“God finally shut him up.” – Dave Hingsburger

Dave Hingsburger died on Sunday, July 18th 2021. To honor Dave we are sharing this piece written by Karin Melberg Schwier which we feel so aptly illustrates Dave’s unbridled commitment to his work. Dave started collaborating with Open Future Learning in 2012. Some of Dave’s most notable contributions to the Open Future site include the modules: Sexuality and Relationships, Boundaries, Personal and Intimate Care, Me and Mine, Diversity, and Abuse Prevention.

 

The Art of Being Human

 

Dave Hingsburger sits at the front of the room smiling and sated. To borrow from Psalms: “Be still and know that I am.” It is this point that Dave Hingsburger so clearly defines with his examples, stories and role-plays: Think and feel what it is to be human.

 

Dave Hingsburger is a renowned sexuality consultant, lecturer, speaker and alarmingly prolific author. He doesn’t mince words and he has a lot of them. His admonitions can be as razor sharp as his wit and praise. People who hear him speak leave like so many limp dishrags from laughing, crying, raging, thinking. It is exactly the response Hingsburger wants. To be in Hingsburger’s presence is to be changed, lifted by the lapels, status quo shaken, then gently lowered to the ground. You are not the same afterwards.

 

Hingsburger does this ruffling to somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 people a year. He has lectured in almost every state and province from Alaska to the Yukon to Texas and Louisiana. He has an astonishing Stephen King-esque productivity record that now stands at some 28 books, not including chapters in the works of others, articles in journals, magazines and newspapers, scripts for training films and documentaries. Hingsburger and partner Joe Jobes created Diverse City Press so they could develop plain language, affordable materials on vital issues for direct-support professionals, parents and people with disabilities. No book sells for more than $16. He owes this productivity to an inability to say no.

 

“I write a lot because I just can’t turn down opportunities to get the word out,” he says. “In one week, for example, I did a two-hour interview for Hustler magazine and a piece for a small religious press. Some might find conflicts between the two. I don’t. If there is an opportunity to intelligently discuss issues pertinent to the right of people with disabilities to have an adult life, I’m there.”

 

Sticking his face in it with honesty and a razor-blade sense of humor brings admiration from people in the disability field who count on Hingsburger to raise difficult issues and tackle controversial problems. Patty Gibson of the British Columbia Association for Community Living has worked with him many times and appreciates his “inability to gloss over an issue.

Not only is Dave a true original thinker, he’s absolutely fearless,” Gibson says. “While others may tiptoe around certain issues, not wishing to offend or wanting to preserve pleasantries, Dave cuts straight to the heart of the matter. And that matter inevitably has to do with some form of injustice inflicted on people with disabilities.”

 

Becoming fearless has taken Hingsburger to places he never dreamed he’d go. In fact, as a kid born in Olds, Alberta, who grew up in the interior of B.C., Hingsburger says his childhood was comprised of “equal parts terror and loneliness.” In a school with absolutely no diversity, he recalls, a fat kid was an easy target.

 

Spending years as a child who tried to avoid being seen, it’s remarkable that Hingsburger chose a career as a public speaker. It’s not that he actually chose it; perhaps it chose him. His very first public lecture did not go entirely as planned.

 

“Having lied in the job interview where they asked me if I was comfortable doing staff training, I suddenly found myself required to do a one-hour orientation with five staff on the principles of human behavior,” says Hingsburger. “I stood at the front; they all looked at me and years of insecurity flooded my consciousness. I fainted. Flat on the floor. They revived me and I talked non-stop for the remaining 45 minutes and told the class everything I knew about psychology, from Freud to fantasy. It was horrible.”

 

Despite that shaky beginning, Hingsburger soon discovered there were things he wanted to say about people with disabilities, their rights and the treatment they receive at the hands of others. Training for staff was lacking so he took every chance he could to speak. Parent groups in church basements. Civic groups over rubbery chicken dinners. Front-line staff in small meeting rooms. He got better, having decided that fainting was probably distracting to the audience. “I was determined to get better at getting the message out. Now I do a relaxation procedure about 15 minutes before I start and then a rapid prayer just before I begin and then I’m on.”

 

Hingsburger became a sexuality consultant at York Behavior Management Services in Ontario. A referral for a young man with an intellectual disability who had touched a child led Hingsburger and others at the clinic to realize that there was only one ethical approach. They would help people with disabilities develop a means of appropriate sexual expression, help agencies develop policies that fostered and encouraged relationships, and help parents see their children as adults with adult needs.

 

“It’s led to controversial stands,” he says. “I wrote what I believe to be the first article in the literature on supporting lesbians and gay men with developmental disabilities. I wrote and helped film” — not as an actor, he points out — “masturbation training tapes for men and women with disabilities. I have assisted self-advocates in their desire to speak up and speak out against sexual abuse.”

 

All this speaking up and out and Hingsburger’s absolute conviction that adults with disabilities are sexual beings has led to a variety of reactions. Not everyone is a fan. Hingsburger is absolutely unapologetic about telling people — staff, volunteers, parents, and administrators — when their policies and behaviors at best perpetuate dependency and at worst set people up for abuse. It’s a message that leaves many people squirming in their seats, if not leaving their seats altogether.

 

“Dave’s insight is exceptionally keen and his sense of humor is always entertaining, but it is his deep respect for people and his truly human perspective that stands out for me,” notes Dr. Dick Sobsey, director of the J.P. Das Developmental Disabilities Centre at the University of Alberta. “He takes on a variety of risky topics… and that sometimes means offending people. But he always makes me think a little deeper, question more of my assumptions and get in touch with genuine feelings about the human condition.”

 

Nancy Wallace-Gero is an executive director of an Essex County service provider for people with disabilities in Ontario.

“We’ve worked with Dave on a number of innovative projects designed to lower the risk of sexual victimization of people with developmental disabilities,” she says. “His energy, drive, commitment, the brilliance that he exudes, are amazing and inspiring. He is simply the most progressive and creative leader in the field today and his message is what we want our staff to adopt as a guiding principle.”

 

Hingsburger is well aware of the controversy that sometimes erupts around him. In fact, he regularly runs his thoughts and ideas past leaders in the disability movement. Lucy Gwin, editor of U.S.A.’s Mouth magazine, provides feedback, as does Lisette Lanthier, a woman with an intellectual disability who has co-presented with him on abuse issues. Hingsburger finds that he needs “supervision and support from people with disabilities. Once I have that,” he adds, “damn the torpedoes. I can’t hold back; there’s too much to do.”

 

Sometimes he receives letters from people who advise that he will “lose his following” if he stays a particular course. He considers such messages hollow threats and is unconcerned, even unaware, about what his “reputation” or “following” might be. Once a lonely, fat child, Hingsburger knows he can survive without the approval of others. So he continues with his message, often through stories of his own experiences. Many are self-deprecating stories in which he has learned a valuable lesson from a self-advocate, a parent or someone who has helped him better understand the human condition. As advice to people starting a career in human services, he recommends that they never cease to “feel and think.

 

In stories are the truth of human experiences. I know that some stories I tell are painful. Others are funny,” he says. “But life is painful. Life is funny. Sometimes it’s both at the same time. I think that people in human services are attracted by what is authentically human. Data, graphs, numbers are important but they don’t connect with the stuff of life. Parables are remembered; numbers are jotted down and then forgotten.”

 

Gill Rutherford has known Hingsburger for six years. She coordinates Disability Studies at Dunedin College of Education/Te Kura Akau Taitoka in New Zealand, and cites one of her earlier memories of the keynote speaker.

“I was at the back of the room with the AV guys, who had come in to check that the sound was working okay,” she says. “They usually did a quick check, then headed off for coffee. This time, they stayed. Here they were, two guys with no real interest in disability issues, and Dave had captured them with his first few sentences: ‘This guy’s good…’”

 

“Dave can move you from laughter to tears in a sentence. My students really appreciate his forthrightness, his insight and, obviously, his humor. He’s a breath of fresh air in academia, and his words provoke students to think about and question what they see happening with people who have disabilities. I believe the purpose of education is to unsettle the mind — Dave does this well.”

 

Hingsburger’s message has had a profound effect on the field of disability, if official recognition is any indication. The running count of awards to date is long. The first award he ever received was from the Newmarket and District Association for Community Living. It was the Professional of the Year award. It is possibly the most meaningful of all the formal awards he’s received because it was given by people who saw his work firsthand. “Doing ranks higher in my mind than does yapping,” so an award from the Self-Advocate Council of the Ontario ACL for his work to make the world safer for people with disabilities is also treasured, and it still moves him to tears. The prestigious Dana Sambour Award from the Committee on Sexuality on the U.S. west coast, the Pioneer Award from the U.S. Institute on Dual Diagnosis and a leadership award from the Young Adult Institute all rank among his most memorable.

 

But the one that comes out on top isn’t a plaque. Hingsburger assisted in a legal case involving a woman with a disability who was brutalized. He was impressed with how the police officer handled the case, and told him so. Hingsburger was surprised with the officer’s response: “I was at one of your training sessions and I followed the advice you gave.” Hingsburger is confident there will be a conviction in the case. To him, that’s the best award of all.

 

While he deals with the darkest sides of humanity and is continually reminded that people with disabilities are still caged by systems, isolated by fearful parents and victimized by predators, he is a hopeful man. He tells of sneaking into a large institution at night. Standing in the middle of an empty ward, he says, he “could still smell captivity.” But he was enraptured by the sound of silence, of emptiness. He felt the knowledge that he is part of a movement that has set people free and “it felt good.” He is proud when he sees people with disabilities working in the community, waiting for a city bus, doing the ordinary things that have been out of reach for so long.

 

“Once I found myself crying simply because I was watching an elderly woman with a developmental disability make butter tarts,” he recalls. “She moved about in freedom as if the air had the buoyancy of water. This is what we work for: real lives in real communities for real people.”

 

A few years ago, Hingsburger nearly died. This not only alarmed him and those closest to him. It also had a great many people holding a collective breath as they watched a significant light flicker and grow dim.

 

“All I can say is that I understood, really for the first time, what quality of life is. And what it isn’t. Boy,” he sighs, “have we made some mistakes.”

 

Still, 20,000 people cross paths with Hingsburger each year and thousands more read his books, see his videotapes, conduct training with his instructional materials and quote his parables. In one of his seminars, hundreds will experience the simple act of feeding another human being a cookie and will, in return, receive that communion from another human being. They will be asked to reflect on this profound act of being with another person: “Be still and know that I am.” And each will become a better human being in the process.

 

As evidence that his wicked sense of humour burns again at full flame, Hingsburger chuckles as he ponders the question of what might be written on his tombstone when he does finally shuffle off this mortal coil.

 

“God finally shut him up.”

 

By Karin Melberg Schwier

Original article at: http://www.karinschwier.ca

(Karin Melberg Schwier of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, is the parent of three; the eldest son has a disability. She is also an author whose most noted works are about people with disabilities. She co-authored with Dave Hingsburger Sexuality: Your Sons and Daughters with Intellectual Disabilities (Brookes Publishing, 2000). Most recently, her debut novel Small Reckonings has earned literary awards; she had been in touch with Dave several weeks ago about researching repressed memories of assault in people with disabilities for the novel’s sequel. The Art of Being Human first appeared in Abilities magazine.

 

Developmental disability agency halves turnover.

“In the field of disability services turnover is last Tuesday!” – Dave Hingsburger

 

Nationally, turnover is actually at almost 50%. Here is what Direct Support Staff want:

 

Here is how one agency is working to change things:

 

Penn-Mar Human Services was founded in 1981 and serves over 400 people with locations in Maryland and Pennsylvania. Penn-Mar approached Open Future Learning as a means to engage their staff in the National Alliance of Direct Support Professionals (NADSP) credentialing program.

 

The first step on the NADSP career ladder program is to become certified as a Direct Support Professional level 1. This requires 50 hours of accredited training. So far over 50 staff have now graduated through this program, and for those graduates, turnover has reduced from 34% to just 16%.

 

Meet Natalie and learn how she is using Open Future Learning to become certified:

 

 

Outside of the NADSP credentialing program all staff are required to complete 24 hours of training per year. Using the flexibility of the Open Future resource, Penn-Mar’s users complete modules on their own and also in group settings. Previously these group style meetings took place in person, but now learners watch the modules as a group over zoom.

 

All staff are required to complete a set list of modules. Penn-Mar’s director of learning and development Gina Brelesky identified the ‘Personal and Intimate Care’ training as one of the most important and impactful modules that her staff complete. Here is the trailer for that module:

After completing their required training Direct Support Staff meet with their supervisor to review their learning and discuss how they can apply what they have learned to their practice. Professional development on it’s own is not enough. Staff need to demonstrate how they are using what they have learned to impact the lives of the people they support.

 

To learn more about how you can help your staff to become credentialed, email hello@openfuturelearning.org for a demo and a free trial of the Open Future resource.

No contracts. Ever.

 

 

Not Friends, Not Family

We are not friends, we are not family.

 

No punches pulled – just the truth. Our interactive Mini Module ‘Boundaries, Paid Friends’ is four pages long and takes just 20 minutes to complete.

 

Your staff will learn that they can have a caring and friendly relationship with the people they support without blurring the boundaries. This excerpt might be hard for some disability support workers to watch:

 

About Mini Learning Modules:
– 30 minutes or less to complete.
– Access them on any device.
– Use them with groups of staff in person or remotely.
– Over 90 mini modules to choose from.

 

Take a 20 min GoToMeeting demo of our site and your company can have 30 days of access to our entire resource – no contract. Email hello@openfuturelearning.org for more information.

 

Learn more about all of our modules here.

 

Support & teach advocacy then shut up!

“I used to think that my voice was equally important, if not more so, than the people I supported. In this story I saw this man advocate for himself, speak for himself, and voice his own dreams. It was at this point I understood that I was his ally not his advocate and that only he could advocate for himself. Our job then is to support advocacy, even teach advocacy, but once those are done our primary job is to shut up.” – Dave Hingsburger

 

 

This video is an excerpt from the Open Future Learning Mini Module ‘Helping People be in Control.’ Taking 30 minutes to complete, this Mini Learning Module captures everything you expect from Open Future and delivers it in a bite size format.

 

 

Our members use this module so their staff know how to help people to:

  • Make good decisions.
  • Stay in control while remaining safe.
  • Use self-advocacy as a powerful way of taking control of their lives.

 

First month free:

Email hello@openfuturelearning.org to schedule a demo of the Open Future resource and then receive your first month free – no contract of use.

 

Learn more about all of our modules here.

 

 

Do you have permission to touch disabled people?

Do your support staff seek permission before they touch people? Our members use us to create better support relationships. Watch this video:

 

 

Our new module ‘Personal and Intimate Care’ offers several very practical strategies that can be used to seek permission even when people do not use words to speak.

 

Parallel talk is one such example. Parallel talk simply means describing your actions before and as you take them. It can be as simple as: “I’m just going to reach over for the shaving foam…okay I’m ready to start by helping you wet your face…now are you ready for me to carry on?” The key is ensuring the person is always aware of what is happening well before it happens. A key word, phrase or behavior can indicate someone’s choice. Many people give permission without speech – it could be their facial expression, their posture or simply their gaze. So you wait for their response, then move on.

 

In the busyness of our work we can forget about humanity really fast. Parallel talk slows us down and reestablishes that connection. Plus when combined with a routine that all staff follow, it can encourage learning. Every time you describe what you do, the individual gets to hear and experience the routine. Without knowing it, learning starts happening and at that point even people with profound disabilities will start to participate in the routine.

 

Preserving dignity and promoting control are two of the most important tasks a support staff person undertakes. Why? Because we expect it ourselves.

 

DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU CAN USE OPEN FUTURE …

– with groups of staff.

– on your phone.

– with the people you support.

 

Schedule a demo and then you can get your first month free! No contract. Email for more information: hello@openfuturelearning.org

 

Learn more about all of our modules here.

 

Personal & Intimate Care – NEW MODULE!

If you understand the power that direct support staff have when they provide personal and intimate care, then you will also know how important this essential training is. Watch the trailer:

 

 

Learning outcomes:

 

– Provide assistance from the perspective of the person you support that is sensitive, calm, respectful, private and patient.

– Help people to be able to make choices and be in control, even when they do not communicate by using words.

– Understand what parallel talk is and how it can be used to seek permission.

– Create and built on the boundaries between you and the person you support.

– Explain how to create and the purpose of a protocol for personal care.

 

Learn more about this and all of our modules here.

 

 

Do people with disabilities have a right to choice?

Did you know?

– Our learning modules be used to train groups of staff.

– When you train groups of staff you only use one seat on your membership.

– You can complete our modules on any device.

– You can make your own modules.

– When staff access a custom module they do not use a seat.

 

Have a free demo and trial by emailing hello@openfuturelearning.org

 

Learn more about all of our modules here.

 

 

How Not to Handle Rejection

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Enjoy this short excerpt from our series of Side by Side modules on Relationships, Dating, and Intimacy written by Dave Hingsburger. There is no “best way” to deal with rejection, but there are a lot of bad ways. The module … Continue reading

About Friendships and Community

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You may have a lovely home in a nice community, but you could still be lonely. Some people with disabilities have experienced abuse and discrimination, and have been not allowed to have ordinary opportunities to be part of community life … Continue reading

Understanding and Promoting Rights

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This module presents a clear and matter-of-fact approach to the rights of the people we support. Beyond describing and defining rights, this module gives the user first hand knowledge and expertise on how to maintain and promote the rights of … Continue reading

Supporting and Understanding Communication

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Communication is the most complex human skill. It is the way we understand the world, express ourselves as individuals, make choices, develop relationships, build trust and control our lives. In this module, the renowned speech and language specialist, Sue Thurman, … Continue reading

Building Friendships and Community

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In this module, leading expert Kay Mills frames her personal experiences with stories of people she has worked with to comprehensively explain how we can help people to build friendships and community. Kay begins by defining both friendships and community … Continue reading

Relationships, Dating, and Intimacy by Dave Hingsburger

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Relationship, Dating and Intimacy expert, Dave Hingsburger, shares with you his knowledge about the importance of assisting the people we support with developing positive relationships, experiencing dating and intimacy in order to have a fulfilled life. This side-by-side module allows the people who receive support and the people who provide support to learn together. Continue reading

ALL BEHAVIOR IS COMMUNICATION

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P.S. We just released a new short version of our module “Abuse Prevention.” After completing this new bite size 80 minute module you will be able to: – Describe what abuse is, along with the signs, symptoms, causes, circumstances, patterns, … Continue reading

Me and Mine

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Dave Hingsburger will change the way you think about your work and the way that you support people. Our new module ‘Me and Mine’ explores the importance of self and the need to help the people you support to develop … Continue reading

Slightly Inspirational Health and Safety Training

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The words ‘inspirational’ and ‘health and safety’ may not sit easily together. But not many health and safety training courses feature contributions from leading thinkers like Dave Hingsburger, David Pitonyak, Dave Hasbury, and John Raffaele. This module will help to … Continue reading