Our Blog last week by George Martin, titled “About Person Centered Planning” included a phrase that stuck with me, “ . . . involve the people who matter . . .” Some professionals in our community who provide direct support to people with disabilities do a good job of involving the broader community. However, as I work with adults and youth to determine what they are interested in doing and then how to connect them to those activities, it often feels like there is something missing. Maybe it is time to stretch further in our efforts with the Community Participation Initiative to involve more people outside of the specialized services sector.
In the Community Participation Initiative, we find out what the person is interested in pursuing and then connect them to programs and activities. People in community agenices are available to help the person participate in the activities we connect them to – but then what? How do we take the situation to the next level? Once the person with a disability participates in new activities, how do we bring the new people from the community into the rest of their lives?
Several assumptions may prevent us from trying to involve people outside of the specialized services sector. We assume people are too busy. They don’t really understand disabilities. They might not know the answers.
Let’s break down these assumptions. When we people get to know a person with disabilities and realize that they have numerous gifts they will be glad to make time. They begin to understand that the person with the disabilities has contributions to make to the community. Frankly, if they know that they could be of help and haven’t been asked they might feel disappointed.
So in our work at The Arcadia Institute, don’t be surprised if you hear us continuing to ask people with disabilities to name all the People who Matter to them(especially those not paid to support them) and suggest we get them involved.