The Arcadia Institute

Making it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in their community

Entries for May 2010

Volunteering at the Boys and Girls Club

This week, we wanted to share another great story that illustrates how EVERYONE benefits when individuals with disabilities are included.

Peter is a young man who has had numerous health difficulties that have impacted his ability to participate in the community. He likes to play board games and meet people. The Arcadia Institute identified an opportunity to have him volunteer as the receptionist for a local non-profit organization. He enjoyed this regularly scheduled activity because it allowed him to meet new people. However, because he has short term memory problems, he had trouble remembering exactly what to do when he answered phone calls. So, The Arcadia Institute staff met with him to see if we could find a better fit for his skills.

Since Peter indicated that he likes to play games, particularly with his nieces and nephews, The Arcadia Institute contacted the Boys and Girls Club to see if they need volunteers to play games with their members. The Boys and Girls club was thrilled to have a volunteer come play games with the kids. Since then, Peter has been volunteering a couple of hours, twice a week. This has been a good fit for him. And it has brought back memories from when he was younger and he was a member of the Club!

Join us in our mission to help make it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in our community!

Summer Training

Springtime is when many parents are realizing that soon their children will not be in school all day and other activities will have to stimulate and engage them for the three months of summer. I have two young children (with no “labeled” disabilities) and it has been a priority for me this month. Numerous flyers have come home from school – everything from soccer to music to science. I’ve spent quite a bit of time reading and researching about the different programs and organizations trying to find the best fit for my kids – and me!

But, what about parents with kids with disabilities? They have to consider things like behavior challenges, accommodations and medications. They have to worry about the attitudes and barriers that might stand in the way of their child participating in summer activities. They are nagged by the possibility of getting their child in a program only to have staff call a couple hours later and ask them to come pick up their child because he’s just not “fitting in” with the other kids and he’s being disruptive.

I am fortunate enough to have a job where my responsibility is to create successful summer experiences for children with disabilities and their parents. As part of the Community Participation Initiative, we develop training for organizations that want to include children with disabilities into their programming that is open to all individuals.

Our training for program staff is designed to help them provide a welcoming and supportive environment for all kids. Staff learn about supporting positive behavior, accommodations for various activities, respecting and appreciating diversity, and how to use The Arcadia Institute for additional support during the summer.

Some of the organizations that are receiving training from The Arcadia Institute this summer are:
Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo
Kalamazoo Parks and Recreation
Pretty Lake Vacation Camp
Sherman Lake Camp
Southwest Michigan Council of Boy Scouts
The Nature Center
The Civic Theater
YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo

Contact The Arcadia Institute if you are an organization and you want to learn more about training.

We are also available to parents of children with disabilities to assist with finding the right fit for a fun, engaging and successful summer experience! And, parents, get your kids signed up soon before programs fill up!

What “Building a Community of Belonging” Looks Like

forum participants sharing breakfast

Community leaders and organization staff collaborate to identify ways to support each other when including individuals with disabilities.

forum participants engaged in presentations

Individuals with disabilities share their interests and ideas about how they want to participate in the community.

forum participants expressing their ideas and thoughts

On March 18th, 2010, the Arcadia Institute held an event called, “Building a Community of Belonging: A forum of The Arcadica Institute and it’s Community Partners.” Learn more about what happened and what you can do to get involved!

Community Participation: A Destination and a Pathway

This week, George Martin shares his thoughts on how the Community Participation Initiative came about.

Several years ago when I conceived of our Community Participation Initiative, I was searching for a way to move beyond the traditional ways to support people with disabilities in our schools and mental health systems.

It occurred to me that the key was the broader community that supports all of us. We work to prepare people to take part in community as equals with other people, and the community is the best support network we can find, not a segregated program that further sets people apart and limits their options in life.

Community participation is the pathway along which people gain skills, self respect, knowledge of new ventures, increased options and a wider variety of relationships. All these gains add value to the lives of people with disabilities and everyone else in the community.

For me, this idea of the Initiative goes back to the ‘80’s when Tip Ray came to Kalamazoo to share his experiences in Minnesota. I have also gleaned much from John and Connie O’Brien, Responsive Systems Associates, Robert Perske, Beth Mount, and John McKnight, all of who have come to Kalamazoo on more than one occasion.

The person from whom I borrowed most directly was Tip Ray, who did some pioneering work in recreation in Minnesota. As far as I know Tip had the original idea of working directly with community agencies that serve everyone to encourage and assist them to include people with disabilities in the programs available to the rest of the community.

We are learning as we go. Community agencies are joining with us as partners. We are generating a true movement, rather than merely creating a program, both in Kalamazoo and around Michigan. Our goals include continuing the movement beyond Michigan as well.

Join us.

– George Martin

To read more about the resources mentioned visit the following Web sites:
John and Connie O’Brien
Beth Mount
Robert Perske
Tip Ray