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Super Girl

If Only I had Super Powers!

If Only I had Super Powers!

I want to banish the myth that you need special powers to work with people living with a developmental disability.  Many people need far less support than most people think.  Also, if they do need help, they’ll ask.  This topic has been fresh on my mind since I started volunteering for a People First chapter as an advisor.  I’ve been looking for a partner in crime and I’ve run into a lot of trouble.  The reason behind the reluctance to volunteer has surprised me.

People don’t want to volunteer because they don’t think they have the necessary skills.  It’s not people with disabilities that need support, it’s volunteers.  Even ones with experience who should know better, like me.

My first meeting as an advisor I worked with 19 people who all were affected in some way by a developmental disability.  No support workers, no specialized help running the meeting except for Valerie, Manitoba’s People First President, and 19 people passionate about advocacy.  I expected chaos.  Instead, I witnessed absolute professionalism, engagement, and decisive action.

People First is run by people with developmental disabilities for people with developmental disabilities.  It was founded because of how people underestimate those living with intellectual and physical challenges.  Being at that meeting reminded me how I underestimate people and why it’s so important not to!

Super Girl
Photo from If I Only had Super Powers

There is no book, course, or special training program that can help you learn to support people better than a person themself.  I’ve always learned best through conversation and listening, really listening.  People are the best teachers of what they need.  I’m so honored to be working with People First.  I look forward to getting my hands dirty, getting active, and convincing more people in the community that they don’t need superpowers to be involved in the community living movement.

Any ideas from those of you more experienced at recruiting volunteers from outside the disability services field?  How do you coach and mentor people that have concerns about not meeting the needs of people they are being asked to support?  Any advice?  Suggestions?


Inclusion Blog Post

By Inclusion Blog Post

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  1. “People need far less support than most people think. Also, if they do need help, they’ll ask.”

    It may be wise to place the word “Some” or “Many” in front of that sentence. There are some people with disabilities who do require a great deal of continuous support, and are unable to ask for help due to intellectual or physical barriers. It’s important to remember not to over-generalize and lump all Special Needs people into one particular type of group. We should be inclusive and respectful toward the fact that there are many different types of people with disabilities, and honour their needs and rights when writing about them on public blogs.

    • Absolutely, I could not agree more. Thank-you for bringing this to my attention. It was not my intention to over generalize. I did and I apologize for it. Every person and their support needs are unique.

      What I was so awkwardly trying to communicate is that I think people are often underestimated. I think that people’s ability, not their disability, should play a central role in how people are perceived. To not be defined by what they can’t do, but by what they can.

      I over compensated in my writerly passion. Thanks again for commenting and pointing out this oversight to me.

      If you have more concerns please email (or comment!) me at meite.timshel@ibexherd.com