Relationships are hard for all of us. Extending an invitation to start a new relationship or deepen a relationship is really hard. It makes us feel vulnerable. It leaves us open to rejection.
Some people with disabilities will need us to make invitations on their behalf. This can be super hard! I know it is for me!
That’s why I’m excited that Tom Doody agreed to talk to us.
Tom Doody has been involved with disabled people for over forty years. He has worked in a variety of services in direct service, management, and consultative roles. For the past thirty-five years he has been actively involved with Social Role Valorization training. For the past thirty years, a major part of his work has been to encourage families and agency staff to actively promote greater community involvement. His main work during this period has been as coordinator of North Quabbin Citizen Advocacy, an organization exclusively focused on recruiting and supporting freely-given relationships between disabled people and their non-disabled neighbors.
Tom is an expert at extending invitations. In this episode, we review why invitations are hard and why they are really important. And we also talk about patterns in our lives and how these patterns in our lives can open up – or close down – possibilities for relationship.
When Tom and I were getting ready to start recording our interview, Tom started sharing some really valuable thoughts. So, I pressed record. First you will hear Tom talking. Then we will pause, do introductions, and continue on. I hope you find part one of this two part interview as valuable as I do!
Relationships are a primary need for humans! All people benefit from having a variety of people who play a variety of roles in their life.
Friendships and belonging are the next most pressing needs of people after food, shelter and access to medical care.
What is the primary barrier for people with disabilities in developing relationships?
Well, there are both common and specific challenges.
Common challenges to relationships
Relationships are hard for everyone! Just think about how much time you spend trying to figure out the relationships in your life.
And our society has increasing problems with loneliness. More of us are lonely and it hurts us.
Specific challenges to developing relationships for people with disabilities
People with disabilities have some unique challenges in building relationships as well.
For example, specialized programs delivered by people with specialized skills tells everyone that certain people don’t belong with the rest of us.
We have evolved to the point that we often understand the need for physical accommodations for people. But we haven’t gotten our heads around the idea of social accommodations. Some people really need social accommodations to help them.
People with disabilities are devalued. This doesn’t mean that they are not valuable. Just that they are not perceived as being of high value and as having something to contribute to relationships and to society.
Trends or patterns get established that tend to keep people in or out of community. Segregation is a barrier to relationships. Segregation tends to lead to segregation. Patterns get established about who belongs with who. And in regard to what is possible.An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure because how we get started tends to persist throughout the years.
The oomph might come from the person with a disability but it might have to come from someone else to extend an invitation.
Asking can be hard if you have to ask for extra support. People sometimes feel like they are imposing when they ask others to help in making it possible for a person with a disability to particpate.
And sadly, when good hearted people brainstorm how to meet the needs of people with disabilities, they often offer to set up a separate program. This perpetuates the special places for special people issue.
In those situations, even though it feels like swimming upstream, we need to say “no, no, no! What we need is to figure out how to help poele to belong in what is already going on.”
Super valuable right? Be sure to join me next week for part two of my interview with Tom. Tom provides us with some practical lessons on how to go about extending invitations and tips and tricks for building up the courage to do so!
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Special thanks to Tom Doody for joining me this week. Until next time!
Started young with amazing mentors and a strong mother with a vision. Now a mother to two sons, a midwife to many, and an activist with a mission to band together with families to joyfully pursue the good things in life.