By Kodey Toney
I Hope You Dance
As I write this I’m sitting in a hotel room in Phoenix, AZ, at the National Parent to Parent Conference. As many of my readers know I work part time for the Oklahoma Family Network, which is the state P2P group. So, what does at P2P group do, you might ask? Well, this week I’m going to try to break that down for you and help understand how it can assist families in our area, and eventually change the future.
Before I tell about what a P2P is, let me give a little background in how I got introduced to OFN. I had met Joni Bruce, the director of OFN, when I was in the Partners in Policymaking program in 2013. She came in to present to us about the organization, and when she did I didn’t think much about it to be honest. I thought it was a great group, but wasn’t sure how to use it.
However, as I began making regular trips to the state conferences and other events I started noticing her more, and we began talking about the things that I had been working on in our area of the state. That is when she said, “You know, this sounds a lot like what we are doing. Do you need a job?”
I explained that I didn’t, and probably couldn’t spare any time anyway. She just kept hitting me up to help them out, and finally I told her I would. It was a great decision because I have learned so much from my experience.
So, today as I’m setting in the conference welcome ceremony I picked up a few things that explain what we do. In a nutshell it breaks down to four things: support, self-advocacy, inclusion, and self-determination.
The support part is the easy part to understand. We work to help support families who are going through the same, or similar issues, as other families. This may include finding resources, being a sounding board, linking them with other families to talk to, or a variety of other one-on-one supports.
The self-advocacy is a way of helping those families, and potentially those with disabilities, advocate for themselves. It’s like the old saying, feed a man fish and he eats for a day, show him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime. If we can show families how to find the services and empower them to stand up for their own rights they will be stronger advocates for themselves and hopefully others.
Inclusion is also self-explanatory, but we have to work to make sure that people with disabilities are being included in all aspects of life. Often we are fighting for inclusion in education. The reason is that schools seem to need more help with this idea, and our children spend most of their time there during the day. We can’t forget about other areas that we spend our time. Churches, clubs, organizations, and restaurants all have to be places where we feel comfortable taking our families.
Self-determination is a bit trickier. You see we have to garner a sense of leadership in families as well as those with disabilities. We need to help them understand that they must be the ones to change things. They are the ones going through the issues, so they have the best advice and insight on the problems.
The most important thing that they discussed giving was hope. I’ll leave you with this quote that was presented from Rob Bell: “Ultimately our gift to the world around us is hope. Not blind hope that pretends everything is fine and refuses to acknowledge how things are, but the kind of hope that comes from staring pain and suffering right in the eyes and refusing to believe that this is all there is. It is what we all need – hope that comes not from going around suffering, but from going through it.”