“The Dialogues” over at TPGA have been going on now for eight days, and there’s more to come. To date I’ve felt the posters have been respectful, well-reasoned (for the most part), and there has been a give and take happening. The internet being what it is, I’ve stayed away from the comments. I had a feeling it would be there that things would fall apart; where there would be name calling, and finger-pointing. Then, in the comments of another blog I read where things had calmed down today. So I went and had a look.
If I understand correctly, the purpose of this dialogue is to try to find common ground between Self Advocates and Parent Advocates. I think they’re trying to get to a place where everyone can stand shoulder to shoulder with a common purpose and everyone’s point of view is respected, whether it’s agreed upon or not. From what I saw in the comments today, that appears to be a nearly unattainable goal.
There’s no way to get there. One person expresses how they feel, someone offers a different perspective on it, and BAM! It’s on. Suddenly offering an alternative viewpoint is seen as completely invalidating how the first person feels. Further, by pointing that out to the second person, their feelings are completely invalidated too. Self advocates are shouted down for being too capable and not understanding what it is to parent a child with a disability. Parent advocates are shouted down for being too capable not understanding what it is to be a person with a disability.
What about disabled parents of disabled children? Well, if they’re like me, they’re often caught in the middle. To many in both groups, I’m not disabled enough to warrant listening to, and neither are my children. We become invisible. For those disabled parents of disabled children who are not like me, I’m not sure where they fall. I suspect that many have refrained from commenting, just as I have. And that’s too bad if you think about it. They are the only people in the unique position of knowing exactly what it is to be disabledand what it is to parent a child with a disability. They should be the E.F. Huttons in the conversation. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be listening to everybody, but that’s just it. We’re not listening to everybody. In fact, sometimes it appears that no one is listening to anyone.
I used to think if everyone could just calm down, and enter the conversation seeking first to understand rather than to be understood, we would be able to come together for our common purpose. I no longer believe that. People seem either unwilling or unable these days to really listen. Everyone is just quietly waiting to talk.
“So when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it.” Jiddu Krishnamurti