Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Becoming Group

Outside my comfort zone?

Um, yes.

I've done a lot of work with Bournemouth People First and today I was part of a conference in the morning where different players were coming together to talk about community safety. There were representatives from the police, from the crown, from the self advocate group, from witness profiling. I was asked to do a 20 minute introduction on the importance of working together and what it meant to take abuse seriously.

All that's ok.

Then in the afternoon I was asked to do a brief 90 minute Just Say Know abuse preventino session for the self advocates in the room. But, instead of having all care providers leave the room, they would stay and see how the session was taught and how skilled individuals were. Typically these sessions are free of any observers, free of any possible interference. Now to be watched by top cops, by crown attorneys, by social workers and the like ... that felt like being on the hot seat.

But I've often said that I wish people could see how well people with disabilities learn and how hidden skills shine out from behind clouds of apparent incompetence. So, what was I to do? I agreed.

Just after 1:30 I looked over the audience of people with disabilities, many who I've taught before and I said, "Make me look good." And you know what ... they did. We threw ourselves into the workshop with abandon. It's a fun workshop, with lots of activity, lots of laughter and lots and lots of opportunity to practice. I glanced around at the faces of prosecutors and police, expecting judgement and boredom and I saw them laughing, clapping, participating.

So I took a chance and got one of the police officers up and into a roll play. He came willingly, enjoying the applause like everyone else. Then it was hell bent for leather, the group now was just a group. Not watchers and participants - but a single cohesive unit working and learning together.

It ended beautifully with the pledge of personal power.

I was tired.

The police officer, a DI I believe, came and spoke to me about the day, he loved being there and he loved watching the group learn. "I've learned a lot today," he said. And I knew he had, because there wasn't one teacher ... there were many. Each time a person with a disability got up to role play, to read, to participate - they taught messages of humanity and competence.

Dave had a good day.

And so did a few others, I'd say.


Anonymous said...

Oh What a DAY!
I am still buzzing!
Thank you both so much

Sharon McDaid said...

That's great Dave.

I had a comment on my blog yesterday from someone who said he is "rubbish at dealing with disabled people" (meaning learning disabled) as he never meets any. It sounds like he's at least questioning his assumptions.

Events like what you described and having people interact positively in ways they're not used to are great.

Belinda said...

A cheer for all the wonderful teachers in that room. I'm not one bit surprsed that the crowd of observers had their best day at work for a long time.

Anonymous said...

What a challenge. What a rush! I love your work; it is so important.

rickismom said...

WOW! Sounds terrific!

Liz Miller said...

That sounds like a fantastic session.

Roia said...


I work as a music therapist, and whenever I have students coming to complete a practicum with one of my groups I remind the guys I work with that they are in a position of being able to teach these students, affecting not just the students but every person with or without a disability that that person will eventually meet in his/her life as a therapist. It has never failed, and the group has always taken this role very seriously. It is particularly impressive, given that none of the men in these two groups uses speech to communicate. It is indeed beautiful to watch.

Anonymous said...

The older I get the more desperate I feel about leaving my daughter on the planet alone. I am not well physically and even if I was, I wouldn't live forever. I try to teach her the skills she needs in the world but I feel inadequate. I want her to be independant and self sufficient and I refuse to treat her like she is less than anyone else, but I also am aware of her vunerability. If only she could attend your workshops.
I have put every bit of my love into her but I know it's not enough. Do you know of anyone in the southern USA who does your kind of work? If so please let me know.