Saturday, May 20, 2017

She Didn't Look

He approached me from the front. I was pushing myself to the rest stop up a slight grade in blistering heat. He drew near, said how hot it was and asked if I wanted a push. I told him that I was good and thanked him for the offer. He smiled and wished me a good day and headed on in ahead of me. I was a few feet behind and Joe joined me from parking the car, the disabled stalls were all full and he'd had to park a distance away, and we went in. After using the facilities we went to get a bite of lunch, it had been a long time since breakfast and we were both hungry.

In the line up, just ahead of us, I ran into the fellow who'd offered the push who was accompanied by his daughter, a young woman with Down Syndrome. Forgive me but my first thought was that this explained why he was so respectful about offering help and having it refused. Not a lot of people do that with the grace that he did. They stepped aside to let us go ahead because they went back to get something to drink. We were through and seated when they were back in the line up to pay.

I noticed that his daughter was ahead of him, holding her lunch tray. When she got to the cashier she pulled out her money and gave it over. Here's the amazing thing. It's a small thing. But it's a huge thing too. During the time she was paying, and accepting the change, and putting it back into her purse, she never looked to him. She didn't look for approval. She didn't look in fear of having made a mistake. She didn't look to him for a cue of any kind. She just did what was needed to be done and then picked up her tray and moved on, going ahead, while he paid, to select a table.

In the course of my years of work with people with intellectual disabilities I often see something quite different. I often see people who, being constantly taught and constantly critiqued, often look to parent or support provider for approval or reassurance or in slight fear of having made yet another mistake. She did none of those things. It seemed like she'd also been taught, because all of us, if we have it, are taught self confidence.

I realized then that when he approached me, to offer the push, he was alone. She was not with him. She must have gone ahead, not stapled to his side, and gone in herself to a busy rest stop. He and she were separate and independent people together by relationship and by circumstance rather than by desperate need. I don't know anything about this man, or this woman, but I do know that both of them respect each other and both of them love each other and both of them are comfortable with their own power.

There are lots of amazing parents out there. There are lots of wonderful support staff. The results of their very best work is often in what's not seen, like the absence of a glance, and small acts of complete confidence.

3 comments:

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

But once the attitude is there, everything else falls in line: if you respect people's independence, then all transactions become relationships between equals - and the parent doesn't have to be on constant alert if the child can handle life. Much less stress for everyone.

Unknown said...

Great post...and when relationships are healthy and loving, they do appear to be effortless....but we know how much work it takes to accomplish that connection that is strong yet flexible.
clairesmum

Celebrating Phoenix said...

I'm trying to foster this! I tell my 7 year old with DS to go get clothes for the day and wait for her to come back to see what she brings (instead of micro managing her). More often than not she gets what she needs and brings it to me. Encourage her to do what she can and support what she's learning. I hope that Phoenix is just like that young lady one day.