The Community Participation Initiative: How We Can Help

One of the ways that we are working with organizations so that they can support individuals with disabilities in their programs is by helping to find solutions in challenging situations. Over this past summer, a program with a group of ten to thirteen year old youth was struggling. There was a youth with disabilities in the group, but the bigger challenge ended up being four other youth who were trying to dominate everything the group did. They tended to provoke the youth with disabilities as well – making it more difficult for him to participate.

The program director contacted The Arcadia Institute for help. We met with the program staff. In discussion, it seemed that this entire group of youth needed to be part of the solution. We suggested that the program staff lead them all through some team building activities. All of the youth needed to experience what it was like to give and receive support. They needed to learn that everyone has strengths as well as things they need help with.

Our Community Participation Initiative intern participated in planning the activity and went to the program on the day of team building activity to help. The activity involved the task of moving water from a wheelbarrow to team buckets by a variety of methods. Team buckets were in many places and some further away from the wheelbarrow than others. For the game to be over the all of the team buckets had to be filled.

Our intern observed:

  • Team members got creative. They came up with ideas such as filling shoes with water and soaking their hair and wringing it out.
  • Campers that hadn’t socialized were now working together to brainstorm ideas
  • Team members were encouraging each other to keep filling up the buckets
  • Everyone was participating

While the game was great watery fun, afterwards, each group had a debriefing led by the group leader. The campers talked about how there was no way to succeed in this activity without helping or being helped. They built relationships and became aware of how their behavior can impact other people.

What these youth learned was how to do a better job of supporting not only someone with a disability, but everyone in their group and, hopefully, in the future, people in their community.