Dependence is a fact of life which should be acknowledged, embraced and nurtured in our own lives and in the lives of people we are caring for or who care for us
Peter Limbrick writes -
The word 'independence' crops up very frequently in discussions about children and adults who have a disability and/or special needs. I want to argue here that independence is never a valid or achievable goal and that dependence is a fact of life which should be acknowledged, embraced and nurtured in our own lives and in the lives of people we are caring for or who care for us. When we talk of independence I think we usually mean autonomy – which is different.
Next week I will probably be dependent on a barber to cut my hair and, in years to come perhaps, on someone to help me take a bath. Being dependent on both people, I shall have autonomy if the barber cuts my hair the way I want and if the person helping me bathe is of my choice, if the bath happens at the time I want it and if he or she lets me have all my boats in the water with me.
In the interdependent social structure of village, city or nation we are all, regardless of our abilities and disabilities, in the same boat of taking from others what we need and offering to others what they need. There is not one single person who can stand aloof claiming to be independent. There is not one single person who is not helping meet some needs of some other people. In our interdependent world the boundaries between 'abled' and 'disabled' dissolve away completely and we can see the illogicality of 'us' requiring 'them' to become independent – or of 'them' setting independence goals for 'us'.
Interdependence brings another aspect of learning into sharper focus. By this logic we should be preparing ourselves and others for a life, not of independence and splendid isolation, but of mutual give-and-take in social networks in which everyone has something to offer and everyone depends on others for different things at different times. The elements of this learning and preparation will include communication, listening, empathy, turn-taking, sharing, self-valuing, valuing others, negotiation, etc. – all the things that create bonds with the other people with whom we share the classroom, the care home, the shopping precinct, the workplace, the planet.
These are extracts from D is for Dependence by Peter Limbrick in IQJ, Issue Number 4 (January 2009). You can read the full essay here