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Inclusion vs. Reciprocity: Conflict?

At a recent workshop, four of us shared thinking about moving disability liberation forward.

It has been RC practice to recruit only sharp people who can be counselors as well as clients. How does this fit with the recent RC mandate to include intellectually disabled people?

I don't know the answer to this question. That I don't know indicates the depth of the oppression. People with disabilities disappeared from my life during my childhood and were given one-way tickets to special schools. My experience has been limited, and I've had few role models.

I do know that any human is capable of giving good attention. When a counselor has neurological differences, we have to relearn what good attention may look like. For example, my Co-Counselor with "autism" doesn't look at me, and he sometimes gets up and walks around, but he's completely there for me. We are learning together how the distress manifests itself physically. We don't make assumptions about what is and isn't distress.

We often don't know what's going on in the minds of people who do not speak, but assuming competence is always productive.

Focusing on the extreme situations (severely disabled people who can't counsel back) is a "side trip" since even people with less severe disabilities aren't in our lives or our RC Communities yet. We need to start getting close to any disabled people we have access to. We need to ask why they aren't around all the time. We need to go find the disabled people since they are isolated from us. We need to let them know, "We want you back in our lives." We need to get close for ourselves and to find allies for our own liberation, not for sainthood points.

Inside every "oppressor" is an ally yearning to be free. I heard a story about a special education director who was moving mountains to keep a little boy with "autism" out of regular third grade. A year later she had changed. At a conference about fourth grade placement, this director hugged the boy's mother and said, "Your son is finally where he belongs-regular fourth grade."

Robin Smith
Syracuse, New York, USA


Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00