Saturday, August 11, 2007

Lost Opportunity

I attended a three day conference on deafblindness last week. Experts had been brought in from across the United States, and several sessions ran concurrently each day. The majority of the attendees were teachers, social workers, and case managers. A handful of parents also attended, and for those parents, childcare was provided during the day.

The person in charge of childcare for the conference was incredible. She had recruited a very experienced staff of workers, and she had set up the perfect room for children with dual sensory impairments. She covered every base, and although I have attended many conferences like this in the past where childcare was also provided, this year was the best ever.

Something surprised me though. Not one of the professionals ever stopped by our childcare room. Not one of them asked to meet or interact with the children. Not one of them even asked any of the childcare workers how things were going. The childcare room was not tucked away out of sight. It was in clear view of the attendees, and during lunch breaks, everyone ate together – parents, children, childcare workers, and professionals. But the parents, children, and childcare workers sat at separate tables. Even during this relaxed break time, no professional asked to meet or interact with the children.

Does that seem strange to anyone other than me? Here were professionals attending a conference on deafblindness. They were being trained in many issues relating to the education of children with deafblindness. There were learning about the value of communication and inclusion. Yet these professionals were neither communicating nor including. Here was the perfect opportunity to learn more from a parent’s perspective – to observe the children and ask questions about real life situations – to put into practice what had just been discussed in the conference sessions. Yet the opportunity was passed by.

I was very disappointed, very disappointed indeed.

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