The Arcadia Institute

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

Entries for June 2010

Photos From Summer Staff Trainings

Summer is definitely here and at the Arcadia Institute, we have wrapped up trainings with 8 community organizations!

This week, we thought we’d share some photos from the trainings. (click on a photo to see it larger)

Thank you for having us Pretty Lake Vacation Camp, Boys and Girls Club, Kalamazoo Parks and Recreation, YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo, Nature Center, Sherman Lake YMCA Camp, Civic Theater and Boy Scouts!

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Thoughts on Person First Language

According to Wikipedia, “Person First Language is a form of politically correct linguistic prescriptivism aiming to avoid perceived and subconscious dehumanization when discussing people with disabilities. The basic idea is to replace, e.g., ‘disabled people’ with ‘people with disabilities’, ‘deaf people’ with ‘people who are deaf’ or ‘individuals who are deaf’, etc., thus emphasizing that they are people first (hence the concept’s name) and the disability second. Further, the concept favors the use of ‘having’ rather than ‘being’, e.g. ‘she has a learning disability’ instead of ‘she is learning-disabled, an example of E-Prime language avoiding the verb to be.”

We have this definition to refer to individuals with disabilities, but why? Especially when there are those out there that do not like being referred to in person first language (See Jim Sinclair’s memo, “Why I Dislike Person First Language.”)

We have to respect what Jim Sinclair says, and at the same time, we have to speak to the general public.

At The Arcadia Institute, we often do an exercise with summer program and camp staff where we ask them to share beliefs or stereotypes that they might have been labeled with at some point. An example might be the guy who was labeled a “dumb jock.” While there are some positive attitudes and beliefs about being athletic, often we make assumptions about that person’s abilities and personality based on the label we have given them. That can be limiting and frustrating for a person.

I believe that the heart of Person First Language is about attitudes and respect. When we break down the barriers of stereotypes and beliefs, we see the PERSON FIRST. We don’t see someone with Autism or Down’s Syndrome, we see an individual who is creative or funny or kind. We all want to be known as someone with a variety of characteristics, experiences and traits that make us unique individuals. People with disabilities are no different.

Common Ground

George Martin shares his ideas about opening communities for people with disabilities to participate rather than creating segregated programs.

This weekend I reviewed a section of my manuscript on advocacy. It dealt with finding common ground, even those with whom you strongly disagree. In this case I was discussing the staff at what used to be the state institution in Coldwater, Michigan.

I am reflecting on the tremendous investment in public dollars and volunteer time that was necessary to create and sustain an artificial community that had few of the qualities of what we know as community.

Then in Sunday’s Parade magazine, I read that Ernie Els, the internationally reknown golfer is helping to raise $30 million for a school in Florida only for children with autism. His motivation is to help his own child.

Not to question El’s motives or those of others devoted to this project, but I wonder how much closer it will bring those kids into the mainstream of their community life. And, I am thinking about how far $30 million would go toward opening up all communities in America so that kids and adults with autism and other disabilities could learn, work and play with people without autism.

Growing Beyond Kalamazoo: Putting the Community Participation Initiative into Practice

This week, George Martin shares experiences with the Community Participation Initiative Pilot Sites.
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Recently we were conducting a training session with two of the pilot sites in Michigan for the Community Participation Initiative. One of the Coordinators was very excited because she was getting ready for her first meeting with a participant and staff of a community agency where the participant wanted to enroll in a program.

The Coordinator’s enthusiasm came from her joy that she was preparing the way for a person with a disability to do something she really wanted to do and had not done before. She was also excited that she had finally reached to point where she was putting the Initiative ideas into practice.

For us, is it exciting to see the Initiative growing beyond Kalamazoo. We truly believe that we are part of a movement that can transform the culture and practices of a community to provide a network of support for people with disabilities that is both caring and competent.

Building a Community of Belonging – The Next Generation

Summer is a wonderful time of the year for The Arcadia Institute! With our work, we are able to be outside at camps and summer programs! We kick the summer off early and provide training for staff and counselors throughout our community. Then, we stay in contact with program staff and counselors offering support and coaching.

Last year, we were able to train and coach 221 summer staff and counselors to help them support children and youth with disabilities. While the number is impressive, what means the most to us is how these interactions expand our Community Participation Initiative in a unique way.

Camp Counselors are young people. Through our training activities, and their experiences at camp, they learn how to provide a welcoming, inclusive and supportive environment for all children.

Now,when these young people go into the world as adults

  1. they know the possibilities for individuals with disabilities,
  2. they understand how to support their peers with disabilities in the community, and
  3. they recognize that everyone benefits when people with disabilities are included in all aspects of community life.

Including people with disabilities will be natural to these young people. They will not see the barriers, and they will be more creative when working with people.

We are creating a new generation of people who will be part of Building a Community of Belonging.