Disability Is Natural Books and Media

How can those of us in the human service industry present options for parent support in a way that requires the lowest level of resistance and—as a result—the highest level of autonomy, so parents can be the ultimate decision-makers about the life they want for their family?

Roy Gerstenberger

The Dental Patient

by Roy Gerstenberger, Shared with Kathie Snow


New Ways of Thinking and Revolutionary Common Sense

Note from Kathie: This is a powerful story shared with me by a human services administrator that has important lessons about disability issues. He opens the article by describing his experience as a "dental patient," and links that to the experiences of many people with disabilities.

I went to see my dentist last week. It wasn’t just the usual six-month appointment for cleaning. I had called him a week before to set this up because I was having some real trouble with one tooth. A bad night of aches and pains had convinced me that something was wrong, although there were improvements during the intervening days. My hopes were high that it was just a passing problem. But it didn’t turn out that way. About a month earlier he had expressed concern about a small fracture in a back molar, and this was the one that was hurting. At his office, it took just a few minutes to confirm that the tooth had split, and the only option was to remove it. “Are you ready to take care of this today,” he asked. I wanted to appear confident and reasonable—no “difficult patient” here—so without any quivering in my voice, I firmly replied, “Yes, let’s do it.”

Things immediately clicked into a kind of code-speak that was way beyond me. My dentist said things like, “We’ll need a couple of 240s and some 210s. And make sure that we have a­­…” There was a brief silence, and I knew that outside of my limited field of vision, the dentist and his assistant had shifted into nonverbal communication and gestures. This really raised my anxiety . . . Click here to continue.