The Arcadia Institute

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

Entries for December 2010

Seasons Greetings from The Arcadia Institute

The Arcadia Institute had a very busy year. We have now worked with over 200 Participants who have been doing everything in the community from art to martial arts to volunteering to photo monitoring. In addition, we have worked with over 50 community organizations who have welcomed the Participants and supported them to have successful experiences.

Last March, along with our Partners – The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo, The Kalamazoo Nature Center, the Southwest Michigan Council of Boy Scouts and the YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo – we hosted the first Building a Community of Belonging Forum. Over 20 organizations supported the event. You can read about the Forum in our Events.

We are excited to announce that John and Connie Lyle O’Brien will be coming to Kalamazoo on March 16 and 17, 2011 for a second Forum. John and Connie travel the world working to enhance communities’ capacities for including individuals with disabilities. They will facilitate the creation of a community plan for Kalamazoo. We hope you’ll join us. Registration information will be on our website as of January 15.

George, Hyun, Allison and our newest colleague Heather wish you a very Happy 2011!

Stacy’s Award

This week George Martin recognizes Stacy who received the Community Participation Award.

Earlier this year a good friend of mine, Stacy, received the Community Participation Award given annually, along with $200, by our local arc chapter, Community Advocates. I thought it would be good to recognize Stacy in this blog and let others know more about her.

I called Stacy to congratulate her and asked her what she thought about her experiences. She first said, “I love the people in the community”. I asked her to mention some important activities in her life.

“I’m working at Curious Kids, an after school program, as a Teacher’s Assistant. Gymnastics is the longest sport I ever did. I started when I was 9, and now I’m 28.”

When I asked Stacy what prepared her to participate in the community, her response was, “My Mom and my Dad. They put it together for me.”

Stacy also feels that being included in the regular classroom beginning in first grade, with being “pulled out for Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Physical Therapy made a difference. Then she told me about an experience in first grade. Her teacher had prepared a separate assignment for her, different from the other kids. “I told her I didn’t want to be treated differently from other kids. I wanted to do the same book report like everyone else.”

Stacy was indeed a worthy recipient of her award. Her high self-regard and the respect she is accorded for her speak volumes about the value of community participation.

George Martin

What people said about the DVD “Living with Autism in Our Community”

This week our Blog was created by Hyun Berkley, Assistant Community Participation Initiative Coordinator

Since the production of “Living with Autism in Our Community” in 2009, we have shown the DVD to over 300 people. The Showings were at the churches, schools, service clubs, businesses and parent groups. Here are some interesting comments from the Showings:

  • I will think differently about children when they are reacting to things in their environment.
  • The sibling piece was great because a lot of people don’t think about the siblings and how they are impacted.
  • The video is a good reminder of how families are affected and what their everyday life is like
  • The film made one aware of the “spectrum” in autism.
  • Children and families do not ask for a disability, that disability is not a choice.
  • I thought that I knew quite a bit about Autism as a professional. What I realized is that I make assumptions that may not be true. I need to get to know the families better.
  • The way the video is presented is awesome – while it is informative – it really tells an emotional story that touches not only the intellect but also the heart.
  • Can the narrative be translated into Spanish – or can there be Spanish subtitles?
  • One teacher said that she felt that this group would respond very differently to children in the future, given our presentation and the DVD
  • People with autism have talents also. We, as a community, need to spend time finding out what they are.
  • One girl said that she would like to talk to someone with Autism to get to know the person better
  • I believe this message will have an impact with the community and make a difference for both parents and children

If you are interested in purchasing the “Living with Autism in Our Community” DVD please go to our website – then click on “what we do”. If you would like us to come to present/show the DVD, please contact Allison Hammond at

A Simple Yet Profound Premise

This week our blog was written by Kathy Lentz
Senior Executive Officer
Services for Adults with Developmental Disabilities
Kalamazoo County Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services

I was introduced to the Community Participation Initiative three years ago when I first started working at Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services. I was instantly attracted its simple, yet profound, premise: people with developmental disabilities want to do more typical things in their communities and community organizations and events want more people with developmental disabilities to participate with them. Both parties had the same idea, just weren’t sure how to get there. People with developmental disabilities did not always know what organizations and opportunities existed. And they were sometimes shy or hesitant about joining and not knowing anyone. Organizations did not know how to make people with disabilities welcome or what to do in case something came up.

The Community Participation Initiative is our community connector—providing the connections, the level of comfort and the information that individuals and the community need to get together. In some ways, it is our community match-making service—helping individuals and organizations with similar interests meet and make a (hopefully) lasting connection.

The Community Participation Initiative represents a paradigm shift—instead of spending public dollars to create programs and services specifically for people with developmental disabilities, it uses public dollars to successfully connect people with developmental disabilities to those services and opportunities that already exist in the community. No separate programs, no special buildings, no differential entrance criteria. This approach is also encouraged by the Medicaid program, which provides funding for these connecting activities.

The Medicaid Provider Manual provides an array of services whose purpose is to “promote community inclusion and participation…” The Manual explains this as times when “…the individual uses community services and participates in community activities in the same manner as the typical community citizen. An individual’s use of, and participation in, community activities are expected to be integrated with that of the typical citizen’s, e.g. the beneficiary would attend an “integrated” yoga class in the community center rather than a special yoga class for persons with mental retardation.” (Medicaid Provider Manual, Version 10-1-10, page 97).

This simple approach puts the public dollars to use making connections, and ultimately strengthening, community organizations. As community organizations become more experienced with welcoming individuals with developmental disabilities, they become more welcoming and inclusive to our entire community. This strengthening of community organizations benefits our entire community, and is more cost efficient by not creating separate and segregated organizations providing essentially the same functions.

Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services is excited to partner with the Arcadia Institute to provide and promote the type of community connections facilitated by the Community Participation Initiative and ultimately, strengthen Kalamazoo as a welcoming and inclusive community.

Kathy Lentz
Senior Executive Officer
Services for Adults with Developmental Disabilities
Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services