father was a season ticket holder and
at one point I met the owner and we
became pen pals. I also became friends
with a lot of the players. I would watch
how the players were treated when they
were injured and it made me mad. They
were suddenly disabled and ostracized.
So in high school I decided I would
become a psychologist and work with
athletes. I worked with high school, club,
collegiate and professional athletes for
five or six years once I earned my masters
in sport psychology. After receiving my
doctorate I took a turn and got into
developmental psychology and forensic
psychology, where I provide assessments
for the California Parole Board.
What can psychology do to
prevent people with disabilities
from being ostracized?
Be an asset rather than an obstacle. In
general, disability needs to be a priority
in research, public interest, practice
and science. We also need to gain the
[disability] community’s trust. There’s
an overall lack of trust with the disability
community because our field hasn’t been
a true ally to the sociocultural model of
disability — it has leaned more to the
medical model. Psychology needs to
be mindful of that history. There needs
to be more research that is culturally
sensitive so that people with a disability
have a voice. We need to collect data
on different disabilities. We need to
make sure our doctoral programs are
required to teach about disability culture.
Programs need to embrace students with
disabilities rather than alienate them.
I still hear from psychology students
who are told they can’t be psychologists
if they can’t administer the assessment
measurement. But all you need to be
a psychologist is to understand the
elements of a testing measurement —
physically administrating the assessment
should not be a requirement for
graduation. Students are told in the
APPIC internship application process
that if they mention a disability they
are less likely to get matched. Why are
we making that recommendation? Why
aren’t we instead changing how our
internship programs view disability?
Did you ever experience any type
of discrimination like that?
I had a professor tell me that no one would
want to tell me their problems because
they will think their problems are less
than yours. I have had people ask me how
people understand me with my speech
impediment. That’s part of why I like to
work in correctional settings and with kids.
These are two populations that understand
me the most. The reality is, some clients
will terminate therapy because of the
client-therapist fit. And that’s OK.
What are you most proud of?
My daughter. Being a mom. After I
was married, even my in-laws thought
having a child would be way too much
for us. But I am happy to say that within
a few weeks of our adopting Kathryn,
they wrote us an apology and said
it was the best thing that could have
happened to our family. Now Kathryn is
an articulate, confident, spunky 11-year-
old who stands up for what she believes
in and does that in part, I think, from
seeing me model that. n
Find resources for parents with disabilities
in Chapter 14 of the National Council
on Disability report Rocking the Cradle:
Ensuring the Rights of Parents with
Disabilities and their Children at www.
EOE AA M/F/Vet/Disability
The GEO Group, Inc. is the world's leading
provider of correctional, detention, and
community reentry services.
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