Mental Age?

Motive asymmetry – the belief that one groups motives are driven by love, care and affiliation and the rivals are motivated by the exact opposite.  This term is generally referred to with regards to political conflict but I see fully activated in the issue of advocacy for those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

It feels to me that motive asymmetry is at play with regards to trained self-advocates and parents/guardians/healthcare professionals/case managers/disability advocates when any topic related to care, support, employment, inclusion, residential settings and community environment are discussed.

As a parent/guardian/disability advocate, this concept is very clear to me since I have been told by many trained self-advocates that guardians are only self-serving. This is truly not my perspective at all but it is attributed to me since I am a guardian. One effective tool used to help bridge this conflict is to meet in person. Once you know the person, views and ideas may change. It is only by meeting people and working together as people, rather adhering to  inflexible ideologies, that we can break down these silos and make progress.

Mental age theory

Ivanova Smith has written an article in NOS Magazine regarding the issue of using “mental age” as a description for people who happen to live with an intellectual and developmental disability.  She states “We need to educate medical professionals that there are better and more respectful way to explain the needs of people with Intellectual/developmental disabilities. Difficulty doing specific tasks isn’t the same thing as being an actual child.”

I have never seen this description used to state that an adult with IDD is a child – they are adults who have a variety of support needs in many areas of life skills.  Using labels and descriptive terms for various ranks, steps or skill levels are used in all types of employment, school, sports and athletics,  and hobbies.  On must pass through step 1 to get to step 2.  This is a natural progression.  One need not necessarily master the step but at least have a passing effort before one is able to proceed or progress.  There could be many reasons for a rapid or slow progression through these levels.
People do not excel in all areas of life and do not need to be an expert in everything they attempt to have enjoyment and meaning from it. Also, people may “stall out” at one step and many years later may revisit and then gain more skills. This is not set in stone as it is a fluid process and there is always learning and progress occurring as people experience life. This progression is also true with developmental, emotional and maturity stages. It is not “good” or “bad” but just is.

I often hear that people do not like labels – but labels help us to learn and navigate life in so many ways. Think for instance of working in trades – there are labels applied to levels of skill development – apprentice, journeyman, master. One is not a better person than another by having a different label but has a different skill set. These labels help us, who may not be familiar with the work to be done, who we might want to seek out for consultation. Labels are not inherently bad but can be extremely useful in many situations.
I am asking for your input into how you, as a trained self-advocate, differentiate between people who may need an extreme amount of support to manage the daily activities of living versus someone who may only need some occasional guidance with specific areas? How do you, as a trained self-advocate, differentiate between someone who is unable to utilize public transportation and needs to be driven everywhere in a private vehicle versus someone who can navigate the city independently on public buses?
Or maybe you do not see the need to differentiate – if not, why not?

Please contact me Ivanova – I would love to meet with you in person.

Thank you – Cheryl Felak

 

Have you ever heard the phrase “that person has the mind of a five year old In an adult body?” It is something many adults with intellectual disabilities, like me, have to deal with. For years, medical professionals have told parents of newly diagnosed Intellectually disabled people that they would mentally be children for their entire lives.…

via Mental Age Theory Hurts People with Intellectual Disabilities — NOS Magazine

#inclusivity  #diversityisstrength  #YouAreTheChange  #beyondinclusion  #disabilityrights  #intellectualdisability   #disabilitysupport  #mentalage  #agetheory

 

“Real Life”

In a recent thread in the LinkedIn group “Intellectual Disabilities Support Professionals” there has been a heated “discussion” regarding inclusion.  There is one very outspoken and prolific writer who regards anything but independent living supported by his agency as being “groomed for a systems lifestyle” to be “segregated, isolated and warehoused in institutions”  He calls himself an advocate but has disdain for anyone one who needs extra supports which may not be available in his type of community.  He refers to people who have higher support needs as not having “real lives” because they may live in a supportive community, an intermediate care facility, or group home.  He refuses to listen to others and abrasively dismisses any viewpoint other than his own and that of his agency.  Needless to say, his writings are tiresome, repetitive, derogatory, one-sided and void of understanding of the complexity of the “real” situation.

It’s really a shame because this person is passionate about his advocacy but is unable to see or appreciate alternatives and the fact that the population of people with intellectual disabilities is very heterogeneous.  The researchers are now beginning to realize that “one size does not fit all” and most of the research has focused on those who have a fairly good command of language complexities and those who only have a developmental disability not people with  intellectual disabilities.

“Operational definitions of self-determination have moved beyond simplistic versions that focused almost solely on choice making to take into account cultural differences and the fact that different people desire to have differing amounts of personal control over specific areas of life that they view as important.” ( Wehmeyer and Abery, 2013)  These authors also point out that future research needs to better account for the fact that self-determination “is exercised within the context of relationships (with people, organizations, systems, etc.) and that as a result, relationship factors need to be taken in to account.”

My son Thomas is 20 years old and lives in a supportive community which many would call an “institution”.  He calls it home.

Thomas is very self-determined making many choices which are important to him.  He lives in the community in which he grew up and enjoys events all around the region.  He is extremely good at planning what he wants to do and filling us all in on the local events around town.  He is a wealth of information.

 It’s absurd to think that Thomas doesn’t live a “real life”

The LinkedIn writer I spoke about says that people in institutions are groomed for systemic segregation, are warehoused and isolated never to be seen again – he certainly has no idea about “real life”

Below are photos from just a few of the choices that Thomas has made this summer

Thomas attends mass weekly at Blessed Sacrament Church in Seattle, Washington.  He was baptized in this church and has gone here his whole life.

Thomas at mass

Thomas at Blessed Sacrament

Thomas attended a Mariner’s game and had to get his photo take with the Dave Niehaus statue

Thomas at the Mariner's game with Dave Niehaus statue

Thomas met with two of his most favorite people – his friends Gretchen and Kelly

Thomas with Gretchen and Kelly

Thomas loves to go out to eat – he has chosen Kidd Valley, The Northgate Food Court,  Piroshky Piroshky, Taco del Mar and Panda Express as his most frequent places this summer

Thomas at Kidd Valley Eating at Northgate Mall - Piroshky Piroshky

He attended the “Sounds of Summer” concerts at University Village – something he does every summer.  He is well recognized there as he is the first one up to dance and chats with the band members.

Thomas at Eldridge Gravy and the Court SurpremeThomas at Hit Explosion

Thomas at University Village

Here are some video clips of parts of the concerts

He attended day camp at Woodland Park through the Seattle Parks – another annual favorite!

Daycamp 2014

iphone august 2 022

and he organized an “All Star” Pizza Party  at our house

Thomas clapping for All Stars Thomas at All Star Party

Scattered, dispersed housing = Community?

A letter from the National Council on Disability (NCD) was published urging the US Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to swiftly comply with the US Supreme Court Decision of Olmstead.  This is great – except the interpretation of Olmstead is incorrect and the NCD assumes that independent choice is the apparent optimal  goal for people with intellectual disabilities (ID).

I cannot disagree more with the Federally funded National Council on Disability, which states they represent and advocate for our loved ones. My response letter is available  here.  (May 21 letter to HUD)  Community is not a place but relationships.  NCD does not consider relationships and what those relationships mean to many in supportive communities.

We need to define choice and what that means to various people.  Those with severe intellectual disabilities with or without co-occurring psychiatric disorders are by the very definition of their condition, not able to make informed choices.  If independent choice is the apparent goal, would an independent choice of someone with severe ID and psychiatric disorder by wise and safe?  I would tend to think not.

When thinking about choice and housing it is critical to understand what type of choice is desirable – independent or supported.  One should not presume that independent choice is always the most desirable outcome.  “A well-supported choice leading to selection of a wise alternative may be preferable to a more independent but ill-informed choice that results in problems.” (R.J. Stancliffe, 2011)

With this distinction about the definition of choice and what may be safe for each individual, we then can examine Olmstead and the arguments of many regarding community housing for those with ID.

The other very concerning issue other than that of “choice” is what about the caregiver.  Does the NCD not understand that many of these people who they so want to make independent choices often need 24 hour live in and AWAKE care?  If all these people choose to have their own house, who will be there to care for them?  Does the NCD not realize that we are already in a crisis trying to find qualified caregivers for those who may live in supported communities or group homes – how will we be able to safely staff isolated and dispersed homes?

Scattered and dispersed housing does not a community make!

Homecoming Royalty!

Thomas was chosen by the student body at Shorecrest High School in Shoreline to be part of the Homecoming Royal Court this year.   He is certainly far from being isolated and restricted –

he has flourished from being allowed to grow and learn in the environment which is the least restrictive for him.

When RHC residents move to a community setting, many will need an increase in direct support staff due to the more restrictive environment for them, which will also increase the cost of care.

Moving my son and many others with similar needs from the RHC to a community setting is far from “doing the right thing” and will actually bring restrictions and harm.   “Doing the right  thing” means adhering to the US DD Act and the US Supreme Court Decision Olmstead


not evicting people from their homes because you don’t like where they live. 

Please continue to allow our loved ones to thrive

in the environment which is the least restrictive

 for them!