Interview between Speaker 1 (Meg) and Speaker 2 (Chelsea Wallaert)

Episode 48: Applying a Disability Justice Lens to Therapy

 

[Introductory note]

Hey! It’s Meg, and I have something really exciting to tell you. A few months ago, when I first spoke with Kelly Mahler, she suggested we work together to do something really big to totally disrupt the OT and SLP fields, launching us even further into neurodiversity-affirming practice. And I was really into that idea because I know that this is truly aligned with the therapist that most of us wanted to be when we started our journeys into our fields. So, Learn, Play, Thrive is hosting a continuing education summit, one for OT’s, one for SLP’s. We have a really impressive, impactful, and neurodiverse panel of speakers for both summits. Between the two summits, there’re going to be talks on the neurodiversity paradigm, interoception, energy regulation, strengths-based goal writing, AAC, working with kids who learn language through scripting, disability, justice and race, emergent literacy, both in terms of writing development and reading comprehension, and so much more. If you want the exact right place to start or continue your journey into neurodiversity-affirming practice, this is the summit for you. It will be registered for CEU’s with both ASHA and AOTA, and will provide so many opportunities for you to connect with each other and with the speakers in live Question & Answer sessions because I want you to truly feel the support of your community in this transformative process. So, come get your CEU’s, build your skills and confidence, meet your people, and totally transform your work. The SLP Summit is in October of 2022 and the OT Summit is in January of 2023. Check out the details at learnplaythrive.com/summit.

 

[Introductory music]

Welcome to the Two Sides of the Spectrum Podcast. A place where we explore research, amplify autistic voices, and change the way we think about autism in life, and in our professional therapy practices. I’m Meg Proctor from learnplaythrive.com. 

 

Meg:

Before we get started, a quick note on language. On this podcast, you’ll hear me and many of my guests use identity-affirming language. That means we say ‘autistic person’ rather than ‘person with autism’. What we’re hearing from the majority of autistic adults is that autism is a part of their identity that they don’t need to be separated from. Autism is not a disease, it’s a different way of thinking and learning. Join me in embracing the word ‘autistic’ to help reduce the stigma.

 

Welcome to Episode 48 with Chelsea Wallaert. In this episode, we talk about disability studies and disability justice, really centering how the way we view disability as a society and as therapists individually impacts a parent’s relationship with their child and the child’s own view of themselves, which in turn impacts their mental health and their well-being. This is the first episode in a multi-part series on disability. So, if you’re interested in today’s episode, make sure you keep tuning in for the next ones as well because we’re going to take the framework and the concepts that we lay out today and apply them to our work with multiply-disabled kids and to the systems that disable them.

 

So, I’ll tell you a little bit about our guest, Chelsea. She’s an occupational therapist in Chicago who works in early intervention and home-based practice with older children. Chelsea was a LEND trainee in Illinois — that’s the Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental and Related Disabilities (LEND) program. It’s a fabulous program, and Chelsea is currently working on her PhD in disability studies. Chelsea is really passionate about interdisciplinary work and helping parents have more equitable and positive experiences with their disabled kids, especially in the early years of their parenting journey. Here’s the interview with Chelsea Wallaert.

 

Hi, Chelsea, welcome to the podcast!

 

Chelsea:

Hello. Thank you for having me.

 

Meg: 

I’m so glad we are able to connect and have this important conversation. And I want to start with you. Tell me a little bit of your story as a therapist. How did you wind up here, Chelsea?

 

Chelsea:  

Absolutely. I actually, I found myself thinking about that a lot recently. I think it all really starts with the way I just even look and approach disability which came from my mother, who is a special education teacher. And knowing what I know now about disability studies and the way I value disability; she is what I might consider a more progressive special education teacher in terms of how she taught my sisters and I about disability. So, that led me into occupational therapy, you know, I wanted to do similar work she was doing, but teacher just wasn’t it for me. So, I found myself in occupational therapy, went through schooling, was lucky enough to have a wonderful mentor that guided me and pushed my own thinking. And through my schooling and the opportunities I had in grad school, I became an early intervention therapist, and a lot of the words of my mother, words of my mentor, and other people along the way were in my ear as I was practicing, and I kept feeling like something was off. The way I would hear maybe some other people talk about disability or the conflict I saw happening with families and the way they were trying to process disability and their child’s development just felt a little unsettling to me. It felt like it didn’t quite match with my own values. And I felt stuck.

 

I quite honestly was questioning if it was right for me, I thought maybe I was at the wrong field. I reached back out to that mentor, and I was in Chicago at the time, and she was like, “I don’t think it’s that you don’t like OT, I think you’re craving something. You seem like you might be interested in disability studies.” And I never knew what it was, I didn’t know it existed. And she’s like, there’s a great program in Chicago where you’re at. And I had always told her, “I’m not going back to school. That’s not happening.” But I explored this field much more, I met with people, I spoke with some OT’s who also pursued that degree and the content there, and it was absolutely for me. It was something I was missing all along. And I didn’t know there’s a whole field that was debating the topics I was interested in, talking about disability in the way that I wish more of us talked about. And here I am now. And it’s been a great fit and a great change for me.

 

Meg: 

I think this feeling you describe of, “The work I’m doing feels unsettling’, or, “The landscape of the work I’m doing as an OT feels unsettling, it doesn’t align with my values. I feel stuck. Maybe I don’t like OT,” I think that probably resonates with a lot of people. I certainly felt that. And I didn’t know exactly why, and I didn’t know what to do instead. And we need people like you studying disability studies and letting that inform practice, and we need the therapists on the ground who are using this framework, this model, to impact what they’re doing as therapists, right? Can you define for us disability studies as a field?

 

Chelsea:  

Absolutely. It’s a broad definition and an ever-changing definition. And it will, for sure, probably always change depending on who you ask. And I think one thing that’s great about disability studies is it is very multi-disciplinary. And because it is so multi-disciplinary, the direction people are coming at is just incredible. There’s people in my program that are studying dance and disability, there’s education and disability, there’s policy disability. So, the general definition of disability studies, I would say, is a field that is aimed at further questioning and trying to find answers of what disability means in our current context of humanity and society. It’s looking at how can we [09:01 potentially?] large goals and ableism within our society and how can we use the stories, narratives, and lived experiences of disabled people to better inform how we can make more equitable, just, anti-ableist, anti-racist society.

 

Meg: 

I love this. This is right up my alley, and I think our whole community’s alley. I want to ask you, can you reflect back on your work as an early intervention OT a little bit with me? You said there were things that felt unsettling. Can you describe those using your lens that you have now through a disability justice perspective? What were some of the things that didn’t sit right?

 

Chelsea:  

Absolutely. I think some of the things that didn’t sit right were even just approaches I had been taught or, you know, I had seen therapists use in intervention with children. Of course, your podcast does such a great job of talking about how we need to change this with the autistic community, but even other disabilities, physical disabilities. You know, working on fine motor skills with an infant, say that has cerebral palsy, with major tone in one arm, of course, yes, we want to do as much remediation as we can, as much practice as we can. But if the sole goal is simply to change fine motor skills when maybe their tone or their physical capacity does not fit that goal, I was still seeing that happen. And even moments like that, you know, it’s our practice, though, our OT practice framework does talk about adaptation, does talk about changing that. But I feel like children, specifically, especially this early childhood setting, it’s so focused on plasticity and development and helping with those developmental norms that things sometimes doesn’t fit, or it’s not a second nature to go to that adaptation, or those other ways we can practice. And there’s still so much of that emphasis on skill building.

 

And I guess I want to add too, of course, I’m not saying let’s do no skill building with kids, let’s not try to push skills or capacities. But the place I saw really impacting me and questioning was when children were getting so upset, or already having, you know, two-year-old’s who are very well aware that the way they do certain things or the way they look, or whatever it might be is different. And I already saw those young children shying away from certain things or almost having shame if they made a mistake or did something differently. And on the other hand, having parents who think that that’s what their kid is supposed to be doing, is only achieving skills, only making developmental gains. And if they’re not, is the child failing, is the parent failing? I started to see these sort of complex, more like big picture difficulties and barriers that the families were experiencing come into play too, that again, we, as therapists, are kind of plopped in it and trying to untangle all of it and supporting the child, supporting the family. But the dominant narrative of disability, I felt like, was really driving more of those emotions and feelings.

 

Meg: 

Yeah, feeling like they’re failing was the phrase that came to mind for me before you said it. And it shapes how the parents sees their child, how the parents see their parenting, how a child sees themselves. And it’s not necessary. It’s not the only way to approach things. So, I want to go there and critique developmental norms together with you. But real quick before I ask you about that, let’s hit language. So, when you’re talking about neurodivergent people and physically disabled people, we have an episode coming up soon talking about multiply-disabled people, because we do have autistic folks who also have CP, who also have all kinds of physical disabilities. Tell me about identity-first language for disability. Why are we saying disabled?

 

Chelsea:  

Mm-hmm. Yeah, that’s another great, great question and a great thing to think about. Within disability studies, and there’s so much more to it than this too, but we mainly pull from the social model of disability, which I know has been covered in the past. But as a quick review, the social model of disability is looking to society and the physical barriers, attitudinal barriers, political barriers, and everything, and how those external barriers are the disabling factors for people, not the impairments that someone might have. So, choosing to use the phrase ‘disabled person’‘disabled child’, kind of again puts that emphasis on, it’s the external factors that are disabling, it’s society that is disabling, not how a person is within that society. So, those are choices that I make. And of course, I fully acknowledge too that families with young children, this might be their first interaction with disability, their first interaction with developmental differences, that choice of language can be a little bit abrasive for them. They might not be aware of the reasons I’m choosing that. So, I also definitely tried to just have that conversation with families too. “I use this language because of this. I’m saying this because of this,” and I’m always, always, always looking to adult disabled activists to help me with language too, and using that to highlight to families, “Look at what adults are doing. Look at what could happen for your child.”

 

Meg: 

Yeah, it really is an empowering word, the way you’re saying that they are disabled by society, they’re not intrinsically inherently disabled. So, how do we dismantle ableism to support our disabled clients. And I appreciate your emphasis on looking to disabled adults, just like we’re learning from the autistic community. So, circle back around with me to critiquing developmental norms. Tell me more about that.

 

Chelsea:  

Absolutely. And I think this is, again, another nuanced conversation. I definitely don’t argue that developmental norms have to be completely thrown out the window. And I don’t think we have to, like just say, “Oh, let’s just forget about it.” But as it relates to disability and childhood disability, I do believe — and I’ve learned from so many amazing scholars that have shaped my own thinking — that developmental norms, as they currently operate and exist within our systems, are quite harmful towards disabled children and their families. And the reason being, is that again, dependent upon a disability, on the way a child’s impairment might manifest within society, if we are always comparing them to that developmental norm, that’s always saying too that there’s room for them to do more, be better.

 

And again, arguably, that makes it a case that they just always need to be therapized, they always need to be medicalized, they always need to be professionalized. That because you’re delayed or you’re not matching that norm, there’s something wrong with you and we have to work on that. And, again, emphasis on it’s a nuanced conversation, because there are ways we want to make sure that children are getting support that they need. They’re in systems that are helping them with their learning needs, helping families learn how they need to learn, helping teachers, everything like that. But if we’re only focused on the goal is closing that developmental gap, I think that’s where some dangers come in with some really harmful justifications for different practices and interventions.

 

Meg: 

Yeah, you say ‘justifications for different interventions and practices’ when our goal is ‘you need to meet the next expected milestone’, and we have that in our head as our job. That is where we see therapists moving a child’s body, using more compliance-based behavioral approaches, because we have to make them meet that goal as opposed to a different model, right, where we see what a child is ready to learn. What is the next thing that this child is ready to learn? How can we support them in learning that and celebrating with them? And how different that would feel for a parent and for a child too, versus, “You’re behind, let’s get you caught up”“You’re failing, you’re falling short”, “But you’re at the three-year level, and we want you to be at the nine-year level,” all of that feels so pathologizing and so deficits-based compared to really supporting a child on their own learning journey.

 

We did, early on the podcast, have an episode on strengths-based documentation. And this really simple and practical recommendation from Scott Tomchek and Evan Dean, who are OT’s who do research on strengths-based documentation, they’re like, “If you have to put the developmental norms in your evaluation for some reason — because insurance because your company — put it at the very end. Looks like an afterthought. Don’t write your whole report around it.” And even little shifts like that feel so impactful. So, let’s talk about kids who don’t have diagnoses. Because we’re talking about autistic kids, kids with specific developmental disabilities. But what about kids who have like a developmental delay, a language delay, how does the disability justice framework apply to these kids?

 

Chelsea:  

Absolutely. I think that, especially this conversation with developmental milestones, and norms and the need to critique it, very much applies to this specific group or population. And within early intervention, you know, most often, I would say, the children that I work with, get that label of ‘developmental delay’, which is just the ambiguous label of developmental delay because they’re not meeting those milestones. And I think when we’re thinking about this population of early intervention and their families and when that is the label they get, that my own personal experience and some of the work that I’m doing with my schooling and reading others work too, that’s where that I feel like disconnect between families and child really start to occur.

 

Or it’s maybe a more obvious disconnect or unsettling type of feeling, because it gives that ambiguous label of, “Oh, is just a delay. So, the more you work, the more therapists you have, the more, again, intervention or procedures that that child goes through, maybe that delay will dissipate and go away; they’ll catch up.” And, again, when I’m looking at all this through a more critical disability studies lens, you start to see how that will impact every interaction of family has with their child. It’s going to impact the way they talk with their child. Because these families are embedded within this ableist society too, that, you know, is telling them, “Oh, your child isn’t that valuable or worthy until they’re caught up, until they’ve reached their developmental milestones.” 

 

So, this is also where my research interest lies too. I think a big thing I see with that level of ‘developmental delay’ is that it doesn’t help families process as easily because they’re not able to latch on to a diagnostic label, which that could be a whole other conversation too with that, but they’re not able to say, “Oh, my child’s autistic. Let me process this and what that means”“My child has Down syndrome, let me process that and see what that means.” They just get that ambiguous ‘developmental delay’, which I kind of argue almost acts as a promise of, “Well, it’s just a delay. So, the more stuff you do for your child, that delay might go away.” And it can be quite harmful.

 

There’s a great article I read by two disability studies authors, Dan Goodley and Katherine Runswick-Cole, who talk about the way play is often abused with children with disabilities, because, you know, we of course say play is a great intervention tool. But if play always, always, always is focused on skill-building, and always, always used as an intervention, the authors argue, and I quite agree, that it’s not truly play anymore. So, that’s some of the dangers and muddy waters I see happening with that label of developmental delay. But all, again, just all children that are experiencing different disabilities, if we’re too focused on skill achieving, meet this milestone, meet this, meet that, we’re taking away a lot of the things of what it means to be a child during these times that should also just be having fun for the sake of having fun, not always skill building.

 

Meg: 

Yeah, what kind of childhood is that? I think Kristie Patten in Episode 4 asked us to imagine if we spent 40 hours a week as children trying to remediate our deficits. It’s miserable, and it’s not what we build our lives on, and it’s not what we build positive self-identity on. And we know that that positive sense of self is so important for mental health. And we lose sight of that in pursuit of skill building, which is really damaging. And I appreciate your focus on the impact that this has on parents and their relationship with the child because that ties into the child’s perception of themselves, and also the parents’ experience of parenting and their relationship with that child. I have a lot of research that you sent me, and I’ll link to it in the show notes.

 

I remember, again, in Episode 12, on strengths-based documentation, the same thing came up that there was research on deficits-based language in evaluations alone, how it impacted parent-child interactions, and the cascading impact that that has on a child’s mental health. And I hear you playing this out into, “Okay, so now we say you have developmental delay. What does your life look like? And what’s the impact of that?” That’s so important. It’s so important. And, you know, as we’re thinking about, okay, our fields, OT, SLP practice, our society, how do we start making these shifts, I want to talk about school curriculums, and then go broad and ask you about ableism, which we’ve alluded to, but it’s worth defining and discussing. So, let’s talk about school curriculums. What do you see in OT school curriculums, probably SLP too I’m sure, and what changes would you like to see?

 

Chelsea:  

I think one of the biggest changes I would like to see, which probably is not going to come to a surprise, is pulling in more disability studies concepts and just the critical thinking that it has provided me. I think that I am starting to see — and my own education itself — I did get some info and, you know, medical model versus social model of disability. I think we’re getting starting to get some of that in as we’re also having more focus on equity and diversity. Understanding, I think, some of that is coming in with disability. However, I think that the critical piece and some of the harder to chew and harder to swallow type of concepts are not quite in the curriculums yet because it can feel quite uncomfortable.

 

Another article I sent to you is called ‘Disability Studies/Not Disability Studies’, and this is from the 90s, from a pretty important disability studies scholar who talks essentially about, you know, how dare rehabilitation professionals consider ourselves the experts of disability. That’s not our role. We don’t — we are not experts of disability, you know, what does that mean for those fields? And I think, again, as uncomfortable as it might feel, because it is critiquing our very own profession, those are the things we need to be reading, those are the things we need to be discussing. Those are the critical skills we need to instill into future practitioners. Again, I don’t know if I necessarily think we need to have every single therapist out there have a minor in disability studies, or have it be a complete fully joint degree. But I think having the opportunities for more of that critical reflection and thinking is going to make for better therapists. I’ve seen it in real time play out at my current institution, which is University of Illinois, at Chicago. I think the students in training, they’re so lucky, because they do have an OT department and Disability Studies department. And many of the OT faculty have PhDs in disability studies or do work with that department. So, it’s been really nice to see that program and the therapists in training and the students talking about their own beliefs there, because they are getting a little bit of both.

 

Meg: 

Well, that’s nice to hear because often that doesn’t happen. I went to UNC, and I keep having people on the podcast, and it’s like, “Oh, yeah, the Centre for Literacy Studies, it’s at UNC,” and I’m going, I kind of wish I had gotten to learn from you when I was in school there. We didn’t crossover properly with a lot of the places where we should, and OT as an insular field is not that useful. When I think about what we need in school. It’s not just the concepts, right? We had a phenomenology class where we listened to disabled people and their experiences. But every other class didn’t teach us how to center those voices.

 

And it didn’t help us play out how something looks different, playing out a treatment plan using the medical model, versus a disability justice model, or a neurodiversity model that actually centers the voices of the people who are working in a way that could help us look at our field, where we don’t have role models, right. We’re doing field work with people who are practicing pretty traditionally. And it’s hard and it’s scary to figure out how to do something different. And I think I needed not just the concepts but also as much experience as possible understanding what it looked like to play those out in OT practice and why it matters for the well-being of our clients. Otherwise, we can’t just assume like, here’s a course, here’s a reading on disability justice. Now we’ve checked the box. It just doesn’t work like that. That’s not how behavior change happens within our field.

 

And then there’s ableism, right? Give me the basics. We talk about ableism with adults, and people think — I’m trying to think what would I think off the top of my head if I didn’t know much and somebody said ‘ableism’, and it would be like, discriminatory behaviors, or like wheelchair accessibility, but broaden the definition for me and help tie in for us how ableism shows up in childhood.

 

Chelsea:  

Absolutely. Ableism, again, could be a broad, broad definition, but it is the way to describe how society values able-bodied or people without impairments way of life. And it’s very much due to also the capitalistic society that we live in. We value production, we value high economic success, we value intellect, and we value all of these things that only the — as I’m doing air quotes — ‘able-bodied’ is capable of. And that has now led to a discourse or widely accepted view that anybody who deviates from that norm or that essence of being that is essentially, you might argue again through a capitalist lens, is ‘perfect’. If someone does not fit that mold, they are different, they are less than, they are someone we look down on, and we do not value.

 

And yes, I agree, I think this is most often talked about within the context of adulthood, and it’s less spoken about in childhood. And I think it’s for same reasons as I kind of discussed when you’re talking about developmental norms. It’s, you know, during childhood, it’s almost more accepted to just look at what children are engaged in in terms of their activities and their skill building as that’s just what it is to be a kid. You should be learning, you should be developing, which again, I agree with, but it gets nuanced. The way I see ableism impacting children is, for one, the dominant kind of discourse, the way we talk about disabled kids, often tends to be this pitiful narrative; “Oh, that’s so sad that child’s disabled. What a hard life they must have.” We’re assuming that the child’s a burden to their family, “Oh, that poor family has to, you know, have this child. That must be so hard.” And I think those narratives, you see that happening, which adds to an experience of stigma for these families, as we’ve already talked about too.

 

Children are smart and children and are aware that it impacts their sense of self and impacts the way they view themselves. So, there’s that piece to it. There’s the piece of just how the narrative feeds into it. And then, again, we have to come back to us as therapists. We also live in this society that is telling us those messages. And I think a big piece I see of it, too, is how we practice. And, again, not be too redundant, but it has kind of led us to think that we have to be fixing children, we have to be helping with that goal. And like you said, then that leads to what I think are more harmful therapeutic practices — “Okay. Well, you know, our goal is that you had to finish this puzzle, but if we finished it with hand-over-hand assist, okay, there we go. Maybe we met the goal.” And I think when we let ableism creep into our own ideas as therapists is where we see a lot of the harm come in. So, what I would like to see are therapists unlearning ableism and unlearning these dominant ideologies to then be able to, hopefully — I mean, I’m still unlearning, I never claimed to be a perfect therapist myself — but, you know, just changing the way we practice, the more we can kind of unlearn and educate ourselves on what ableism is and how it impacts our kids.

 

Meg: 

You know, the way you describe ableism, it lands is pretty dystopian to me, this idea that there is one way to be a valuable person in this world. And if you diverge from that, we will do anything to try and shape you into our version of a valuable, profit-generating, staying-within-the-lines person. And that’s what’s happening, and it’s appalling. And it’s invisible to a lot of us. So, I appreciate your call for us to evaluate and unlearn ableism. And I want to name — so you talked about this, like, “Oh, that poor pitiful disabled child.” There’s this other side of it, too, that’s tokenizing, of, “Look at this joyful success story of the child who has Down Syndrome and is the homecoming king.” Can you critique that approach as well for us?

 

Chelsea:  

Yeah. I think, first, how you described it as tokenism, I would completely, completely agree. It’s — I guess this is the word of the day. It’s again, nuance. Like, we want inclusion, but we don’t want it to come from more of those paternalistic ideologies and paternalistic viewpoints, which again, is essentially, “I am the one in power, I am the one that fits the societal norm. If I go and help this disabled kid, I’m a good person, and look at me.” It’s still kind of centering that able-bodied person and even though it’s being described or disguised as an attempt for inclusion, it’s still pretty much ‘others’‘that person’. It still pretty much considers that person outside the norm. And I would argue, centers the person who was not disabled, and centers, “Oh, look how good that person is. Wow, they helped that person; wow, they asked that child to the dance. Look how great they are.” Yeah. So, the conversation ends up not even being on the disabled child or disabled person.

 

Meg: 

Yeah, it reminds me of the conversations that I often have with autistic people and non-autistic people who are thinking deeply about neurodiversity, that a strengths-based approach doesn’t mean talking about autism as a superpower. And how dehumanizing that is to say, “Oh, to be valued, this needs to make you really special.” It’s like, no, autistic people are people, just like everybody else. And they’re gonna have strengths, and they’re going to have challenges. And some of them are going to be extraordinary at some things. And some of them are going to be kind of average at everything, just like all of us. And you don’t have to have this heartwarming story or this special personality characteristic; you don’t have to be special to be valued and to be important, whether or not you are disabled. And I feel like these big stories of success can take us away from that notion and can lead us down the wrong path too. So, clinical practice. You said you would like to see therapists unlearning ableism. What are some of the key specific changes you would like to see happen in clinical therapy practice?

 

Chelsea:  

I think one of the biggest changes I would like to see is, and again, I’m speaking more from a context of early intervention. But I think I would like to see therapists serving a role that is more aligned at helping families understand what their child might need in terms of learning preferences, play preferences, and integration into their daily routines, rather than that skill building piece. And again, yes, we always want to be doing skill building. We want children to be able to have stimulating, playful moments. I’m not, again, I’m not arguing we’re not here to make any child gain skills.

 

But I think we would have a really important role in helping families instill that within their children and, you know, going even a step beyond coaching, because I think coaching is still very much connected to that skill building component, but its helping families learn what disability is, helping families unlearn some of these harmful ideologies and discourses that they’re embedded within. And if we can just show parents that it’s okay to celebrate your child exactly in the way that they are, and it’s okay to play with your child in the way they choose to play, I think that could be very powerful. Through again, literature, and my own experience, oftentimes, families just want that almost permission to be like, “It’s okay. The way everything is right now, it’s okay.” And using that as then a kind of catapult to jumping off of, “Okay, so now what is important to your family? What can we work on? What can we do together?”

 

Meg: 

That is so powerful, because when I’ve interviewed parents, they often say, “I felt so much pressure to help my child with as many therapists and therapies and as quickly as possible,” and they learn not to trust their own instincts, their own perception of their child. They just get this messaging that something is wrong, and they need professionals to help them fix it. And I feel like in this conversation, we’ve talked over and over about why that’s harmful and damaging, and I love the language you just gave us, to say, “Where you are right now is totally fine. Everything is okay. Let’s figure out what the right plan is to help your child be their full authentic self and learn and grow in the way they learn and grow.” Chelsea, of all the things we’ve talked about today, if there’s one takeaway you’d like listeners to walk away with, what would that one big takeaway be?

 

Chelsea:  

The one big takeaway I would hope is that even though I am critiquing so many things as it is with therapeutic approaches, developmental norms, and everything else, I think it’s important to have that takeaway that we were embedded within a system that has taught us this these things. Because I think it also gets very tricky that these critiques are also not to blame individual people. These critiques are not to blame families, if they maybe do something that’s different than what you think. It’s not to blame individual therapists. But to look at those systems, I think, that would be — I would hope that the big takeaway is look at the systems are within, and critique those systems, and start to think about how can you unlearn some of the narratives and discussions the systems has told you to believe and to think.

 

Meg: 

I love that takeaway so much. Thank you so much, Chelsea. Tell us what you’re working on now and where we can find you online.

 

Chelsea:  

Absolutely. I am actually not online that much, but my email is available if anybody wants to talk more about OT and disability studies. It is C-W-A-L-L-A-2-8 at UIC. And in terms of things I’m working on right now, I am wrapping up my semester right now with schooling, so I will hopefully start to get to work on my own research and get those proposal steps set out within my studies, which I will be hoping to look at family perceptions about disability. And lastly, I will continue my work as an early intervention therapist.

 

Meg: 

That’s awesome, Chelsea. So, I’ll link to your email address in the show notes at learnplaythrive.com/podcast. It was [email protected]. And I will link to your future research as well. I can’t wait to see what you do for our fields. Thank you so much, Chelsea.

 

Chelsea:  

Thank you.

 

[Ending music] 

Thanks for listening to the Two Sides of the Spectrum podcast. Visit learnplaythrive.com/podcast for show notes, a transcript of the episode, and more. And if you learned something today, please share the episode with a friend or post it on your social media pages. Join me next time, where we will keep diving deep into autism.