I am a husband, father, son, brother, uncle and friend. I believe in sharing my talents and experiences by giving back to the community by giving my time to coaching, church and especially to the disability community. I truly believe that all men and women are created equally.
Every so often, you get to share the stage and a memorable experience with one of your children. I had one of those experiences last week. I had the opportunity to be a co-presenter with my son, for 2 break-out sessions, at the 2012 Self Determination Conference.
I was asked earlier this year about some of the things that I think would help individuals with disabilities better understand what self-direction is really all about. Little did I realize that my thoughts would lead me to becoming a presenter on the subjects suggested.
As I prepared to speak on these subjects, I knew that Tyler would be a part of each presentation. I also knew that I wanted to bring in another self-advocate, one who has more life experiences. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the sessions that I thought would have the greater interest, “Planning for Goals, not Budgets” had a decent gathering, but nowhere near the attendance at our first sessions o “Self-Directed Supports and Risks”
I guess there are so many things that I just take for granted. I think that because I allow Tyler to make most of his own decisions, I assume that everybody in similar situations does the same. I guess you know the old saying about assuming, it sure applied here. Working for the last 4 plus years on the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities, it has sure opened my eyes to the possibilities that await Tyler. I realize that is not always going to be easy. I know that mistakes will be made, both by me and by Tyler. But in order to figure out what is best for Tyler, we need to take some risks. When you take a risk there are two outcomes, success and failure.
Not every risk that I have taken in my life has resulted in success. But it is through the failures that I have learned. I guess I think that it is OK to fail once in a while, because it is taught me to appreciate the successes that much more. The same holds true for individuals with disabilities. They need to be able to take risks, without consequences for their actions, how are they supposed to learn. I allow my other kids take risks, why shouldn’t I allow Tyler to do the same. I’m not talking about life or death risks here, I am talking about the decisions that we all make every day; decisions that have consequences.
I shared these thoughts with the group and I was surprised that some had never thought about individuals with disabilities taking risks and sometimes failing. The crowd was individuals who have a vested interest in Self-Direction; I guess that is why I was surprised. Again, I guess that I sometimes take too much for granted and I need to continue to share my experiences. The audience was very much interested in the 2 self-advocates that I was honored to be presenting with. One, a young man who took a risk and bought a home, has a competitive wage job and has had some personal relationships. The other was Tyler, a young man who takes risks with the guidance of his parents. Both very qualified to take these risks, because who better to make a decision about their lives, then themselves. Both have experienced successes and failures, but each has learned from those failures and they have learned from their failures.
A number of individuals came up to me after the presentation and asked further questions, which I was more than happy to answer. Others have sent me emails. I am not an expert of the subject; I am just a parent trying to do what is right for his son, as I do for my other kids. I guess speaking with confidence on the subject made it OK for others to give it a try.
This experience was a big risk for me. I have never presented at a conference before, it required me to step out of my comfort zone, but I think it came out alright. I have a sense of success speaking on these subjects. I asked for, and received some sonstructive critic from from co-workers who are much more refined than myself. So I will learn from these experiences. In fact, I have been asked to speak at the Circles of Life Conference next spring. Who knows, this may turn out to be one of those successes you hear about when you take a risk.