NEW WESTMINSTER, B.C. – From stories of first jobs and motherhood to dealing with disappointment and learning to carry on, people attending Interconnected: Stories that weave our social fabric found reflections of their own lived experience in an evening of storytelling.
The Feb. 28 event took place at Douglas College and is the first in a provincewide effort to celebrate stories that represent the complexity and diversity of disability.
“You may know me on the outside, but you don’t know what it’s like to be me in the inside,” says Ludo Van Pelt, who shared his journey that started when he failed Grade 3.
Ludo was sent to hospital for a psychological diagnosis where they deemed he had a learning disability and sent him to a segregated school. Much later in life Ludo would return to an elementary school classroom but this time to serve as an assistant.
Ten speakers told stories, including several parents who touched on how their child’s disability has taught them generosity and the value of perseverance.
“I think back to him, the difficulties that he has, how he overcomes them, and know I can do it, too,” says Jodie Wickens, whose seven-year-old son has autism and epilepsy. She’s since ran a marathon among other goals motivated by her son.
PosAbilities program director Gord Tulloch shared his struggle with the feeling that the community living movement is pushing assimilation, which he says doesn’t work.
“We’ve taught people with disabilities to hide under the cloak of normalcy,” Gord tells the more than 30 people in the room.
“Empowerment comes not from hiding in language but embodying it.”
Gord offered some examples of how the community living movement could embrace its diversity with cheeky slogans like “I’m autistic; I’m more male than you are” or “We are who we Aut to be.”
Jack Styan chose to recount the key ingredients that enabled Canada to become the first and only country in the world with a Registered Disabilities Savings Plan (RDSP). Since RDSPs were introduced in 2007, they’ve enabled people who have a disability and their families to save more than $700 million for their future.
“In the future, it will be billions of dollars,” adds Jack, who heads up the RDSP resource centre.
The night finished with an appreciation for the storytellers and their stories. Spectrum Society consultant Shelley Nessman, who co-hosted the event with her colleague Barb Goode, noted that it’s not so much the story but the emotion it provokes.
For Meghan Taylor-Reid, a community living facilitator and family member, the event was a reminder of the importance of shared space and common experience.
“It felt like the space was extremely safe, comfortable and welcoming, and it felt like the stories were about a person but they were about commonality. And there is so much beauty in that,” she says.
David Roche, an inspirational speaker who helped coach some of the participants says he was struck by the authenticity of the presenters.
“I’m not as interested in TV and movies, but these kinds of stories I trust, and they give me hope,” he says.
The next InCommon.tv storytelling showcase in Metro Vancouver takes place May 16, 2013. To learn more, visit Incommon.tv.
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