More often then not, people hear that I work for a company which provides services for adults, and some children, with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and they have no idea what that means. Most people have heard of a day program, but think it's more like daycare compared to what it really is. We are not a daycare, and I plan to tell you exactly what we do and why we do it!
Our day program is quite unique. A lot of day programs for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities tend to keep individuals on the business's own property and try to teach them how to interact in the community through examples rather than experience. Only after an individual has reached a certain point in their learning do they bring them into the community, and it isn't for very long.
That's not what we do!
We believe every individual deserves to be a part of the community, and that's what we make happen. For us, it doesn't matter where a person is with their behaviors; we will find a way to bring them into the community safely. And some of you might be thinking, "But why? Couldn't that be dangerous?" And you have a valid concern!
This is how we develop our activities. We know each individual has different needs and behaviors, and we assess where in the community they are safest in order to practice their skills, for real! We figure out how many of our staff are necessary to keep any situation safest, and then we start doing things.
Let me give you an example. An individual may feel intensely uncomfortable in unfamiliar places and could escalate their behaviors because of this. The first thing we do is find a way to communicate with them, before they are in a new situation, what we are doing and what to expect. We also attempt to have them remember or practice their coping skills and communication to avoid other behaviors from occurring, before anything happens. We also try to pick a place that is relatively quiet and comfortable with a safe space if that individual needs to take a break. We are easing them into new places, and they may escalate in behavior, but that's okay. Everybody needs to practice before they get things right. We are never forcing things to happen; we are facilitating growth within an individuals consent.
Why do we rely so heavily on being in the community? It's because that's what helps people with intellectual and developmental disabilities the most! Communities offer anyone, disabled or not, a place to feel connected, learn, interact, and find meaning. Communities are the foundation of being human! We all work together, side by side, to make great things happen. The social aspect of communities is strong, and it gives people an opportunity for growth and development. We know that if individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities are marginalized and separated from the outside world, it doesn't help the community, and it especially doesn't help them.
We are constantly finding new activities and places to go for our day programs. We want to bring variety and meaning to the lives of our individuals, and this is no easy task. Our managers work endlessly to develop a schedule that gives our staff and individuals the flexibility to decide what they like best at the time. And now, I am asking you, the reader, to offer us suggestions! Please help us deliver more creative solutions for our day programs!
Do you know a local activity or location that we haven't heard of? Have you come up with an interesting activity that's developmentally friendly? Do you know a business that can offer us a place to go for variety in our activities? Let us know HERE!