that she was at the helm of her own ship, was not once compromised. The staff was comfortable with supporting without leading. supporting without questioning, supporting without lessening. She was not diminished by the fact that she needed support. She is vulnerable to the ability of staff to know how to assist rather than insist and that vulnerability was not preyed upon.

When you support someone, you are always being watched.







Susan Izeman said...

Thank you for a beautiful illustration of a simple (but sometimes rare) aspect of support. I often start off staff training by just talking about how much I *like* the person we're with. Starting from that point seems to guide better behavior.

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

How beautiful. The one being staff is NOT in charge, but a supporter and helper when needed.

You'd think staff would realize how much easier this is for BOTH of them.