Wednesday, December 23, 2015


I recently had the pleasure seeing, up close and personal, a performance by the phenomenal guitarist Ottmar Liebert.
Can’t see the video? Click here

As I watched him, I couldn’t help thinking “this is a person who has mastered his craft.” I don’t mean that he is absolutely the best guitarist in the world (I’ll leave that debate to others), but watching him you almost sense that he is one with his guitar. He truly appears to have complete mastery over the instrument.

It can be a transcendent experience to encounter a person who has truly mastered his or her craft. Naturally, it got me to thinking: is there a person we can point to in the field of serving individuals with developmental or intellectual disabilities who can be described as having mastered that craft?

I don’t mean academics or administrators, though there are plenty of smart and talented folks who keep our field moving forward by providing the latest data and studies on what techniques or technologies may advance our knowledge and improve our outcomes. They are worthy of being celebrated, but that is not who I’m looking for today.

I’m looking for those people who simply have that innate ability to recognize the strengths of any person, irrespective of that person’s abilities or disabilities, and are able bring those strengths to the forefront. I’m looking for the doers, the ones on the front lines making an impact – the craft masters.

There are some ways that those in our field are recognized for being at the top of their game. At Imagine! we honor Employees of Distinction every year, Alliance honors a Colorado Direct Support Professional of the Year annually, and ANCOR presents an annual National Direct Support Professional of the Year Award.

Even with those recognition opportunities, I doubt right now there is one person to whom most everybody in your field could point to and say “that person has mastered the craft of serving people with intellectual disabilities.” But those awards, and evidence I see every day, indicate that many of those craft masters exist. Quite a few of them work right here at Imagine!.

The question is, are we as an organization, as a field of services, and even as a society, enlightened enough to recognize this mastery and honor it as we should? To place these craft masters on the pedestals they deserve, and to see them as people to be admired and emulated? Are we giving them the opportunity to write books, give presentations, or make videos so the rest of us can learn from their mastery? I’m not convinced we are, but I’d like us to get there.

We celebrate musicians, athletes, and performers all the time. We rightly recognize when someone has combined natural talent, hard work, and commitment to be the best at what they do. I hope you will join me in the New Year in making more effort to do the same for the dedicated men and women who anonymously work to master their craft in our field every single day. They certainly deserve it.

Then again, what do I know?

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