The Arcadia Institute

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

Entries for February 2012

Person Centered Planning is Driven by Nightmares as well as Dreams

The blog this week is by George Martin, President of The Arcadia Institute

In the years before the Michigan Mental Health Code was amended to require Person Centered Planning for each individuals with a disability receiving services, I was fortunate to be able to work with John and Connie O’Brien and Beth Mount, my primary guides to this inventive technique for helping a person guide his own destiny.

I also worked closely with two of the leaders in Michigan, Rebecca Shuman and Myrna Bartlett, who did so much to pioneer the concept of Supported Community Living in our state. Rebecca and Myrna were two of a core group of people, along with Ann Mitchell and Art LeTourneau, who made Midland such a resource for the rest of the state.

I remember Rebecca and Myrna doing a workshop on Person Centered Planning here in Kalamazoo. When she got to the section in the planning process to talk about Nightmares, Myrna talked about being at the museum one day and seeing a group of people with disabilities all following someone who was obviously a professional responsible for them. As she looked about how poorly groomed each person was, she was particularly struck by one person wearing socks that did not match. She thought about what her son Tim’s future could be unless she and her husband Ed made something very different happen.

What the Bartlett’s, Rebecca and others in Midland did was to establish what became known throughout the state as ‘Tim’s House’. Myrna and Ed purchased the house in the lot behind their house and with the collaboration of Mental Health and the Midland Arc developed a Circle of Friends for Time that supported his choices and helped him live on his own terms.

From Myrna’s presentation it was obvious that her fears about how badly Tim’s future could be, as well as her dreams of the best possible, drove her to break new ground for Tim. It is only through a Person Centered plan that encompasses the whole range of life possibilities that an individual can realize the best possible future.

Building a Community of Belonging 2012

The Arcadia Institute is excited to be organizing the third annual Building a Community of Belonging Forum to Kalamazoo. Together, with our partners, The Kalamazoo Nature Center, the Southwest Michigan Council of Boy Scouts, the YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo, The Boys and Girls Club of Greater Kalamazoo, and the Portage District Library, we are welcoming John McKnight to facilitate our event. 

John McKnight is the co-author of “The Abundant Community: Awakening the Power of Families and Neighborhoods” and co-director of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute as well as a well-known community organizer who has worked for many years on issues of social service delivery systems, health policy, the inclusion of marginalized people and institutionalized racism.

You can see more information about the Building a Community of Belonging March 15, 2012 Event here.

If you are interested you can also read about our Forum in 2010 here and our Forum 2011 here.

The Scouts’ Journey to Inclusion

The blog this week is by Daniel Busby, Scout Executive for the Southwest Michigan Council of Boy Scouts of America, a partner of the Arcadia Institute

In March of 2009, parents of Scouts and professionals representing several agencies that assist families were brought together to improve the Scouting program opportunities for our youth. Scouting recognized a dramatic increase in the special requests received from scouts and families that feared attending camp due to a variety of challenges, such as food allergies, autism, or mental and physical impairments. We wanted to put these fears to rest and open a door of opportunity and fun for all our Scouts while making sure parents are comfortable and secure that their Scout is in capable hands. This recognition has positively changed the way that our staff and our organization address our Scouting community. The commitment of these parents and organizations have allowed us training opportunities for staff, capital improvements in program sites at camp that use to be prohibitive to the elderly or wheelchair bound due to the trail system, and allowed us the opportunity to share our learning experience with others.

Our mission has always been about providing opportunities to youth so that they can reach their full potential. The Arcadia Institute and its network of likeminded youth advocacy organizations have continued to assist us in delivering our mission on a broadened scale.

Class Doesn’t Start Until She Arrives

One of our former colleagues at The Arcadia Institute, Sara Burhans, now an enthusiastic Zumba instructor shared this story.

Class can’t start without Rey. The music is cued, the Zumba participants are in rows, but the class can’t start until Rey arrives and takes her place in the front row. In fact, the other students won’t let Sara start class without being sure that Rey will be in class.

Rey is a young woman with Down Syndrome. She is quiet and shy. Rarely does she speak to the others in the Zumba class, but when the music starts Rey transforms into a confident woman. She knows the moves and does her best. While the rest of the students vie for the back row because they are self-conscious, Rey claims her place in the front proudly shaking her sparkly coin skirt.

Rey’s mother Lynda started taking her to Zumba classes at Curves where Sara taught. When Sara started teaching for Portage Community Education, Lynda and Rey followed her to those classes as well. Now Lynda doesn’t always attend because Zumba is Rey’s thing and the people in the class are part of Rey’s community.

Growing up with a brother with disabilities taught Lynda that community inclusion is important. It probably never occurred to her not to find ways for her daughter to be included in the community.

This is a story of community participation that is really not anything special. No one questioned whether or not Rey would be successful, or asked if she should be in a special class. Her mom took her, Sara taught her and now she has found a way to express herself and be a role model for the others in her Zumba class.

Zumba Class.

(What is Zumba? Visit for more information.)