I love talking about inspiration. To me, there is nothing like that feeling. Any action that flows from a place of inspiration is easy even when it might look impossible. It is fun and joyful even when it may involve profound applications or impact. It contains all the creativity and courage that you could ever desire and just enough to keep you invested.
Inspiration is a beautiful thing. How do you access you inspiration? Tough question? Well, one thing I know for sure, you can’t think it up. I’ve tried. You can’t force it. Inspiration has a life of its own.
So far, I have discovered a few key elements in the process. For me, it involves listening – not to others, but to myself. My feelings, my heart, my intuition. I locate it quicker when I remain open and let go of trying to mastermind the details ~ not always easy. And speaking of quick – patience really helps in the process.
And finally, developing a profound respect for your inspiration is paramount. How do we show respect for our inspiration? We follow it. We act on it. One little step at a time. The more we do this, the more it shows up.
Inspiration and Integrity
Connecting to our personal inspiration is one of the most powerful ways to maintain integrity.
Think about it.
Inspiration has the side effects of excitement, curiosity, high energy, and focus. It is designed to give us what we need in order to follow the path of our own heart. When it is at its heights, it is a serious contender for the voice of our egos that is hell bent in keeping us small and “safe” – in the discomfort of our comfort zone.
Acting from a place of inspiration – waiting to act until inspiration hits – is like tuning in to your internal compass. You start to learn that when there is no juice inside for you to pursue an opportunity, it might mean that it’s not worth the pursuit.
Alternatively, even in the face of insurmountable obstacles, when the juice is there, you will keep moving – no matter what. And you will get really creative within the parameters of your own integrity.
I suppose that is the trick. There’s that pesky ego again. It gets smarter and smarter as we get more inspired – more focused. It could try to convince us that any means is fine as long as we reach our intended outcome. If we follow that train – and most of us do at various times in our lives – our inspiration dies. Our hearts know when we have sold out. And, there is the opportunity to open again to inspiration and realignment.
How beautifully we are designed. There is always another chance.
The Many Faces of Inspiration
Inspiration is always available to us – from the mundane to the profound. It is sacred in its presence.
Things change. We change. And our inspiration keeps pace with us. It can sometimes feel like we’ve lost it because it is evolving and we may not recognize it or ourselves for a period of time. At times, we may feel afraid – we don’t want to “lose” a sense of inspiration for something that we have been focused on for a long time. That feels foreign and scary and we may not want to face the unknown.
This is the gift. When we have gone as far as we can with one aspect of our inspired intention, it will shift us in a direction that holds more appeal – more energy. Nothing is lost. If you look closely, you will almost always find the core – the original intention that remains.
When we have explored something to its depths, it is time to embark on a new adventure. New ideas will come. The heart will yearn for something novel to pursue. Go with it. Trust it.
The Creativity of Inspiration
Today, I want to introduce my first guest on Serving Consciously – a new radio show with Contact Talk Radio Network. Some of you will be very familiar with this amazing woman.
Deona Hooper is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Social Work Helper Magazine. – a rich, dynamic online resource for social workers and all helping professionals.
Deona created this platform from a place of inspiration and has continued to access her inspired intention to grow and develop the publication to international levels.
Introducing – Deona Hooper of swhelper.org
I am beyond ecstatic to be in partnership with Deona Hooper as we work together to share information, open the discussion, and celebrate the work of helping professionals everywhere.
Deona Hooper is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Social Work Helper – an online publication reaching more than 250,000 helping professionals around the world. Talk about inspiration!
With a background in non-profit communications, technology and social media consulting, Deona has blended this expertise with her education and experience in management and community practice to create a valuable resource for helping professionals and the people they serve.
Deona holds a Masters in Social Work degree and a Certificate in Non-profit Management from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
And she is a living example of what can be created from a place of inspired intention.
What is swhelper.org?
If you are a helping professional involved in any aspect of service to other human beings, swhelper.org has something for you!
From resources to research – from inspiration to education – from self-care to service, the possibilities are endless.
Deona Hooper has created a place for helping professionals to connect – for current social challenges to be addressed – and for celebration of the contributions that are being made to the field by experts all over the world.
Visit swhelper.org and explore some of the resources for yourself!
What is on the Horizon?
Deona’s most recent project has involved the development of the Social Work Helper app. The app is a rich resource linking people with services and supports with a special emphasis on crisis intervention.
Individuals, families and professionals alike, who require quick and efficient access to community resources in their own area, can use the Social Work Helper app.
“Whether it’s a natural disaster or a family emergency, people need to know how to locate food banks, senior services, domestic violence shelters, crisis helplines, support groups, affordable daycare, low cost prescriptions, mental health treatment and more when a crisis happens in their lives.” Deona Hooper, MSW, Founder and Editor and Chief of Social Work Helper, explained why the app was created.
“No one is exempt from experiencing a crisis in their lives, and when it happens, you don’t need the added anxiety of figuring out where to begin your search for information,” she said. “A huge part of my job as social worker was to connect people to information and resources, and I hope this app will make it easier for individuals and helping professionals to find resources faster using mobile technology. The idea behind this app is to give everyone the ability to be a social work helper. ”
The app is available for download at Google play store or the iTunes App Store by simply searching with the keywords “Social Work Helper”.
The social fabric of our communities is in a state of constant evolution. Keeping up with new programs, new funding developments, and new approaches can be a full-time job for helping professionals. Deona’s inspired creations and offerings make this part of your work easier freeing you up to get to the heart of the matter. People. And to engage in the service that you came here to provide from a place of personally Inspired Intention.
I know that Deona is inspired to expand on what she has already created in order to be of service to more people. And I can hardly wait to hear more about these exciting plans.
Listen to our conversion below:
Unpacking the Historical Relationship of Racism and Ableism
A key part of anti-racist social work practice is engaging in the art of reflection as we consider the person in the environment. This also involves being aware of the larger social context in which we live and practice. The social context can, for some people, include experiences of racism and ableism. Recently, I wrote about the symbiotic relationship between racism and ableism and why social workers should care about it. Now, I want to take a step back and look at the historical context that leads us to where we are today with the relationship for disabled people of color. Through the consideration of history, we can understand how to better move forward with integrity as anti-racist social work practitioners.
As the poet Maya Angelou said “History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.” So what are the historical roots of this relationship between racism and ableism? Let’s explore.
Historical Roots of Ableism and Racism
We began to see the interaction between ableism and racism way back in our nation’s history. Let’s look at four examples to make this relationship clear. During slavery times, slaveowners conjured up the idea of drapetomania, the alleged psychosis that was experienced by runaway slaves which in retrospect was emblematic of the interaction of ableism and racism. This is an example of how race is pathologized to create racism. In other words, people of color were treated in specific oppressive ways in order to create barriers and conditions that resulted in the origination of disability categories. In reflecting on drapetomania, Isabella Kres-Nash points out that “the concept of disability has been used to justify discrimination against other groups by attributing disability to them.” Of drapetomania specifically, Kres-Nash says this is an example of a “disability being created by people in power in order to preserve social order” all of which occurred in a racialized context during slavery.
Moving into the 19th century, we can point to the popularity of phrenology, a pseudoscientific technique originally developed in the late 1700s which purports to determine an individual’s character and abilities (and therefore, alleged superiority). This could be deduced from the size and shape of various bumps on a person’s head. Phrenology, among other things, was used to justify the practice of slavery, as was depicted in the film Django, Unchained. Although this pseudoscience has long been discredited, this technique is considered a precursor to modern neuropsychology and rears its ugly head once in a while in current-day conversations about the use of technology and facial recognition (which is known to be much less accurate for people of color).
If we look to more recent times, such as the turn of the 20th century, we can see connections between racism and the ableist Eugenics movement which sought to breed a perfect human race through a form of “scientific racism.” This movement often targeted what were known as “feebleminded” people (now known as intellectually and developmentally disabled people), among others, for sterilization, many of whom were people of color. In his discussion on the treatment of African American and Black “feebleminded” people, historian Gregory Dorr says “African Americans had become the targets of extra-institutional and extra-legal sterilizations, reflective of a more general southern racist view that it was necessary to further protect the white race itself from black folks.” Thus, scientific racism is a prime example of the relationship between racism and ableism.
An Unusual Island in Maine
In the early 1900s, what transpired with the inhabitants of Malaga Island in Maine is also emblematic of the relationship between racism and ableism. This small coastal island was a multiracial fishing community originally founded by an ex-slave. While inter-racial marriage was illegal, the community apparently allowed people to live and let live in this regard. It is said that many of the inhabitants of the island were “feebleminded” or intellectually and developmentally disabled, as we would now say. Whether this is accurate is unknown. As the Eugenics movement gained popularity and as the value of Maine’s coastal islands became more clear as potential tourist destinations, state government officials issued an eviction order to all of the Malaga residents – of all races and ethnicities. All residents who had no place to go were to be placed in the Maine School for the Feebleminded, where some were eventually sterilized and lived out the rest of their lives. The price of miscegenation was banishment from a happy community due in large part to ableism and racism.
An Inextricable Link
These four historical lessons give us some important context for what we may see in social work practice today. So, to put it all together, when we look at how structural racism works, we see the ways in which it has pathologized Black and Brown bodies for the purpose of keeping the White status quo in place. We can see how a society that benefits from structural racism is simultaneously responsible for facilitating environments that promote the development or highlighting of disability. These historical situations set the foundations for present day scenarios in which racism and ableism interact regularly – in our criminal justice system, in our education system, in our health care system, in our child welfare system and beyond.
How can you learn from this history and move on in a positive direction? Your job is to reflect on the ways in which the past plays out in the present day, and to identify the ways in which you can disrupt the powerful relationship between ableism and racism in your social work practice. Here are five steps you can consider taking today as an equity-minded social work practitioner:
- Become aware of all of your client’s social identities, think about disability as an identity, not just race.
- Use data to identify inequitable processes and outcomes based on both race and disability.
- Reflect on the differential consequences of social work practices on people and communities based on race and disability.
- Exercise agency to produce equity across racial and disability groups.
- View the practice context as a potentially oppressive and marginalizing space and self-monitor interactions with clients/patients/constituents of different racial and disability social identities.
Sexual Education & Disability: Why it Should Matter to Social Workers
What do you get when you mix the taboo nature of discussing sexual intimacy with the social stigma surrounding intellectual and developmental disabilities? The answer: a heck of a lot more problems than you might think. Sexual education in the school setting is already a hot-button issue for non-disabled students. But when students with intellectual and developmental disabilities are introduced into the mix, so too are the ableist stigmas we all hold.
I would like to start this piece with a brief exercise one of the health teachers at my high school conducted at the beginning of sex ed. Repeat after me: Penis. Vagina. Penis. Vagina. Why do you think she would make a room of teenagers yell these words in school? Isn’t that inappropriate? If you think it is, you proved my point from earlier. Sexual intimacy and anything loosely related to sex are currently incredibly taboo topics. To help break down the air of discomfort surrounding such topics, that health teacher did something many are afraid to do: she spoke openly and encouraged others to follow suit.
One could argue these topics are not to be spoken about simply because we are taught to not speak about them. A child can ask why their anatomy is different from their siblings, but they will often be met with shushes or roundabout answers. In many cases, there is no reason for this reaction other than traditional values. Those same values are often times what causes conflict in regard to sexual education in public schools.
My sex ed experience at a public school was mediocre at best. Genitalia, STIs, and contraceptive methods were discussed. Consent was not taught nor were the proper ways to actually engage in sex, just that if we did it we should do it safely. This was not the most educational experience. And if this is what I received, what is the experience of children and adolescents with intellectual and developmental disabilities?
The Institutional Deficit
Working in a behavioral school for boys with emotional, developmental, and intellectual disabilities yields an interesting perspective. These students are taught the same subjects most other students in the country are taught just with more academic and therapeutic support. However, they are not always provided with a health class.
I worry greatly about this institutional deficit, partly due to my own ableism. These students are receiving very little, if any, sexual education during the school year from our faculty and who knows what they see on the Internet and what their families and friends are telling them. As they get older and begin to develop their curiosity, I am worried that they might not always have a reliable source of sexual education. With that, the concept of consent is often discussed but not in the context of intimacy. I don’t know if the connection between consent and sexual activities has been made or if it ever will be in this school setting. I don’t know if some of these students would understand the magnitude of these topics. I’d like to think these kids can do anything, but from what I’ve seen I don’t know if I would feel confident in their understanding. I wish I could feel otherwise.
Individuals with an intellectual or developmental disability are seven times more likely to experience sexual assault than non-disabled people. In many cases, the perpetrator is another individual with an intellectual or developmental disability. Ableism likely prevents people from thinking this to be possible. Common stereotypes around this population convince the non-disabled community that these individuals can do no wrong and are by default sweet and innocent. Of course, this is not realistic. Another ableist stereotype, as seen above, is the incapability of this population to understand topics related to sexual education and sexual intimacy. Like the non-disabled community, however, individuals with an intellectual or developmental disability prove that idea wrong.
Why This Matters to Social Workers
So, if people with intellectual and developmental disabilities are able to learn about sexual education, and learning about sexual education dramatically decreases instances of sexual assault, then what is the reason for this population to not receive sexual education? The signs point towards ableism held by those in helping professions, with social workers being a perfect example. While the social work community prides itself on how educated and accepting they are of different identities, very rarely do social workers take the time to reflect upon identities they may not be as familiar with. Race and sexual orientation are examples of identities social workers study extensively, but disability as an identity and the depths of disability culture are rarely examined. To combat this, social workers need to begin the process of confronting personal ableism.
Confronting personal ableism is difficult, but doing so will only benefit social workers and others who choose to do so. It is important and necessary to challenge internal biases. Critically examining personal ableist ideas pushes social workers to gain a different perspective. Through this difficult process, one gains clarity in the issues they may not even know they wrestle with. Understanding how ableism impacts perceptions allows social workers to get a firm grasp on the disability community. They may begin to feel empowered to advocate for a change they never once considered, such as a stronger sexual education program for people with an intellectual or developmental disability. The importance of critically examining personal biases should be emphasized throughout the entirety of the social work community and by every social worker.
Case Study: Reasonable Accommodation in Social Work
The social work field is often full of situations that are not straight forward. On a Reddit social media post, a social worker reached out to the social work community for advice on a particularly unclear situation. The social worker runs a solo, private practice in a small town, and recently had a request from one of her clients that she is struggling to navigate. This client has hearing loss and would like to communicate with American Sign Language in therapy sessions moving forward. The social worker identified a potential option for interpreting services, but it comes at a high cost. She knows it is her responsibility to pay for the interpreting service, even though it will cost more than the payment she receives for the sessions. Despite this, she is trying to figure out the best way to serve her client.
Since her private practice consists solely of her, she does not have coworkers to consult with. She also does not have an agency resource that is already in place. Additionally, there are few options for interpreting services in her small town. She poses a few questions to the reddit community, aimed at gaining a better understanding to serve her client. Responses suggested she try video interpreting services, which can often be a cheaper alternative. In considering the accommodations a social worker should provide, consulting the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is especially useful. Under the effective communication section, it’s outlined that the interpreter service must be provided unless it causes undue financial burden. In a situation where this does happen, the provider must find a suitable alternative. In this instance, an in-person interpreter might cause undue burden, but a video interpreter might not.
This social worker is being reactive to the needs of this client, and proactive with the needs of future clients. She shared her idea to set aside a specific amount of money each year for interpreting or similar services. She also asked the reddit community if there were any other issues she should be looking at in this scenario. This shows a social worker who is committed to her clients and has their well-being and best interests in mind. With that being said, lets review the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics and the Americans with Disabilities Act to better understand how they specifically apply to this scenario.
The Code of Ethics
Social workers have an ethical and legal obligation to provide adequate services for their clients. This social worker is trying do to the right thing for her client by following the ADA and the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics. In the NASW Code of Ethics, the first standard is the Social Workers’ Ethical Responsibilities to Clients. Within that standard, the first section outlines a social worker’s commitment to their clients. This means that a social worker’s actions should always be in the best interest of the client. There may be instances in which the social worker has to adhere to certain laws or rules that go against what the client wants, but this is necessary in limited circumstances.
Americans with Disabilities
In the United States, approximately 15% of adults experience some form of difficulty with hearing. Providing therapy to a Deaf or hard of hearing individual comes with unique circumstances for practitioners. Oftentimes, Deaf or hard of hearing individuals do not experience accurate assessment or diagnostic information due to these circumstances and the shortcomings of practitioners. The NASW has put together a briefing regarding the obligations social workers have when working with individuals who are Deaf or have hearing loss. When working with clients with any type of disability, social workers must provide services that are appropriate and serve the best interests of their clients.
Approximately 1 in 4 Americans are living with some type of disability. The most common types of disabilities are those relating to mobility, cognition, independent living, hearing, vision, and self-care. Any type of disability may mean that an individual needs accommodations in a therapy setting. One of the first steps in providing adequate care for someone with a disability is to understand what barriers are in place for that person. Awareness and education are key elements to providing competent and adequate services for an individual.
Wrapping it Up
A social worker’s role is to act in the best interest of their clients whenever possible. This includes individual therapy sessions, as well as ensuring that future clients receive adequate treatment. Outside of individual therapy sessions, social workers often wear many hats. Social workers are strong advocates, initiators of change, and fierce activists. These are all important roles for social workers to bear when upholding their commitment to clients. Social workers often go above and beyond for their clients, and this is especially evident in cases like the one above.
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