The Arcadia Institute

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

Entries for October 2011

A Big Missing Piece of the Puzzle

Perspectives from Ylonda Roden, Support Coordinator Assistant, Kalamazoo Community Health and Substance Abuse Services.

Ylonda Roden and Allison Hammond had a conversation about what the Community Participation Initiative has meant for the people with disabilities that Ylonda supports and here are somethings she said in that conversation:

“I’ve been working in this field for 16 years. I can remember when the highlight of some individuals’ days was going to doctor appointments. How sad is that that going to be examined by a doctor was their experience in the community?”

“The Community Participation Initiative challenges us (professionals) to think more broadly about opportunities in the community and The Arcadia Institute helps us make those opportunities reality for the people we support.”

“When the Community Participation Initiative started, it was like a big missing piece from the middle of a puzzle was found for people. They (The Arcadia Institute) help create a complete picture of life for people.”

The Network that The Arcadia Institute is growing is like painting a big colorful mural where all people in our community are coming together.”

It’s our (the professionals’) responsibility to get people integrated into the community. If we do our part it won’t be anything unusual to see a variety of people in everywhere.”

“The Arcadia Institute is making community participation a reality for people. I remember when it was just a nice idea – now Arcadia provides us with the tools and connections to make it happen.”

“Because of the way the Community Participation Initiative has been working – it is an idea that is here to stay – not another pilot program that comes and goes.”

Getting the Wonderful Virus of Community Participation to Spread. Ylonda Roden, March 2010

Changing Conversations

According to Diana Whitney *, “. . . the questions we ask are fateful.”

What she means by this is that the words, tones and emphasis of our questions can change conversations.

Think of a recent positive conversation. Probably the questions were things like, “Did you have a good day?” “What do you like to do on the weekend.” “What was your favorite part of your vacation?” “Did you learn anything new?” “Did you notice that Sam was being friendly and practicing his social skills.?

Then think of a conversation where the questions or statement were more negative. “Wasn’t work boring today?” “Did you notice that that woman was taking too much time?” “Why doesn’t he act like everyone else in the library?”

After I read this quote and thought about conversations I have had over time, I realized that I have an opportunity to change conversations. All I have to do is ask questions that lead into conversations about what is going well, what should we be doing more of, who else has the resources or talent we need.

I am going to start practicing (I do mean practicing because I won’t be perfect) the art of asking questions that lead to meaningful and productive conversations. Won’t you join me?

(Quote from Whitney, D. (2011). “What is Appreciative Inquiry?” in Conversations on Citizenship and Person-Centered Work. O’Brien, J. & Blessing, C. (ed.s) Toronto, CA: Inclusion Press.

On Transition

This blog was written by George Martin, President, The Arcadia Institute

There is a lot of talk about transition these days. Usually it is about moving from one point in life to another and addressing the problems that arise at that point. A big one is when a person with a disability leaves school.

The tendency is to talk about transition from school to ‘adult’ programs, usually from one segregated setting to another. The focus tends to be on technical moves, such as referrals, eligibility for funding, rather than to strengthen community ties.

I want to suggest another approach. Let’s talk about a constant series of transitions that deepen and enrich community ties throughout a person’s life. Unfortunately, we have had to work at making it possible for people with disabilities to be re-united with community, when they never should have been separated.

Given this unfortunate situation, we have to create methodologies, and we do need to apply them at critical change points in a person’s life, or points of transition. What is called for is to move away from the ‘clinical pathways’ that we have carved out for people and move toward a series of ‘community pathways’. The clinical pathways tend to further segregate and control an individual. The community pathways must be designed to increase the degree and quality of an individual’s participation in community in all aspects of life.

As someone once said, “Transition is not a phase. It is a way of life”. Let’s make sure that at each transition point we work toward community pathways.

The Community Participation Initiative

It has been awhile since we have written about what community participation looks like for individuals with disabilities. Somewhere along the road, individuals with disabilities began to be separated from their families and community. Somehow the notion became that people with disabilities need specialized care in special institutions; segregating them from others.

In the Community Participation Initiative of the Arcadia Institute, we work to change all of that. At times some individuals with disabilities need support from public agencies created for that purpose. However, in the Initiative we are mobilizing the broader community to become the ‘real community’ for everyone and to share responsibility with those public agencies Here are the ways that The Community Participation Initiative works:

• We don’t create parallel or separate programs in which people with disabilities are isolated from others who take part in the agency’s programs.

• We assist the child or adult with a disability to figure out what activities he or she prefers.

• We don’t impose our preferences on people with disabilities; we work to find organizations that have
those activities in place.

• We assume agencies will provide a welcoming environment, and our job is to help them provide it.

• We enlist the buy-in and endorsement of program directors and staff.

• We provide technical assistance to help program staff make any necessary accommodations to their

• We provide on-site coaching to agency staff, either one-on-one or in group setting.

• We assist them in modifying programs and making necessary accommodations.

• We are available when problems arise, providing concrete solutions.

If you would like more information about our methods contact:

George Martin, President
The Arcadia Institute

or complete the comment section below.