Discovering Empowerment Through Creativity (DETC) was Find Your Inner Super Hero (FYISH) until May 23, 2011. The program was renamed, so to include those who wish to re-discover themselves through various creative means. While this re-discovery reveals the marvelous resiliency of the participants that is by no means short of being super, they chose to see themselves as someone other than a super hero. Through renaming this program, we hope that all will feel welcome to blossom and transform as individuals and members of our community.
DETC was hosted on a bi-weekly basis at the Macdonald Center for Member Services (also known as Independent Living Services). The 2-hour long workshops are ongoing, largely participant driven with a loose outline/ lesson plan and focus on drawing parallels between lives of people with disabilities and super heroes.
After each participant crafts his or her super hero, they will work together to create comics in which those characters work together in every day scenarios. If there is enough interest, and community support, each participant will receive help creating a costume that they may wear when enacting one of the scenarios (perhaps at the Macdonald Center Independent Living Services‘ annual talent show!).
While this is a pilot workshop for the organization and the individuals with whom I work, there are larger applications for use in adolescent psychological units, dual diagnosis group therapy groups, and classrooms for students with disabilities. For example, a Charter school teacher in New Orleans plans on using it with her young ones, and a guy in Alabama who wants to use the idea with the repeat-offender youths with whom he works. Anyone and everyone who wants to use the ideas or sources for a workshop like these is encouraged to do so. Please treat it like open source software, and have a great time!
People with disabilities, including mental illnesses, can greatly benefit by exploring how super heroes become super heroes in hopes that they might tear down some of their internalized stigma, and through contributions from community members helping workshop participants with character development the participants will not feel so isolated within their larger social communities. Hopefully, the experiences gained through lending their talents will dispel any stigmas maintained by those members of the large social communities. If this happens, then the ripple effect of disintegrating stigmas might actually lead to people with disabilities being considered… oh, I don’t know… as valuable as their more-abled counterparts?
Think about it. Super heroes eventually become heroes through being born with some difference, surviving an accident, or witnessing some tragedy. People with disabilities endure at least one of these three paths. Some individuals have encountered a combination of two or all three paths. By creating their own hero based on themselves, with a complete history relating their journey to known super heroes and help from members of the larger community, predominantly internal and some external stigma concerning people with disabilities may be dismantled. This will also allow for the development of pride in oneself and a sense of responsibility of ones actions, and help strengthen the bonds of the community as a whole. Moreover, by working through their life journeys the pain of their past may be worked through and let go.