My Parenting Journey….Presume Competence!

by | Jan 17, 2017 | P2P

My Parenting Journey….Presume Competence!

Presuming Competence. … Douglas Biklen and Jamie Burke define “presuming competence” as believing that a child, regardless of disability, is intellectually capable and has the skills and motivation to manifest just as anyone in daily life.

How ridiculous does it sound to “presume competence” when we are constantly and overwhelmingly dealing with our youngster’s problems, deficiencies, gaps, fall-behinds, comparisons to siblings and same-age kiddos?

Just consider for a moment looking at the world a different way.  Our little ones will be with typical adults someday, and wouldn’t it be great if they could feel as competent as possible in the real world?



Based on my efforts to help my son Kyle to be included and respected as he became an adult, these were 6 strategies I tried, and achieved with him:

1)   Ensure an inclusive school life. He went to high school sports events and school socials and dances with peers who had no disabilities.

2)   During his transition planning years (beginning at 14), he worked in 2 part-time community jobs, which he continued to work at after school years ended at 21.

3)   During his last year of school, he got connected to a nearby church Post High School Singles group, and enjoyed this fellowship infinitely.

4)   During his last year of school, he was involved in community social and recreation activities where he made friends with folks who were not disability challenged.

5)   We ensured the best use of technology during school and afterward for his communication and for hobbies – like music, cards and table games, and the TV.

6)   After school years, Kyle especially enjoyed attending meetings as a self-advocate, proudly introducing himself (via his communication device) as a working, paid library assistant.

Pretty impressive for someone with an intellectual/developmental disability label, and no functional physical movement besides an inch or so head movement to control a switch.

PRESUME COMPETENCE…and competency can be achieved!


For more information about the ideas of Presuming Competence, check out:

Let’s continue the conversation!  What are you doing to “presume competence” with your son or daughter?  How do you communicate this to other family members, friends, and professionals?

Share your ideas with us!  Email

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Gerrie Frohne is 76 years “young”, with 45 years’ experience as a volunteer advocate for individuals with disabilities and their families, beginning with the birth of her son who experienced very significant disabilities. She has been a member of Parent to Parent of Colorado since its inception. Gerrie has served for many years on the P2P Advisory Board and regularly participates in various advocacy efforts in the community. For her dedicated work in the community, Gerrie received the Outstanding Family Advocate award from Ability Connection Colorado in 2014.
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