The Arcadia Institute

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

Community Brokering- A Siblings Perspective

The blog this week was written by Dalanna Hoskins, a new Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute.

When I was told that I was invited to a “forum” for my brother Isaiah Hoskins, I thought to myself, “Sure, but what is this forum about?” I was quickly corrected by my mother, Dedrenna Hoskins, that this was not a forum, but more of a plan for Isaiah’s future along with other close friends and relatives who care deeply for him. I was on board either way, anything to support my brother in whatever he needs. I was pleasantly surprised that this “plan” was more than just planning out Isaiah’s future, but it was a way to celebrate who he is as a person as well as how we as a community can come together to help birth forth his dreams, gifts, and callings.

For those of you who may not know, Isaiah Hoskins is my younger brother, and ever since I was aged five or so, I was told he was diagnosed with autism which made him “different” from myself and other children in our age group. When asked to be a part of his journey of coming up with a person centered plan through the Arcadia Institute, there was no hesitation of course. I remember the day that we all sat down and came up with a person centered plan for Isaiah and thought to myself “Man, why didn’t I get this in high school?, better yet why didn’t we do this sooner for Isaiah?” I was immediately excited, grateful, and ecstatic to have Jennifer Goodwill as his Community Broker and to find out Deborah Warfield, a life-long friend of the family was involved with this organization.

As an outcome of the positive results that I am seeing each day from Isaiah’s growth, I wanted to be involved on a deeper level. I am thrilled to announce that I am part of the Arcadia Institute team as a Community Broker. This is my way of giving back to an organization that has given my family so much growth and hope for the future. I hope that I can help other individuals like my brother, find their identity in their own communities and feel safe in the world around them.

Taking Charge and Responsibility

The blog this week was written by Allison Hammond, Program Director at The Arcadia Institute.

When I was asked to write a blog about people who are leaders in their own lives taking charge and responsibility for their own lives, John came to my mind first.

As John says when he gives presentations in the community about Autism, he was diagnosed at age three. His parents were told that he would not be able to do much. He would probably not finish school, have a job or live on his own.

Flash forward to today. John has not lived up to those low expectations. He has exceeded and succeeded. John and his parents will tell you that it was not always easy for him. He struggled with sensory issues and anxiety. School was sometimes very hard. However, John and his parents were not willing to settle or be comfortable with letting Autism be a barrier for his future.

Today, John, who graduated from high school, is employed at a local movie theater, he is a wonderful photographer, he has a drivers license and lives in his own place. John is regularly asked to talk about living and succeeding with Autism. He has spoken to Public Safety Officers, court officials and other community leaders. He has shared his story and his photography at conferences and forums. In every setting, John takes charge and responsibility for making a difference for himself and others with not only Autism, but also other developmental disabilities.

Most recently, John has become part of the Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services peer mentor program. He attended a training in Lansing to become certified. Now, John is employed to support others with developmental disabilities to take charge and advocate for their own paths to a full life in the community. He can help them learn to navigate for themselves to get the supports and resources they need to finish school, become employed and live as they choose.

John is also very humble and does not think that his accomplishments are exceptional. He just took charge and is responsible for living the life of his choice. He is contributing to his community as he believes he should.

Sarah: In Action with Others

The blog this week was written by Allison Hammond, Program Director at The Arcadia Institute.

Leadership is taking initiative with others to make impact that improves the community.

Sarah is the Chair person of the Regional Interagency Community Council (RICC) for the Kalamazoo area. The RICC is a community collective of people with and without disabilities who are committed to advocating for people with disabilities. She also chairs the Public Policy Work Group for RICC. Recently, Sarah was appointed to be a liaison from the Kalamazoo region to the statewide RICC network.

Sarah takes this work very seriously.

Sarah was very active in the movement to have the Michigan Legislature approve Medicaid Expansion in 2013. Not only did Sarah actively and persistently collect signatures of a few hundred voters; she personally arranged several conference calls with RICC members and our local Legislators in order to have conversations with them about Medicaid Expansion. She and others shared with the Legislators what the expansion would mean for services for people with disabilities.

More recently, Sarah is involved with communications to Legislators about issues around Employment First. Just this week, Sarah led a conference call with Legislators to discuss the practice of people with disabilities going to work in “enclaves” or groups being considered competitive employment. She and RICC members talked with them about their concerns about this practice limiting people with disabilities from being considered by employers to be hired as individuals.

As Sarah leads this advocacy work, she is constantly communicating with others about the importance of speaking up and being part of the action. She has learned how to become more tactful and diplomatic in her communications, while being true to her convictions. She reads legislation and helps other RICC members understand what it means so that they can have informed discussions.

Sarah also has her own successful cleaning business and had a contract to clean for a local enterprise.

When are you running for office, Sarah?

Learning to Lead

The blog this week was written by Deborah Warfield, a Community Broker at The Arcadia Institute.

The main purpose of Community Brokering is to connect people with disabilities to live a full community life as they choose. This is done through the person working with a Community Broker who does three basic things: 1) gets to know the person, 2) facilitates Personal Future Planning meeting and 3) continues to follow up on the plan as needed.

Once the participant has experienced these three things listed above,the rest of the journey depends largely upon the participant’s willingness and ability to begin to assume more levels of leadership for their own lives. One great example of that is Greg. Just when I thought that Greg had reached a plateau of sorts,with being more active and connected in his community, I find that he has begun to exhibit a newfound sense of leadership and control over his on life.

Greg was frustrated with intermittent supports from living assistants and made the decision to move to Self-Determination. Now Greg leads his employees as they together expand into the community with grocery shopping, socializing and exercising. Greg pays closer attention to grooming himself as he is in pursuit of a relationship with a significant other that would be a good fit. He’s more likely to have an opportunity to meet new people and make new friends outside of his current community of primarily service providers.

Greg has also taken the lead on stepping up his game in community volunteering and registering for more Art Classes. As a result of also being promoted into a summer Assistant Art Instruction position Greg continues to pad his resume with skill set and references. He reports of an upcoming gallery display that will be shown at a local Coffee Shop soon.

Greg steps out into broader social circles as well and has invited his internet friend of four years to come to Kalamazoo and hangout physically together.

The greatest of suggestions and opportunities fall by the wayside until we personally take the lead to change the direction of our lives. Greg continues to inspire me to press into leadership when it gets hard for me at times. That’s another side of Community Brokering that is a benefit. Community Brokers and members of the participant’s ever-expanding Community Circle often learn more about how to become a better leader while watching our participants grow.

Vision: Leading Your Life

This week the blog was written by Jennifer Goodwill, Community Broker for The Arcadia Institute.

Recently, I had the opportunity to facilitate a Future Planning Meeting for a woman named Sharon. Along with my colleagues at The Arcadia Institute, and Sharon’s Supports Coordinator, we gathered together to listen to Sharon talk about her goals for her future , and we spent time developing action steps to move her toward her future interests. As part of the process, we talked about Sharon’s strengths and skills. An important strength that Sharon possesses is her ability to have a vision for her future. Sharon is able to visualize where she wants to go and what she wants to do. Even though her circumstances right now are not easy, she knows that there are possibilities ahead for her that will bring her the happiness, comfort and security she so strongly desires. And , very importantly, she is able to keep that vision strong in her mind as she faces the uncertainty of change and the challenges of working toward her goals.

Having vision is a leadership skill that does not come easily to all people. Having vision means seeing beyond your current situation. It means having high expectations and believing that the future you imagine is achievable. Having vision is about movement. You don’t allow yourself to stay stuck with where you are right now. You start taking steps that will move you toward where you want to be. The key is to not give up and to keep your goals at the forefront. Just because you run into challenges or have set backs, doesn’t mean you should give up on your picture for the future.

During the Future Planning Meeting with Sharon, we talked about the fears and difficulties she will have to work through to get from where she is today to where she wants to be six months from now. We encouraged her to hold strong to her vision of her future and to keep moving ahead. Just because she knows where she wants to be doesn’t mean the path ahead is going to be an easy one. But, as we told Sharon, with her ability to visualize the future she wants, and her willingness to do the work that needs to be done, we believe she is going to accomplish her goals. Sharon is a strong woman and we can’t wait to see where she is six months from now.