The Arcadia Institute

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

Entries for August 2010

The Community Participation Initiative: How We Can Help

One of the ways that we are working with organizations so that they can support individuals with disabilities in their programs is by helping to find solutions in challenging situations.

Over this past summer, a program with a group of ten to thirteen year old youth was struggling. There was a youth with disabilities in the group, but the bigger challenge ended up being four other youth who were trying to dominate everything the group did. They tended to provoke the youth with disabilities as well – making it more difficult for him to participate.

The program director contacted The Arcadia Institute for help. We met with the program staff. In discussion, it seemed that this entire group of youth needed to be part of the solution. We suggested that the program staff lead them all through some team building activities. All of the youth needed to experience what it was like to give and receive support. They needed to learn that everyone has strengths as well as things they need help with.

Our Community Participation Initiative intern participated in planning the activity and went to the program on the day of team building activity to help. The activity involved the task of moving water from a wheelbarrow to team buckets by a variety of methods. Team buckets were in many places and some further away from the wheelbarrow than others. For the game to be over the all of the team buckets had to be filled.

Our intern observed:

  • Team members got creative. They came up with ideas such as filling shoes with water and soaking their hair and wringing it out.
  • Campers that hadn’t socialized were now working together to brainstorm ideas
  • Team members were encouraging each other to keep filling up the buckets
  • Everyone was participating

While the game was great watery fun, afterwards, each group had a debriefing led by the group leader. The campers talked about how there was no way to succeed in this activity without helping or being helped. They built relationships and became aware of how their behavior can impact other people.

What these youth learned was how to do a better job of supporting not only someone with a disability, but everyone in their group and, hopefully, in the future, people in their community.

Creating a Culture of Inclusion

This week, we’d like to share some information from a presentation given at the “Building a Community of Belonging” forum last March.

Chris Broadbent,Youth and Family Program Director from the Greater Kalamazoo YMCA and Jenny Metz, Experiential Education Director from the Nature Center presented a workshop called, “Creating a Culture of Inclusion.”
Their theme was:

Organizations who include all people show characteristics that are useful to all aspects of their success. Inclusion is good for everyone all the time. Thriving, successful, good business, adaptable. Always a journey. Looks and lives different for everyone.

Organizations who are inclusive may have significant differences, but they share some common characteristics as well.

  1. They communicate well – from their policies and procedures to resources and support. Issues are dealt with in a transparent, respectful manner. There is integrity and follow though.
  2. Planning and evaluation are an integral part of operations. Being goal oriented while being intentional about self evaluation is key. Outside consultation, coaching and support is used when needed.
  3. The attitude of staff from top management down creates a welcoming environment of creativity, flexibility and belonging.

We were so pleased that Chris and Jenny spoke about inclusion from their perspective. The bottom line, they said, is that inclusion is GOOD for business!

To find out more about the forum and ongoing meetings for Building a Community of Belonging, please contact The Arcadia Institute.

Living With Autism in Our Community

How Can a Community Support People on the Autism Spectrum?

In the documentary, Living With Autism in Our Community, the Arcadia Institute profiles the lives of three young people with autism, reveals the internal dynamics within their families, and demonstrates some of the obstacles they have confronted in attempting to be participants in their communities. The questions and answers that emerge do not provide a definitive roadmap of the disorder – the degree varies with each individual, and its impact is different with each person.

It is simply our hope this documentary starts the discussion, and ultimately leads to wider community awareness. To assist in this purpose, a discussion guide is included with the purchase of Living With Autism in Our Community.

“This DVD will impact the community and the way the community views and accepts families and individuals with disabilities.”
Southwest Michigan SMART Group

To purchase this DVD and discussion guide, Living With Autism in Our Community, please use our secure checkout below.

Why Do We Make it So Hard?

For too long in our field we have talked about people with disabilities becoming true ‘community members’ or full participants in community, we make it sound like a full-fledged battle will be required.

The secret that by now should be out is that people who do not work in the ‘disability field’ got it awhile ago. They are asking us, why should she not be in the same physical fitness class as mine? Why would we need to set up a ‘special arts’ class at the community arts institute?

As advocates for full community participation, let us not repeat bad history. Let’s not reinforce the message that only those of us with special expertise can work with people with disabilities.

As we point out in the manual we are developing for the Community Participation Initiative, those of us who know ‘about disability’ do not necessarily know art or camping. Let’s use the insights and knowledge we have to coach art teachers, fitness instructors and youth program leaders so that they can include children and adults with disabilities in what they do all the time.

George Martin

Supporting The Community Participation Initiative

When kids go to camp, they gain valuable experiences. Whether they are playing, exploring nature, conquering new heights, or creating a masterpiece, they are building relationships and gaining independence.
It’s no different for kids with disabilities.

The Community Participation Initiative, a fast growing movement developed by The Arcadia Institute, makes it possible for children and adults with disabilities to participate fully in all aspects of community life, as they choose.

  • We have helped make community participation possible for nearly 200 youth and adults in our community!
  • We train over 300 summer program and camp staff each year, which serve thousands of children each summer.
  • We have helped build the capacity of a number of organizations in the Kalamazoo area to include individuals with disabilities in a manner that benefits both the organization AND the participant!

When you support The Community Participation Initiative you help provide

  • training and ongoing coaching for program staff at community agencies and organizations
  • funding to help cover costs for individuals with disabilities, including transportation, program costs and personal support staff costs

You can help make a difference in how many people we are able to train and how many individuals with disabilities are given the opportunity to pursue their interests and goals.

Support the mission of The Arcadia Institute to make it possible for people with disabilities to be welcomed, supported and respected in their community by donating online now!