Dave Hingsburger, a public speaker on developmental disability issues primarily from the caregiver’s point of view (although he also uses a wheelchair from a non-developmental disability)
If you do any public speaking on disability of any kind, including developmental disabilities, including autism?
Memorize this. Or memorize something that means the same thing, a phrase you’ve made your own, to suit your own needs. I’d feel awkward saying “clinical” because I’m not a professional, so I’d say something like “I don’t give that kind of advice from the podium”, then I would be prepared to explain exactly why.
Because if you do this kind of public speaking long enough, someone will ask you to explain ”what to do about” something pertaining to their child, their coworker, their friend, their sibling, their student, whatever.
And it would not be remotely ethical for you to even try to answer such a question. Even if you really thought you had an answer. I’ve made this mistake more than once, but when i heard Dave say “I never give clinical advice from the podium,” everything clicked into place – this was not only something that I had trouble doing, it was also something I should not be doing or trying to do in the first place.
Why is it unethical to try and give such advice? Well, you don’t even know the person. Or if you do, it’s not your business to spread their business in front of an audience, no matter how large or small. But generally you don’t know the person. Even when you do know the person, advice can go drastically wrong. Imagine how much more disastrously wrong it could go if all you know about this person is essentially a sound bite from someone who knows the person.
And no matter how well they know or think they know the person, they could be giving you inaccurate information or leaving the most important parts of the information out.
This is not to mention whether the person themselves would want to be discussed among strangers, even anonymously. I had a lot of respect for a mother who said that for the first time in years, she would be able to show pictures of her daughter in her presentations. She’d done it for years without even thinking ofher daughter’s opinion. Then she started asking her daughter every time, and making sure she knew it was always okay to say no. Year after year, her daughter said no. This year, her daughter said yes, and then, and only then, would she show her daughter’s photos again.
It’s a matter of safety, it’s a matter of dignity, it’s a matter of respect, it’s a matter of knowing your limitations as a speaker.
And if you do like this idea, and you do have to use it during a presentation, give credit to Dave Hingsburger, the video it’s on is called “The Ethics of Touch”. The video is too expensive for most people to afford (I received it as a gift), so you may never see the video unless you know a person or agency that has a copy. But this quote is from that video, so if you’re going to give him credit, mention the name of the video the quote is from.
But seriously. Hearing this made me a lot more comfortable in telling people ‘I can’t do this.” Because I never felt right doing it. I never even felt I could do it, which really nobody can. But I had this weird idea that because the question was asked, I was doing something wrong by not answering. Dave’s quote gave me permission not to do that.