The Arcadia Institute

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

Entries for June 2012

The Community Liaison Project

In January 2012, The Arcadia Institute joined in an agreement with The Wayne State University Developmental Disabilities Institute called the Community Liaison Project. The purpose of the project is to meet with adults and children with disabilities and share with them all of the possibilities for them in the community in the areas of housing and community activities.

As we have worked with people in the Community Liaison Project, we have learned more about housing options for people with disabilities in our community. And frankly the opportunities for independent living in one’s own apartment are quite limited. For one thing, apartments that are accessible tend to be clustered together. Also, some apartment management agencies tend to have certain apartments designated for people with disabilities of any kind. Add to this the fact that low-income housing and apartments tend to be grouped together as well. Options are limited.

This made us realize that there is much work to be done to have more housing options for people with disabilities. Given the limitations, how can we mobilize the whole community to increase the options for people to live among all of us, not set apart in special areas.

Please feel free to share your thoughts.

What’s Going on at kit: Kids Included Together

The blog this week was written by Michele Momotiuk, the administrative assistant at The Arcadia Institute.

Kids Included Together is a non-profit organization founded in San Diego, California with the mission “to provide learning opportunities that support recreation, child development and youth enrichment programs to include children with and without disabilities.”

Kids Included Together has a National Training Center for Inclusion that offers both on-site or online training, a support center to answer questions and provides free community training; similar to the approach The Arcadia Institute uses in our Community Participation Initiative.

A Kids Included Together staff member wrote an article for the PAVE (Partnerships for Action, Voices for Empowerment) newsletter that stated their Keys to Inclusion. Those keys are:

1. Provide a welcoming attitude: A heartfelt welcome will put both children and parents at ease.
2. Promote communication: Talking openly with the children, parents, and other professions will help provide the best experience for everyone. Giving children opportunities to practice communication also can help.
3. Practice flexibility: To have a great program for all children, you must be flexible and allow necessary accommodations to keep them engaged.
(Stoltz, Suzanne. “Keys to Inclusion.” Published in the PAVE PIPELINE, Spring 2011).

Kids Included Together has some great free videos on YouTube. Check out “Inclusion is Belonging.”

Just What is Normal These Days?

The blog this week was written by George Martin, President of The Arcadia Institute.

When I began working as a professional Advocate in the mid-seventies on behalf of people with disabilities, the concept of Normalization was emerging as a guiding philosophy for the provision on services. The person most responsible for popularizing the term in this country was Wolf Wolfensberger.

Wolfensberger referred to techniques, or processes, used to provide services and support to individuals that were as close to those that the mainstream culture adopted as possible. So that, for instance, a person with an intellectual disability may not be able to perform the same tasks as a person without this kind of disability, but educational techniques were to be employed that were as similar to those used for others as possible. The standard, for example, for a typical day would be like most other people, beginning with breakfast, leading to work or school, coming home after those activities, eating dinner at a usual hour and retiring for bed, just as people considered normal would do.

The problem we encounter today has two facets. One is the difficulty in defining what is ‘normal’. If you add up all the students in a community today who have some kind of label (‘special education eligible’, qualifying for ‘free or reduced lunch’, ‘gifted and talented’, ‘at risk’), you might find that they outnumber the rest of the student population. We need to stop acting as if students who are different in one important way or another are the exception. They are becoming the rule.

The second difficulty with using what the mainstream culture does as the norm is that what the mainstream does is not necessarily what we want people to imitate. ‘Mainstream’ is all too often taking us in a direction we do not want people who look to us for guidance to follow.

The difficult challenge we have to face is to work with each person as a unique individual, with characteristics that differ from all other people, but we should know that it is not the difference that should set him or her apart from everyone else. The standard should no longer be ‘what the mainstream culture considers to be normal’. It should be what each person needs in order to be able to take part in the common life shared by all. Differences should be respected and expected, and arrangements or accommodations should be provided that allow each person to participate.

We also need to accept the difficult reality that if the term ‘normal’ has any value, it has to be re-defined.

Looking to the Future

This week’s blog was written by Jennifer Goodwill, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute. Jennifer has worked with The Arcadia Institute since January 2012.

Sandy is the mother of a 17 year-old son, Scott. Her son attends high school, works at a pet store, hangs out with friends and enjoys video games. He also has a disability. While Scott is perfectly content living at home now, Sandy knows that will change in a few years. When the day comes for him to move into his own house or apartment, he will be ready.

His family is already teaching him the skills he needs to live independently. “We think we know our children so well that we want to make decisions for them. It is so easy for every parent to do things for their child, but we need to teach our children skills for independence,” says Sandy. This is true for all parents whether your child has a disability or not.

As a parent of young children it is hard to imagine that there will ever be a day when I will not have to care for my children’s every need and orchestrate all the events of their lives. Thoughts of my children moving out of the house bring both longing for when that day will finally arrive and anxiety wondering how my children will get along without my help and intervention. I believe this is a struggle to which all parents can relate. A parent whose child has a disability, shouldn’t feel isolated in their concerns about their child’s future. Preparing children to live as adults is a process that all families go through.

As Sandy points out, youth is the time to lay the groundwork for independent living. Sandy does this by including Scott in the family’s household activities. He helps with the cooking, assists with laundry and prepares his own snacks. “There may be times as a parent that you need to look away as your child is pouring his own glass of juice and it is spilling on the floor making a mess. But this is how your child will learn to be independent. Parents need to have a mind toward the future, even if it is inconvenient.” Children may grumble about doing some work, and it would often be easier for the parent to do it themselves, but that doesn’t help our children learn.

As a parent, this is an excellent reminder to me. There will be times when I will need to push my children beyond their comfort zone, times when I will have to watch them fail in order to give them room to succeed. But better now with my guidance when the consequences are smaller than a painful awakening much later on.