February 12th, 2016
David Hingsburger- Courtney's experience at "The Ring of Safety"
I was fortunate to spend last Saturday morning with a group of amazing parents and support providers listening to an even more amazing speaker, Dave Hingsburger. For those not familiar with his work, Dave is a support provider/director/consultant/lecturer/author and – to this girl, at least – guru in the field of disability. One of his main areas of focus is the importance of happy, healthy and (gasp!) sexual relationships for ALL people, including those with a disability.
When I woke up that morning, I didn’t think my day would be spent shouting things like “SEX IS GOOD!” with some people I knew, and many others I didn’t, but Dave’s engaging and practical stories and suggestions suddenly made that feel like the most acceptable thing in the world to do. We discussed the role that power plays in all of our lives, how (often bad) sex education comes from everywhere, the importance of hearing and respecting the word NO from everyone in our life. The group cheerfully chorused through “PRIVACY IS GOOD! NO IS GOOD! LISTENING IS GOOD! RIGHTS ARE GOOD!” and finally “DISABILITY IS GOOD”.
That was my ah-ha moment of the day. As Dave spoke about the work that allies of people with disabilities do, how much of it tends to focus on “helping them” and how “focusing on abilities” might just mean that we tend to sweep the disability under the rug like some sort of shameful secret, I realized that I’ve done all those things. Many, many times.
How often do I introduce someone to a potential direct support person by saying “they have an autism diagnosis BUT they can do, x, y and z”? Or that I don’t know their diagnosis, but I do know what they might need help with.
Why don’t I know their diagnosis and why don’t I encourage them to share their diagnosis if they want to? I know that there’s nothing wrong with having a disability, but my goal after that Saturday morning is to make sure that everyone I come in contact with knows that there’s also a lot of things that are “right” about having a disability. I am going to replace the word “but” in my vocabulary with the word “and”. “They have an autism diagnosis AND they can do x, y, and z”. AND IS GOOD!
(AND you should read Dave’s blog, Rolling Around In My Head – http://davehingsburger.blogspot.ca/, because it’s awesome).