There has to be a better way….
I have been in Social Services since I was 18. I started out as a Direct Support Professional right out of high school. I left and tried other things but always came back to it. I realized I had a passion for my work and made a commitment to supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Through the years, I worked my way up. I became an administrator, then a program director. I wrote reports for a behavioral consultant. I started to realize that what I was writing did not reflect the person as a whole. The reports focused on the deficiencies, the behavior plans were all cookie cutter and not tailored to each person’s needs. The people I was supporting were not thriving, they were just existing. Nothing was being done to support these individuals to success. Every meeting was the same. When you can do this, and this then you can move on. They were all just stagnant. It took a while, but I began to realize that maybe this, this and this may not be obtainable for that person. We were creating unrealistic expectations. We were trying to force these individuals into the mold of what we thought their lives should look like. Who am I to say how someone should live their life? I would probably cuss and scream a hell of a lot more if someone was trying to prevent me from living my life on my terms. BUT you can’t move into your own apartment until you reduce incidents of verbal aggression from a baseline of three times per month to zero for six consecutive months! Well shit, I’m almost 40 and I have never met and will never meet that goal. No one stopped me from living on my own. I don’t make my bed every day, I don’t do chores every day, I don’t work on my functional skills every day, I don’t always wake up on time, I don’t always wash my hair when I shower, etc. etc. etc. Some days I lay in my pajamas watching Netflix and eating Oreos. When I moved out at 19, I was a hot mess. I got to fail, I got to suffer, I got my electricity turned off, I crashed my car, I maxed out credit cards, I jumped around between jobs, I traveled, I ate like crap, I drank too much, I LIVED on my terms and no one held me back. No one told me I wasn’t ready. It was sink or swim and I sank…a lot. I exercised my basic human right to take risks. I finally figured it out. Today I’m a successful adult.
So, there I was in another meeting telling another person why they can’t live their life. I started feeling like a hypocrite. Then I started thinking, there has to be a better way. Then I started thinking about how I would do it if I owned my own support agency. I wouldn’t try to fit people into molds, I would embrace their mold. I also wouldn’t try to fix people, because nothing is wrong with them. We would develop support based on what the individual wanted. Things that made sense in their life so that they felt fulfilled. Then an opportunity presented itself where I could start my own company. It happened and I was determined that our agency’s policies would be vastly different. Breaking Barriers takes a person-centered approach to support. Our participants decide what they want to work on, they choose their goals, they determine how long it will take. We are here to work for the person. We do not believe there is something wrong with a person that has a developmental disability. We are all different and we all require different support in our lives. We are no better than others. There is no them and us, we are all equal. We are all human, working our way through life, and finding our own happiness. The better way is knowing this, living this, and running a support agency with these ideals as the foundation.