#057: Imagining Better, with Michael Kendrick PhD

[4-minute read, 70-minute listen]         

How to create a life worth living? … am I implying that there are lives that aren’t worth living? This a big question that I ask you to consider for yourself.

People with developmental disabilities are devalued and suppressed (largely unconsciously) by society, our families and even ourselves (I am guilty too).

When a person is devalued, it is very difficult to access the opportunities that everyone else can access, and often results in isolation, loneliness, and suffering. Again, I ask – A life worth living?

Well, what I do know, is that I can do better, and we can do better, and our society can do better.

And, and it starts with a vision.

Why do we need vision? Well, as human beings the sense that we trust the most is our eyes, we are looking out for dangers and rewards. Also, where we look is where we go – If we are surfing and we are looking at the rocks, we will end up on the rocks, if we are looking at the beach, we will end up on the beach. Here I am talking about vision as one of our 5 human senses. However, these truths about our sense of vision apply to our future. If we can imagine, or see in our minds, where we want to be 5 years from now… we can trust that we can get there, and we move in that direction. We are looking at the destination we want to get to 5 years from now and will move in that direction, just like the surfer that looks at the beach and steps off their board into the soft sand (instead of crying out for help to be saved while being pushed upon the jagged rocks).

In this conversation with Michael Kendrick, we discuss ‘Imagining Better” and we attempt to answer; What is vision? Why is vision so important for people with IDDs? and, How do you go about creating a Vision?

Michael Kendrick PhD. is a well-known international consultant in Human Services. Michael is involved in consulting, education and evaluative work with many governments, private agencies, advocacy groups, community organizations, universities and colleges across the globe. His work has involved training, evaluations, strategic planning, critical problem solving and confidential advice in the areas of mental health, disability and aging with an emphasis on persons requiring long term support.

You can listen to this conversation in its entirety by clicking play on the player below, OR by clicking one of the following links to listen on your favourite podcast player; iTunes, Spotify, and Google Play.

What is Vision (the future looking kind)?

MK: “It is the way we see the world. It differs from one person to another. It is possible for people to have different content in their vision. We might have no vision on some subjects because we have never seen them before, where other areas we might have detailed visions. Vision might change over time – our life experiences shift our vision.

For example, the decision to see the good in people would be a way to approach people as if there is good in people. If your vision is that people are nasty or unpleasant, then the way you will see people are nasty because that is what you are looking for.”

Why is it important for an individual with a Developmental Disability to have a vision?

MK: “A vision with opportunities can create life-giving possibilities. Without that there can be no sense that these possibilities exist. [For example] A lot of people with disabilities were raised with the belief that work and employment would not be a part of their future. This persuades people through conditioning and reinforcements [what they will not work] through other people’s world views. This might mean that people have many undeveloped, unrecognized potentials and capacities that are never explored because of the limited vision for them and also the conviction that they don’t exist.”

EG: If you don’t have a plan, you are part of someone else’s plan, and their plan might not be that good for you.

Society’s Collective Vision:

MK: “There is also a collective vision for society, such as the indigenous people in Canada is one that is devaluing. All societies tend to produce devalued groups at the margins. People might not be conscious of it at the surface.”

People with DDs are devalued by society. How do you break free of societal devaluation?

MK: “A disability is seen as a negative feature of a person, people then generalize from the disability to the person entirely. You are no longer a full human being, you are a human being that is lacking. If you wanted to change that, then you would have to say that your disability need not impact the fullness of your life potentials.

With the person-centered movement – it is the person that matters, not the disability. It starts with what is the fullness of this person’s humanity and how can this be realized. The person is seen as full of potentials, notwithstanding that they live with some sort of impairment.

Be honest and accurate about the disability, but not giving it more emphasis than its needs. Living with the impairment in a practical way.”

How do we go about creating a vision?

MK: “People with developmental disabilities are much more likely to be in segregated settings.

We can ask, What would be the inclusive or socially integrated option, vs the segregated option?

Families have been schooled for the segregated option. Need to ask the question, what would the inclusive option be?

There might be impediments, but that doesn’t mean the person can’t join, but we just need to figure out how to overcome it. What would support the person to be successful in that situation?

Vision can shift, and it can create new life opportunity. Vision creates realities.

From Social Role Valorization (SRV) we can look at the Culturally Valued Analog (CVA). [CVA is simply] What would a person of the same age be typically doing with their life? If you are 6 years old, would you be in school? If you are 25 years old, would you be working or furthering your studies? It helps people look at things in normative terms, which builds vision for what the person could conceivably access.

You find your place in the CVA, to do what suits you by following things you might be interested in. CVA is massive and there are so many opportunities, you just need to find what appeals to you. [You can ask] What resonates with that person’s nature?”

Where do I start when creating a vision?

MK: Always do things with others. This gives you more resources than trying to do it yourself. Not everyone is good at imagining better, you want to pick people that are imaginative. You build vision over time – revisit and refashion on an ongoing basis.

Should you discuss shared world views and values before starting the visioning process with others?

MK: “To the extent that you can do this, it is very consciousness raising. It makes us aware of values, principals and also priorities that people have. For instance, people don’t like to do things that are difficult. When you are going to break new ground, you have to open yourself up to new challenges. You have to look for people that can not only imagine better but are also interested in the doing.

[Also,] seek examples of imaging better. If someone has already achieved what you are doing, it is conceivable. For example, in the early days when we were trying to get people a home of their own, there weren’t many examples. Now there are many.

See what people have already accomplished. Stories and videos.

Join social networks that share a common interest. For example, joining a group of other progressive-minded families. It is harder to do this in isolation.”

If you are looking for examples and ideas a good place to start is the Partners For Planning Learning Centre

Michael Kendrick and I also discuss family mentorship, role modeling, life-giving vs live-denying choices, and leadership on the podcast. These are important parts of the conversation, which you can access by clicking on the player below.

*You can listen to the full conversation with Michael Kendrick PhD by clicking below.*

In closing MK Shares (in summary):

“Vision won’t prosper unless there are leaders that mobilize people around the vision. You have to have buy-in and you have to win the buy-in of others. [This is] Not just individual leadership, but collective leadership. Investments in visionary leadership are a good investment. You also need leadership renewal because it is a long journey. People need ways to become renewed and to get energy. A lot of this comes in the way of social networks. Renewal of vision is important, so you need renewal. It takes leadership to get the implementation of vision.”

If you received value from reading this blog or listening to this podcast episode I encourage you to share it with someone else you feel would benefit.

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Love & Respect,

Eric Goll

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