Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Memory Bank Withdrawals

I recently watched the latest Pixar movie “Inside Out.” A good portion of the movie takes place inside of an 11-year old girl named Riley’s head, where five different emotions act together (and apart) as she navigates a variety of new worlds – a new home, a new school, and a new outlook on life as she moves away from childhood an into her teen years.

Since the movie came out, there has been a lot of discussion about the “science” of the movie. Although it is an animated feature, targeted mainly towards kids, the consensus seems to be that much of the movie offers very realistic parallels to how the human mind actually works.

One interesting element that struck me is how the movie provided a visualization of memory. In the movie, memories were stored in orbs in what appeared to be giant warehouses with wall after wall of these orbs. One would assume that as a person aged, they would have larger and larger warehouses stored with many more orbs, most of which would never be accessed.

And . . . of course that started me thinking about Imagine! and the field of serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. This is a field that is staffed from top to bottom with individuals who have vast memory banks worth of information about best practices when it comes to allowing the individuals who accept services from us to fully engage in their communities.

However, I fear that in our field, we don’t take full advantage of those memories. We all face the same challenges, and we all have an equal amount of time in which to address those challenges. But we aren’t all equal when it comes to memories and knowledge about how to address the challenges. If we ignore the treasure trove of knowledge we have access to (and I’m afraid we ignore it all too often), then we are failing at our jobs. Our field should be advancing as fast as technology advances. Instead, we seem to move forward at a snail’s pace (at best).

When I was younger, and had a lot more hair, one of my favorite songs was “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair),” by Scott McKenzie.
  Can’t see the video? Click here

The song included the line “There's a whole generation with a new explanation.” At the time, that line really resonated with me. I believe it was true then. Now, I’m not so sure one could say the same thing. New explanations are necessary, but the circumstances are different; information is readily available. Today we can understand the old explanations as well when we make informed choices about our next steps. When there is not a lot of learning, there’s not a lot of growth. If we want to put people in motion (also a line from the song), we need to be focused on learning about what we know really works. We need to start making some withdrawals from our collective memory banks and use that knowledge to make deeply informed choices.

Then again, what do I know?

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