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Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Trouble with Experts

I have been thinking a lot lately about experts and expertise. Malcolm Gladwell has researched this topic in his book Outliers. Good book, I highly recommend. 

And this is probably a post that I should use for the organizational development blog I need to start just to get all these posts out of my brain. But it applies here because anyone in our situation has to deal with the so called "experts" all the time.  They come in all shapes and sizes from the obvious ones called doctors to therapists to school psychologists and on and on. The more issues your kid has the more experts you will have telling you want to do and what you can't do and more importantly what your kid can and can't do.

The trouble is that if Gladwell is right, expertise has its limitations. It takes roughly 5 years of practicing the same thing 8 hours a day to become an expert in it. Throw in all the differences in human functioning in each different human and then add in the differences in injuries, well you can see where this is leading. It's really hard to apply all that expertise.  Doctors have a hard road when it comes to this. And don't get me wrong they have helped us loads. They have also hurt Ellie irrevocably so just as much as they have saved her life.

There is a saying in OD that I heard from a woman I was training to do a leadership intervention. It is this:

"One size fits one."

It has stuck with me. It speaks to the need to take each case you come across and treat it like it's unique - because it bloody well is!

The problem with this approach is that if an expert does not continue to keep the same attitude of learning and humbleness that they probably had when they were training, they miss a lot of differences and uniqueness. Which leaves them open to being very wrong. Certain things that have been suggested for Ellie that have clearly been wrong and one look at Ellie would tell you that. But that is the problem with expertise. It can blind a person as much as it can lead them. 

And someone who relies on being an expert to hang their identity on will surely fail to have that questioned in any way. They will reject any data that was beyond their reckoning and that may contradict their expert opinion. This is dangerous at worst and a big waste of time at best. 

The trouble with expertise is that it can make us stuck. It feeds the ego. It comes cloaked in prestige. It tells us who we are and who we can have power over. It's so ingrained in our society that I have found when I don't take this role when I am teaching my students it makes them really uncomfortable and they may doubt my competence. They don't like it when I don't spoon feed them or if I question something that they think should be an absolute. I can tell you there are very few absolutes I have found to hold true.  Other roles like helping ones or collaborative ones have strict definitions for use and context as well as where they are allowed in hierarchy. And that is really sad. Sometimes life feels like it's about power shifts and control versus learning and discovery and accomplishment. As if controlling others was the task as opposed to actually creating something useful, like an assistive technology set up so a kid can find her voice. 

I am having some trouble with experts these days. I am having trouble with them not listening to me and not allowing me to collaborate with them. It's hard. It's prevalent in our society. 

But if there is one bit of advice I could give anyone with any expertise it's this:

"One size fits one."


Monday, March 16, 2009

Another Stargazer Poem

I think this poem is about missing a loved one or feeling far away from God. Stargazer Lilies are my favorite because of their fragrance, the very essence of Summer, and they are so luminous. Walking in a moonlit forest is exactly where I want to be when I am blue.

Here you go:

Another Stargazer Poem

I was god that night
Walking through the trees,
My head turned upwards
Taking in the stars
The air was alive in it's smell
It smelled of life in all it's stages
The scent of birth and pain and sex and decay
Hung in the air like summer incarnate
And I felt like the center of it all
It was all around me and over me and inside me
Living things cried into the night
And their moans crashed upon my ears
And I was happy
And I was alive
And I was god that warm night
And I wish you could've been there
When I looked at the stars and saw your eyes
Looking down on me

by Tearon Uzuki

Ellie update: no fever all day today - so that is good. Still very sleepy and coughing now. Trying to keep her moving so it doesn't all settle into her lungs. Gave her UMKA Homeopathic cold care as well as Echineacea tea, frankincense essential oil on her feet, foot soaks, and a whole lotta love....let's hope this all works.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cabin Fever

I have it bad. Ellie slept on me for upwards of 5 hours today. And she is still sleepy. It's the flu. But I secretly wonder if she is just done with Winter and decided to turn into a bear and hibernate? She has been wanting to read "Where oh where is baby bear" again and again. Maybe that was just her way of saying, "See you in June."

Dave is in Ireland getting his first real break in 6 years since Ellie was born.  I'm happy for him, it was my idea. And I am really glad he got out before the plague hit. 

It has been six years too. Six years of interrupted or no sleep, six years of holding our child who is often sick, six years of trying really hard to push a twelve foot bowling ball up Mount Everest. I think we have done pretty well so far and I know we have given it our best and will continue to give it our best and then give the rest that it requires of us. Because I am sure it will take all I have.  But the last two days, with no one to talk to but Ellie, who is only available for consult between the continuous nap have made me see how isolated we are in many ways. 

My family travels right by our exit off to see each other, only cautiously seeing us when their guilt gets the better of them. I see the little girl who lives down the street taking advantage of this warm day to ride her bike. I hear the other kids in the background when Dave calls to check in.  It's all making me a little sad today. Maybe because I am sick too. Not sure. 

I feel really isolated and on days like this it feels like it will always be this way. 

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Pink Pony Ride

Over a year ago now, Dave bought this little blue scooter board so that we could sit on it and help Ellie use her gait trainer - also called Pony. Ellie got pink pony (who has yet to be officially named by Lady Muck) from Santa. Being snowed in has its benefits in finding ways to make the day fun. We put it under pink pony and were able to take Ellie for a ride. She love it. We should have video taped it but no one had an extra hand with Dave in the back and me pulling from the front, but the squeals out of Ellie are a testament to all the work we have done on raising her diaphragm