“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Monday, September 18, 2017

"The behaviors our children show are a reflection of our incompetence not theirs."

"The behaviors our children show are a reflection of our incompetence not theirs." That is how Dr. Marc Gold introduces a video he did back in the 1970's about his "Try another way" philosophy for education and interaction with persons with severe disabilities. Although I have always believed that, I have been thinking about this idea more, lately, in the context of social skills and chronologically age appropriate behavior. I suspect that Dr. Gold's main point in the statement was that if children and adults are not learning, this reflects our incompetence in teaching them, not their incompetence in being unable to learn. However, I wonder about the things that we have been teaching persons with intellectual disabilities, they things they are learning, and wonder once again if what they do learn is a reflection of our "incompetence" on some level. To reiterate observations from the posting entitled "Radically normal" we may be teaching people behaviors, ways to act, ways to interact with the environment which leads to their devaluation. As stated in the past post, this is not the reality of who they have the potential to become, but is rather a projection on them of who we believe they are. There are things we can teach or minimally reinforce which can lead to people being perceived in a particular way. This way of being perceived is once again, not a reflection of who they have the potential to be, but a reflection of how I see them because they have the characteristic of impairment or disability.

This takes me back once again to the Leviticus 19:14 passage which basically states, don't curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind. In both of these cases, I am doing something to someone who doesn't realize what I am doing to them. I recognize that the deaf person cannot perceive my cursing but don't worry about how that interaction is perceived by the environment. I know that I am placing something before a blind person that will cause them to stumble, as does the social environment once again, but I do it anyway. In both of these cases, my behavior is wrong and is condemned in the passage. But there are other ways that I can cause the social environment to perceive someone negatively or in a manner that does not promote their being respected.

We must be really careful about what we facilitate. Sure people will choose to engage in behaviors that are perhaps age inappropriate, for example. As I have admitted to my students, I sometimes like to watch Bullwinkle cartoons. But it is something else for me to facilitate interactions that will lead to people who might otherwise be perceived in a respectful manner according to their age, in a manner that others their age would not tolerate if given the choice. I must be careful about what I facilitate for others. That is why we seek to create adult ministries which include persons with intellectual disabilities for example, that look like adult classes rather than children's ministries. I understand what I am doing to a person when I treat them like a child although they may not fully understand, which is why I don't treat them like a child. I find that people with intellectual disabilities who are used to being treated with the respect that goes with their age will often express discontent when they are treated as children. So it is worth taking a step back and looking at the kinds of things we are facilitating in ministry, asking ourselves, "What do the things we do reveal about our perceptions of those we are serving?"


Monday, September 11, 2017

Disability ministry may trump other aspects of ministry

I met with a dear friend and colleague, Dr. Chris Chun yesterday. We were discussing a variety of topics when we landed on a discussion of disability ministry. As the parent of a beautiful daughter who also experiences a disability, Chris said that for his family, one of the most important if not the most important criteria for choosing a church for his family was whether there was the desire to include his daughter. That might begin with a disability ministry. Of course solid preaching and teaching are critical as is the ability to be in small groups, etc. But these things being somewhat equal across many churches, the aspect of a church life and ministry that trumps all else for many families like Chris', is the presence of persons with disabilities being served by and included in ministry.

This is the kind of observation that should cause churches and church leaders to pause. In America, nearly 20% of the population experiences some form of impairment. If you have this large a group of people (which is even larger when you consider the families of such folks) who might agree that disability ministry trumps other forms of ministry, you would think the desire to promote such ministry should move to be a significant priority.

Over the years, the pastors of my church have often told me of how often families who chose to attend Trinity Church came because of our desire to include people with disabilities or be in a church that includes persons with disabilities. Even folks of other religions, like Mormons, will at times send their family members to our church because of the opportunities presented there. People can be desperate for a place where their family member is included, loved and taught the things of the Lord. Unfortunately, that is something that is to often difficult for families to find. But when it is found, it is a truly beautiful thing!


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Radically normal

We regularly have folks visit our Light & Power class which includes adults with disabilities. Recently a friend visited from Canada. After attending the class and then interviewing some class members, he indicated that there was something different about the way we did things.

 I asked, “What did you observe that was different?”
He thought a moment and then responded, “Light & Power is radically normal. People are treated and interacted with like any other adult would be interacted with.”

I embrace that characterization. Many ministries look far from normal in terms of interactions among adults. But the question to ask is, “Does this reflect who adults with disabilities actually are, or are we projecting on them who we perceive them to be?” You see, the lack of typical interactions is probably a reflection of misunderstanding of who people with disabilities are.

If I had a son and raised him to act in an immature manner, that is how he would act. That is, if the culture around a person consistently and persistently indoctrinates a person to be a certain way, they will likely reflect that programmed outcome, whether that outcome is positive, appropriate or desirable.  I would argue that our culture almost relentlessly socializes people, particularly people with intellectual disabilities to be a particular way which is not necessarily a desirable way. When people then become who we have socialized them to be, we then say that is who they always were, not who they were socialized into becoming. If we believe that, then people can be socialized into becoming something different. Adults with intellectual disabilities, for example, needn’t behave or be treated in a juvenile, age inappropriate manner. Once again, if this is the case, it once again reflects the biases or perceptions of the socializer not who the people themselves were.

So who are you socializing persons with disabilities to be?
How are you socializing the social environment to be toward persons with disabilities?
Are you reinforcing the idea that persons with disabilities are somehow different than other people?
Are we reinforcing that persons with disabilities are so different that we cannot help but reinforce these perceived differences?

No, my friend. We need to be radically normal in our interactions with persons with disabilities. Don’t support the pejorative perceptions about who people are that society tries to indoctrinate us into believing. Romans 12:2 really applies here.

Step back and reflect and you may need to renew your mind.

Monday, July 17, 2017

360' Video of lesson 8 from The Light & Power curriculum

I have long wanted to do a video of a lesson from our Light & Power company where you could view the whole class during the lesson. In that way, you would see not just what the teacher is doing, but the class as well. With the help of my son, we recently did a 360' video of a lesson. If you are unfamiliar with 360' video, that means that on your computer, you can move the perspective that you see to view anyplace in the room. If you have the youtube app on your phone, you can move it around to see the entire room as if you were there. The quality of the video is a bit lacking as you will see, but it still gives you a feel for what our class is like.

The video is of Lesson 8 which is entitled, "Praying for other people." Here is the link should you want to check it out!

Lessons from The Light & Power Company: Lesson 8 Praying for other people

I have also added the link under "video links" at the right.


Sunday, July 09, 2017

New curriculum on the Psalms from The Light & Power Company

As many readers of this blog will know, I have taught an adult Bible class at my church on Sunday mornings for the past 27 years. This class is somewhat unique in that it includes adults with various disabilities. I have collected those lessons and at times have made some of them available on the internet. Well, finally I have compiled some of them into a curriculum which is now available for purchase. It is entitled, Lessons from the Light & Power Company: The Psalms. The curriculum includes 40 lessons drawn from the Book of Psalms. These lessons were developed, then taught, then revised, then taught again, then revised again over a period of about 10 years. I would invite you to visit the following link to purchase the book. It is also available on Amazon.

This is the first in what will hopefully be a series of curriculum books. If you have followed this blog over the years, you will know that Kathi and I have a very specific approach which is age appropriate treating adults with the respect they are entitled to. The material covered in these lessons are the same types of concepts you would teach any group of adults. 

Soon, there will also be some videos to accompany the curriculum. You will be able to see how I teach some of the lessons. 

So please take a look a the curriculum. It might be useful to you in your ministry.