The Arcadia Institute

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

Entries for November 2010

A Salute to Support Staff Who Make Choice Happen

Many of the individuals that we work with have support staff who can take them into the community to do things of their choice. We have observed that some of these staff do a really good job of supporting individuals’ choices.

Gloria, who works for Residential Opportunities Inc., is support staff for four of the Participants we have met. She is exceptional. First we meet with the Participant and Gloria to find out what the Participant likes and wants to do. After we come up with ideas, then, Gloria truly works with us to make the activity happen, even if there are significant challenges.

Recently, Gloria has been taking a Participant to an agency that operates a resale shop. The Participant loves clothes, looking at clothes, trying on clothes and buying clothes. It took awhile, but now the Participant looks forward to going to the resale shop and helping. She has gotten to know the other volunteers and they have gotten to know her. This Participant used to spend most of her days in her room. Now, because of Gloria’s efforts she is willing to try even more new things in the community.

While we provide information about community opportunities, we salute support staff like Gloria who really make doing activities that are individuals’ choices a reality!

BINGO! Another Community Participation Success Story

When we first met with Hal (name changed), he had gone through quite a few life changes, as all people do as they age. He had been quite independent through his life, but some health issues and moving to a new apartment had left him less confident. So his goals for community participation were to meet new people and also to gain confidence to ride the bus again.

Hal loves Bingo. He used to call numbers for Bingo games. Did I mention that Hal is visually impaired – so he has his own set of Braille Bingo numbers?

We contacted an assistive living organization that we have worked with before. Yes they would love to have someone volunteer to call Bingo for their Friday games.

Now Hal calls Bingo and has only missed one Friday. The residents enjoy him and are very appreciative that he speaks very clearly and isn’t too fast. Also, Hal is working toward getting to the facility via the bus. He can now find the bus stop which is a block from his home and is getting ready to venture out for more independence!


What is happening with The Arc of Western Wayne County

Christy Courtney of The Arc of Western Wayne County shares her experiences with starting The Community Participation Initiative in their community.

Not too long ago, I first learned about The Community Participation Initiative through The Arcadia Institute from their wonderful video. The difference that it was making in people’s lives was remarkable and intriguing. Shortly after seeing that video, I learned that our Arc chapter, The Arc of Western Wayne County, along with The Arc of Kent County in Grand Rapids, would be receiving a grant from Walmart to bring the Community Participation Initiative to our respective areas. Attending the Building a Community of Belonging forum in Kalamazoo in March of 2010 furthered my excitement about the Initiative and the possibilities it held.

Now we are working hard to get things up and running in Wayne County. I am working with 6 people with very differing interests, everything from swimming and martial arts to Civil War Reenactments and volunteering with animals. I love meeting with individuals and talking to them about what they want to do. Making a choice seems like such a simple task to most people, but so many people with disabilities are not given the opportunity to make choices. The parents have clear ideas in their minds of what activities their children are interested in, and I love when the individual chooses something their parents would never expect. I love when they assert themselves and feel empowered in making their own choice.

While the Community Participation Initiative is still new in Wayne County, it is quite exciting. I am looking forward to meeting new people and helping them increase their sense of belonging in their communities and empower themselves by making choices. It seems the possibilities are endless.

Education and Community Participation

This week George Martin shares a comment from a father who’s daughter was always included during her education.

Educators should take the relationship between Community Participation and the way we educate students with disabilities very seriously.

The goal of education for all students should be preparation for life in the community. How and how well students are educated will make a huge difference in how they take part in community life.

It matters if students with disabilities are educated in the same classrooms, with students without disabilities: Here is one father’s testimony on that point: “My daughter’s educational experience proves that “inclusion or universal education” is DEFINITELY the correct way to go. Her outcome has, and is still, paying BIG dividends in the community and work world.”

This ‘daughter’ is no longer in school, and she is well connected to the larger community and contributes to its well-being.

Wanted: Creative Art Instructors and Programs

Gwen Frostic (April 26, 1906 – April 25, 2001) was an artist, author, and Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame inductee. She also had an illness as a child that left her with disabilities similar to that of cerebral palsy. Recently, Dr. Frostic donated $13 million dollars to Western Michigan University, which named their school of art The Gwen Frostic School of Art.

Art is often an area that we find individuals with disabilities are interested in pursuing – or already have an abundance of experience doing. We meet people who draw, paint, sculpt, sing, dance, act and take pictures. Many of them have opportunities to create, display and sell their work, but more often than not in segregated, special programs only for people with disabilities. And this confuses us because art is such a creative process that involves looking at things from many perspectives, solving complex problems and reflecting the world in various ways.

Many famous historical artists had and present day artists have disabilities. These disabilities range from autism, to epilepsy, to brain injury, to mental illness. These artists would never have been discovered if they had been hidden in special classes with their art only displayed in special shows.

We are looking for art instructors who are open and willing to find the next Van Gogh, Marlee Matlin, or Gwen Frostic. Let us know of programs where individuals with disabilities are celebrated fully for the artists they are and not hidden in special classes.