The Arcadia Institute

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

Entries for January 2012

Involve the People Who Matter

Our Blog last week by George Martin, titled “About Person Centered Planning” included a phrase that stuck with me, “ . . . involve the people who matter . . .”

Some professionals in our community who provide direct support to people with disabilities do a good job of involving the broader community. However, as I work with adults and youth to determine what they are interested in doing and then how to connect them to those activities, it often feels like there is something missing. Maybe it is time to stretch further in our efforts with the Community Participation Initiative to involve more people outside of the specialized services sector.

In the Community Participation Initiative, we find out what the person is interested in pursuing and then connect them to programs and activities. People in community agenices are available to help the person participate in the activities we connect them to – but then what? How do we take the situation to the next level? Once the person with a disability participates in new activities, how do we bring the new people from the community into the rest of their lives?

Several assumptions may prevent us from trying to involve people outside of the specialized services sector. We assume people are too busy. They don’t really understand disabilities. They might not know the answers.

Let’s break down these assumptions. When we people get to know a person with disabilities and realize that they have numerous gifts they will be glad to make time. They begin to understand that the person with the disabilities has contributions to make to the community. Frankly, if they know that they could be of help and haven’t been asked they might feel disappointed.

So in our work at The Arcadia Institute, don’t be surprised if you hear us continuing to ask people with disabilities to name all the People who Matter to them(especially those not paid to support them) and suggest we get them involved.

About Person-Centered Planning

Back in the mid-‘90’s, when they were making a major revision of Michigan’s Mental Health Code, some people in a position to do so inserted language that made Person-Centered Planning mandatory. Some people at the time hailed that move as a great step forward in the march to improve conditions for people with developmental disabilities in this state. Others were not so sure.

Today anyone would be hard put to make the case that the amendment has brought about all that it promised. It caused some changes that were beneficial, but it did not bring about the wide-spread use of a dynamic process that person-centered planning had been prior to the amendment. Nor have the ‘Revised Practice Guidelines ‘ issued in October 2002, with its long list of guidelines, elements, strategies and references—12 pages in all—all sounding good—introduced the kind of action that has radically changed lives.

Today Mental Health professionals responsible for person-centered planning have made it a rather routine step necessary to complete the required Individual Plan of Service.

Despite this somewhat grim analysis, there is hope for a better outcome. The answer, I think, lies in reverting back to the true intent of the process. In an interview in Conversations on Citizenship & Person-Centered Work Michael Smull talks about ‘person-centered thinking’ and says that the core skill is ‘sorting out what is Important To and Important For a person and finding a balance between the two.

Smull is suggesting that people using the process have two primary responsibilities. The first is figuring out what the individual with a disability wants for himself/herself, and the second is making judgments about what a person needs. Person-centered planning is an organized way to keep the focus on what the individual wants and to develop a process for providing the support necessary to attain it.

In order to re-capture the true intent of person-centered planning we have to go beyond routine and use a process that keeps the focus on the person and not the system’s needs, involve people who matter outside the service delivery system, and uses common sense ways to mobilize these people and paid professionals in an ongoing support network for each person.

I am reminded of an article by that Rebecca Shuman wrote back in 1997 for the Institute publication, POLICY PERSPECTIVES. Rebecca said:

“Some of the world’s greatest ideas, art, poetry, literature, inventions, deal-making and political intrigue have occurred in restaurants when people come together over a good meal or a cup of coffee. Many times the germ of greatness has been sketched out on a napkin or a place mat. Every day, ordinary people heal relationships, plan vacations, make-over their kitchens, choose a car, select a stock, agonize over which college to go to, figure out how to change things at work, etc., while sitting at a booth in a restaurant with a friend, child, lover, husband, wife, co-worker or some combination thereof.” (See Rebecca Shuman, “Person-centered Planning”, Policy Perspectives On Person-Centered Planning A Publication of The Arcadia Institute, September 1997.)

Doing person-centered planning requires that we grasp the spirit behind the idea of writing a plan on a napkin. No, we do not need a new set of guidelines on how to choose a restaurant or what color napkin to use. We need to get back to the heart of the idea—figuring out what people really need, as they see it and as we learn to see it by working hard to get to know each person.

George Martin

Must See: Artist Exhibit at the Portage District Library

Starting on January 15 and running through the end of January, VJ Kline’s beautiful and touching abstract paintings will be on exhibit at the Portage District Library. VJ has been painting since he was a child. Painting comes naturally to him as his mother, grandmother and aunt are also accomplished artists.

There is something about VJ’s paintings that evoke memories of a beautiful flower, seascape or forest. Each piece has its own complete message for anyone who views it.

If you go to see VJ’s paintings you should know that you can request a price list if you fall in love with any of them.

Thanks to the The Portage District Library for their commitment to be a place where all of the community belong.

Arc Kent County: Their First Community Inclusion Forum

The Arc Kent County strives to ensure that people with developmental disabilities are valued in order that they and their families can participate fully in and contribute to their community. We have offered the Community Participation Initiative since January 2010, and have already seen positive results. My name is Jackie Lambrecht, and as the new Community Inclusion Coordinator, I was able to begin my role with a memorable event.

In early November, we held our first Community Inclusion Forum, which was a great success. Individuals traveled to Grand Rapids from cities including Kalamazoo, Lansing, and Detroit. We were lucky to have Grand Valley State University students who are studying Special Education join us last minute, as well. Our attendees formed an impressive list including educators, parents, case managers, business members, peer mentors, and advocates, among others.

The morning began with George Martin from The Arcadia Institute speaking about inclusion and the historical context that led to this necessity. Powerful, and to the point, it set the mood for the rest of the day. Guest speakers highlighted Kent County happenings, and their personal interaction with our Participants. At one point, a high school athletic director and basketball team member had most of us in tears with their touching story. Our forum concluded with group discussions facilitated by Allison Hammond, and plenty of brainstorming about ways to be more inclusive. The day provided ample opportunity for networking and learning, and we were more than pleased.

As a follow up to our Community Inclusion Forum, a group of forum participants pledged to meet regularly to continue with this mission, and collaborate where we can. We had our first meeting on January 4 in which seven people were in attendance. It was wonderful to see how the attitude from the forum is having a continued affect in our community. For example, three YMCA locations have recognized various volunteer positions that people with disabilities could partake in to gain valuable job skills. Friends of Grand Rapids Parks has made a commitment to include all community members in assessments of local parks before renovations take place. United Church Outreach Ministries (UCOM) has made a new volunteer application form that is asset based versus needs based and barrier focused. These efforts are simple, and exemplify the commitment to including everyone in community activities that is growing in Kent County.

This group is striving to meet on a regular basis. As we move forward, we anticipate others joining as outreach takes place. We recognize that the momentum obtained at our forum will only promote a more inclusive community as time progresses. Needless to say, excitement is among us.

2012: A Big Year for The Arcadia Institute

When we look ahead to 2012 we see bright futures for more people with disabilities in our community. There are big things happening for us in 2012!

First, we will be adding to our network of community organizations committed to Kalamazoo: A Community Where All People Belong. On March 15, the 3rd annual Forum (Building a Community of Belonging: A Forum of The Arcadia Institute and Its Partners) will be held at the Transformations Spiritual Center at Nazareth. We are please that John McKnight, Co-Director of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute will be our guest facilitator. John has a long history of experience of community building locally, nationally and internationally. You can read more about John here.

Beginning in January, The Arcadia Institute officially has a partnership with the Developmental Disabilities Institute at Wayne State University. The project is called The Michigan Family Support Initiative. Institute Staff will be serving as Community Liaisons and helping to provide information and support for individuals to be fully aware of all of the options for living arrangements and full participation in community activities of their choice. This project will serve 30 individuals through September 2012.

These activities add up to more people with disabilities becoming welcomed and supported so that community is the center of their lives.

“We all know that community must be the center of our lives because it is only in community that we can be citizens. It is only in community that we can find care. It is only in community that we can hear people singing. And if you listen carefully, you can hear the words: “I care for you.” John McKnight