New Ways of Thinking and Revolutionary Common Sense

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

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.