‘wide open’ expectations

I just read the 16 May 2012 ‘On being of service’ blog posting by Betsy Neuville entitled ‘wide open.’ It is a thoughtful reflection on the power of our (personal as well as societal) expectations of other people to then open the door to the good things of life–or to shut that door (cf. Wolfensberger, A brief introduction to SRV, 1998, pp. 105-106). Our mindsets and expectations about another person (e.g., Matthew with Down’s syndrome) or about a whole group of people (e.g., prisoners and ex-convicts) shape how we perceive and thus treat others.

As Betsy’s blog posting and some of the replies to it make clear, our expectations can be shaped by our own experiences, our physical and social environments (including the predominant values of our culture), and what we actually observe and experience (Wolfensberger, 1998, p. 35).

Much of Social Role Valorization theory addresses this reality of expectations: if we want to help societally devalued people to have greater access to the ‘good things of life,’ then one relevant and potent strategy is to work to shape the mindsets which others hold about devalued people, so that the mindsets are as positive as possible, presume the capacity for growth and development, and are consistent with the possibility that devalued people can fill socially valued roles (Wolfensberger, 1998, p. 105).

Marc Tumeinski

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  1. Written by Nancy Schafer
    on May 31, 2012 at 8:15 pm
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    I can relate to Betsy’ post because I will soon have a daughter on her way through the threshold of adulthood. As parents, you wonder what the future with hold for your children. After reading her post about Matthew, I could see Dr. Wolfensberger’s wounds all unfolding in his life because of the mindsets people hold on people with disabilities. Matthew will not get to choose the path he wants for his because it has already been predetermined by society. However, history has shown many people with disabilites become successful. They defy the odds of their predetermined life. They overcome the wounds that easily place them in the downward spiral life society has ordained to them. Like Betsy stated, we need to shape the mindsets of others, so the Matthews of our world can have a choice in their life.

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