Sunday, August 18, 2013

..on the beach..

I just returned from vacation in a resort beach town on the East Coast of the United States. While there I watched something wonderful.  As I sat and played on the beach with my daughter, I watched a family supporting their daughter with Down Syndrome. The reason this was so compelling and noteworthy to me was two-fold.  In 2013, we see families and communities who embrace, enjoy and recognize the beauty of diversity. It was wonderful to see this beautiful little girl enjoying herself.  I remember a time when I was in grade school when kids with disabilities, exactly like this little girl on the beach last week, DID NOT HAVE A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT to be in class with me. Now, to see a 2 year old girl embraced by her family, enjoying the wonders of the sea shore and getting positively supported in her developmental stage by her family and the friends she was with struck me.

The other thing about this seemingly benign observation was a deep thought I had.  Over the years of doing direct support and working in all different types of provider settings, I imagined something wonderful.  The parents I sat next to on this beach will most likely never "place" this little girl in "treatment" or residential services.  I may be wrong and I cannot predict the future but.....I overheard them, I watched their incredible support and had a gut instinct.  This little girl can NOW get all types of services, supports and "treatments/therapies" at the discretion and direction of her parents. They were talking about a variety of "early intervention" services they used.  In 1973, when I was in school, this was essentially unheard of.  Then, little girls with Down Syndrome may have gone to the beach with their families but many of those 2 year old girls with that particular disability in 1973 were going to end up in some type of service setting or an institution.

As I reflected that afternoon on the beach I thought that times have certainly changed. The world has become a bit more tolerant, understanding and appreciative of developmental disabilities and children.  We know so much more about things like "early intervention" and we know that institutions are not places where human beings should live.

Importantly, we now have a profession in existence that promotes justice, fairness, equity and inclusion for the little girl I watched on the beach last week.  If she should need the assistance of this type of professional both she and her parents can be assured that profession is called direct support. If they should need competent and ethical direct support professionals they will have  over 2,000,000 of them to call upon in the coming decade.