On August 5th the interview I did with art therapist Susan Goodman went live at The Mobility Resource website, “Does Art Therapy Offer Healing Power?” Considering our phone interview came close to two hours in length, naturally certain insights from Goodman did not undergo publication. That changes today with this “TMR Interview Extras” Off Balanced blog post.
Word choice proved a talking point throughout our discussion, initially brought up when Goodman shared her thoughts on the term “disability.” “I don’t like the word ‘disability.’ I like to say ‘people who face challenges’ because that includes I’d say anyone. I think in life, we all face challenges.”
She continued, “A lot of them (individuals she works with) are in wheelchairs, have traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) or have had strokes. Physically they’re more impaired, but I have my challenges too.” She gives an example “One of my big challenges is technological.”
A little later Goodman used the word “normal,” leading me to pronounce my dislike for that term. She recognized my exact reasoning saying “I didn’t want to use that word either. It’s funny because what is normal?”
Going a step further Goodman offered her definition. “Whatever normal is for that person or what is it that, that person needs to do for themselves? That would be what I define normal as.”
That dialogue developed from Goodman speaking about utilizing adaptive devices in art therapy. “I don’t use any adaptive devices because what I found with the guys I work with now (TBIs, developmental disabilities) is they want to be as normal as possible. They like to use the materials the way they use to be able to use the materials.”
What I found so profound regarding the aforementioned comments, deals with the desire to be normal. As I document in my teen memoir Off Balanced (available on the Kindle and Nook), I maintained the same desire growing up with cerebral palsy.
Now to Susan Goodman art therapy extends beyond commonalities amongst people within the disability community. Ultimately she learned a core life principal. “Art therapy taught me so much just about human spirit and the human being and how to treat people like human beings. See people for who they are and not based on a diagnosis. ” I think that merits repeating.
“See people for who they are and not based on a diagnosis.”