For more than 30 years, David Wizansky and his wife, Margot, have developed and operated group homes in the Boston area for adults with developmental disabilities through their company, Specialized Housing. Now David Wizansky has written a book of essays, Identity, Self, and the World: Learning from Adults with Developmental Disabilities, that distills what he has learned from working with this population.
The slim volume is packed with stories and insights about the abilities, as opposed to disabilities, of the people with whom Wizansky has worked, what caring family members and others unintentionally do to suppress those abilities, and how people with special needs can instead be supported and allowed to flourish.
Here are several out-of-context extracts from Wizansky's book that offer a small sense of the insights to be found in this unique work:
On why some individuals with disabilities have a self-centered world view:
"When it becomes clear to the family that their child has a developmental delay, the child becomes the center of the universe. The child is the focus, not just to his or her parents and family, but to the ensuing cadre of early interventionists, diagnosticians, therapists and teachers."
A perspective on "mainstreaming" children in the classroom:
"Most parents of children with developmental disabilities tell me that the incredible loneliness of their children is painful to observe. It is the issue that most touches me. Could it be that mainstreaming, in and of itself, contributes to feelings of loneliness and low self-esteem? People with special needs want to contribute to others, to feel smart, to belong to a community."
"When a person with a developmental disability makes reference to a boyfriend or girlfriend, parents, guardians, or professionals should not jump to conclusions. The important factor, in my experience, is being able to say one has a boyfriend or girlfriend. We should not judge the frequency of contact or whether the physical expression of sexuality is involved. The individuals themselves will determine the definition and nature of their own relationship."
On accepting an individual's organizational and expressive difficulties:
"After Brad's mother died, he had long conversations with her, diagnosed as auditory hallucinations by his consulting psychiatrist, who prescribed anti-psychotic medication. Brad couldn't tolerate the medication. The clinical supervisor in Brad's residential setting knew that Brad's conversations with his mother were soothing and reassuring to him. Brad was aware that his mother was dead, but he needed to talk to her while he was grieving. He did not need anti-psychotic drugs."
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