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COMMUNITY FIRST - Effective Approaches for Supporting the Social Inclusion of People with Intellectual Disabilities


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A presentation to family members of students with intellectual disabilities in the Ottawa Catholic School Board, February 22, 2018. The focus was to support parents to have "community first" expectations from service agencies and the community itself. People with intellectual disabilities are not lesser citizens, they have the right to the same opportunities as others for living in homes of their own, paid jobs, and relationships with people and places in their community.

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COMMUNITY FIRST - Effective Approaches for Supporting the Social Inclusion of People with Intellectual Disabilities

  1. 1. It’s All About COMMUNITY FIRST Presented by Allison Moores and Keenan Wellar February 22, 2018 Ottawa, Ontario Presented To Presented By
  2. 2. I decided it would be a good idea to speak to you tonight about “Community First” because you are going to hear from all the presenters about issues of waiting lists, and you are going to be overwhelmed with acronyms and information about processes, deadlines, and more. So my hope is that my contribution tonight is that you will leave here with expectations that will be relevant no matter what organizations you might end up involving in the life of your loved ones.
  3. 3. /courage LiveWorkPlay understands that life is holistic, and that individual lives are not meant to be lived in the programmatic silos that typify human services. They know that a good life is predicated on healthy relationships enjoyed with others in all aspects of the community. - Al Condeluci, PhD Our mission: helping the community welcome people with intellectual disabilities to live, work, and play as valued citizens.
  4. 4. We celebrated our 20th anniversary in 2015, and we have a book that shares our journey together with families and our community. When I talk to you tonight with great purpose and conviction about the Community First approach, it is with the humility that we learned this from others, having made a great many mistakes that took us off in all sorts of well-intentioned but wrong-headed directions.
  5. 5. The best of intentions… …life-limiting results
  6. 6. In the beginning we might have felt that people with intellectual disabilities had the “right” to be a part of their own communities, but we simply didn’t believe it was possible, and neither did most of the family members that were at the core of our organization’s membership. They saw LiveWorkPlay as an alternative to the shortcomings of the community, and we took up that challenge with gusto, starting a thrift store, a woodworking shop, computer recycling, various food service operations, and even a professional sign-making shop (you can still find some of our signage around the city). These were not “failures” in that the people involved told us they were enjoying the activities and certainly we also had a strong public profile based on this work. But when we were exposed to a different way of thinking from thought leaders like Al Condeluci who I mentioned earlier, we started to evaluate our work differently – is all of this activity helping the community to value people with intellectual disabilities as full members of society? Or are we just being a part of the problem by reinforcing their separation from the rest of the community?
  8. 8. This is an overwhelmingly complicated slide, but in a nutshell, if any organization is doing a good job in this sector, the individual they are supporting will have more authentic roles and more authentic relationships as a result of that work. Anything else should be seen as a failure.
  9. 9. Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is… never stop questioning.
  10. 10. Can you tell Phil has a home of his own? It wasn’t really in the plans. Let me tell you how it happened in a relatively short period of time.
  11. 11. “I want to thank my co-workers for helping me be at my best”
  12. 12. Emily works for Welch LLP accounting firm, here she is accepting an award after being nominated by her co- workers. Not bad for someone assessed in high school as being best suited to a sheltered workshop. Never stop questioning…Emily never stopped believing in herself.
  13. 13. THEN NOW Royce is now 23 and wants to live on his own, says his father, Ralph. But the family has been told he needs constant care, and that there are no resources available to meet his needs. “He’s always very pleasant to work with, always on time, shows a great deal of dedication to the task…it’s saved us tremendous amounts of money by having him here.” - Andrew Bearss, General Manager, Dow Honda
  14. 14. When people with intellectual disabilities are unhappy they experience something very unique in society – they get labelled as a “behaviour problem” and their rights are often swiftly removed by strangers around a table. With other people we might at least ask “Is something bothering you?” before proceeding to medicate and confine them. It did take a while to earn trust from Royce, but he’s been living on his worn and working for the same employer for 5 years.
  15. 15. A sure sign of social inclusion: the rest of the team never forgets you at beer time!
  16. 16. Chris experienced ostracization from “special programs” that were supposedly designed to accommodate people who just wouldn’t be accepted by others in the community. We helped him join a local soccer league where those problems disappeared, and better still, instead of riding the “special bus” to and from “outings” he got a new peer group where they have designated drivers and beer drinking!
  18. 18. In the programmatic approach (the micro or medical approach) paid staff essentially replace natural relationships in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, and their peer group is constructed of those who happen to be in the same program. The result is predictable – very few relationships, and an unhealthy dependency on artificial constructs for social contact. Instead, paid staff need to be facilitators of relationships, growing personal and professional networks for the people they are supporting, instead of replacing them.
  19. 19. • Costco • 3 Brewers • The Westin Ottawa • The Parliament Cleaning Group • Shoppers Drug Mart • TD Bank • Brown’s Cleaners • Whole Foods • Milestones • DOW Honda • Bushtukha • McDaniels YIG • Tim Hortons • Star Motors • The WORKS Gourmet Burger Bistro • Farmboy • Service Canada • Swiss Chalet • Kanata Honda • PODS • Sobeys • Pita Pit • RE-MAX • Garden Creations • Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group OSEG • Kelseys Restaurants • Volvo • Shopify • Landmark Cinemas • East India Company Restaurant • Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunication Services • South East Community Health Centre • Ottawa Champions Baseball • Levy Restaurants • Engineers Canada • Dress for Success • Value Village • Pancake Shack • Coles Funeral Home • Minto • Hot 89.9 • Canadian Human Rights Commission • Elections Canada • Precise Parking • Quickie • Your Reno Guys • Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada • Welch LLP • Canadian Food Inspection Agency • GGFL Chartered Professional Accountants • Agriculture Canada • Employment and Social Development Canada • Invest Canada • Canadian Wildlife Federation • Money Coaches Canada • Ecivda Financial Planning Boutique Our employer partners…so far!!! Myth: the community doesn’t really want people with intellectual disabilities! Truth: the community needs help understanding how to value and welcome all citizens!
  20. 20. I provide this list (which is already much longer than when I first assembled it a few months ago) to demonstrate that it’s an entirely false narrative to say that the community just doesn’t want people with intellectual disabilities – they need HELP to welcome and include them – and one of the reasons they need so much help is their suppor systems have reinforced the idea that they are a “problem.”
  21. 21. I know that people with intellectual disabilities and autism bring tremendous value to the relationships in their lives and to their community. They contribute to and benefit from reciprocal relationships that build social capital. I see them as neighbours, friends, employees, and other social roles that are common to all citizens. What will I do to bring inclusive values to people and places in my community? SUPPORT COMMUNITY FIRST! EXPECT IT FOR YOURSELF AND OTHERS!
  22. 22. As family members, what you expect of the community (and what you expect of any organizations that are invited to support your child) has a lot to say about what the future holds for them – if you believe that “being in a program” is the best outcome, chances are, that’s the best outcome you’ll get. Set the bar higher, for yourself, and in turn, for others. Your son or daughter is not less than anyone else’s son or daughter and they have the right to all the same opportunities for a home, a job, friends, and contributing roles in society.
  23. 23. Follow these three rules, that says it all. Your son or daughter has value. Others will see that value if given the opportunity. They may also see opportunities that you’d never considered – give them a chance. I’ve lost track of the number of times I fell into a trap of deciding what was not possible, only to be proven wrong. Now I try to skip that step – assume capability. Assume opportunity. Assume possibility. It is only human that not every attempt succeeds. Give people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity win and lose. That’s real life.