Visioning is Conversation

The First and Last Conversations Happen Within the Family

Conversation makes vision richer and plans more effective.

Robin Acton: Once we found other parents who had the same sort of dreams and we saw what was possible. We felt enough courage to articulate that we wanted (a good life in community) too.

The first and last conversations happen within the family. This inquiry is shaped by loving attention to who the person is, what they care about, what their dreams, interests and abilities are. The rest of the family attends with care and imagination to the person’s voice, as they express themselves in words and action. They clarify what the whole family needs to stay strong and resilient.

Others outside the immediate family know the person in different ways and it can be worth listening to their views on the person’s identity, interests and abilities, and their own dreams for the person. These conversations can happen one or two-to-one over coffee or it may make sense to bring together some of those who care about the person’s future in a group conversation.

Experienced families know that asking people to share their thoughts and insights can feel awkward or uncomfortable. They also know that most people say they are honored to be asked for their insights, ideas, connections and help.

Consider inviting conversations with:

  • The person’s friends.
  • Family friends, relatives and allies.
  • Former teachers, professors, coaches, colleagues, staff who took a particular interest in the person.
  • Trusted family advisors: mentors, clergy, counsellors or others.
  • Other parents and people with developmental disabilities whose family members are following community pathways of interest. Unless these parents know the family, these conversations would focus on exploring what might be possible with an open mind.

These conversations can add new dimensions to what people and their families can imagine and seek. Sometimes others have a view that family members are surprised by or disagree with. It’s the family’s responsibility to decide what makes sense and what is worth exploring further, but it’s often worth taking time to think about positive new ideas before dismissing them. When people have thoughtful support, underestimating the capabilities of people with developmental disabilities is far more common than expecting too much. When there is disagreement about a positive possibility it’s often best to find a way to try a small step into it.

Some families find it helpful to invest time and energy in a more structured form of person-centered planning, guided by a facilitator. This might be a workshop, a session at a conference, or a meeting arranged especially for family and friends. Contact Inclusion Alberta for more information.