Student and Teacher
I remember feelings of wanting to escape or run away. It did not matter how big the room was. I was not restricted but I felt boxed in. I would become quite distressed because I did not know how to say at the time that I was not an object, a subject in a box or an experiment to be studied. I was there. I was sitting in the room and had a very clear perception of events.
Those feelings of vulnerability were a driving force that caused me to become a skilled student about all aspects of my disability. I learned everything that I could about spastic cerebral palsy.
I had to learn to be constructively vocal and to ask questions in the right way. I had to learn the same terms, about the therapies, and protocols just like the professionals did to establish productive working relationships with them. I learned that I was choreographing an intensive, dynamic relationship with the professionals, and nothing about it was standard or routine.
A good teacher sets high expectations for achievement; they provide vision, knowledge, and a plan to move ahead. When I work with a new professional, I am looking for certain qualities.
Are they a Maverick - the out-of-the box thinker that recognizes the need for a different lens when dealing with a disability? Do they have the willingness and level of skill to try different approaches? Do they have patience, confidence, and an ability to provide direction?
In turn, I try to display the qualities of a good student—that I am focused, set goals, am confident, and that I have a positive attitude and am open to direction. A good student prepares, is not afraid to ask questions, is respectful, and is always on time. I switch between a teacher and a student role. When I work with professionals, I have to become knowledgeable about specific therapeutic techniques and what should be occurring with those prescribed methods. I have to learn to keep pace with each professional based on their training, practice, and protocols. Initially the new professional and I are not on equal footing.
I often have to challenge academic teaching, theories, and what the person has read or heard about cerebral palsy. There can be a tug-of-war between what the textbook says compared to what the professional sees when they work with me. I often have to teach, encourage and give confidence to the professional so that they will trust me as well as what I share about the “in the skin” experience with my disability.
I have to show the professional that I am the master of my own body and clearly know what my strengths and weaknesses are. I have had to learn how to fine-tune how I engage with professionals. This includes how I relay and share information. I have learned to use different vocabulary and communication styles; sometimes my methods are short and to the point, while other times they are very detailed. I had to learn when to be forceful and when to be calm about my wishes, as well as when to clearly steer my treatment direction.
I have had to become a skilled facilitator. Becoming an effective facilitator is a mix of several skills, including listening to information that is conveyed by the professional, listening to instruction and repeating the information back to be clear, asking questions, and being able to put into words what happens when a particular technique is tried.
As we train new professionals coming into the recreation, health and fitness fields, we need to instill more Maverick-type qualities - seeing the person absent the diagnosis and moving beyond the box.
Copyright Disclaimer: This copyrighted article is reproduced from the "Endless CapABILITIES Blog", sponsored by The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (www.nchpad.org). NCHPAD is part of the UAB/Lakeshore Research Collaborative and supported by Grant/Cooperative Agreement Number U59DD000906 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It may be freely distributed in its entirety as long as it includes this notice but cannot be edited, modified, or otherwise altered without the expressed written permission of NCHPAD. Contact NCHPAD at 1-800-900-8086 for additional details. http://blog.ncpad.org/2012/03/19/beyond-the-box-part-i/#more