Create a community-based system of support and services that increases community participation, integration, and inclusion of people with developmental disabilities (DD).
The Promoting Self-Advocacy project grew out of a need for families and people with DD to be well trained and armed with the tools to access resources and supports to increase community participation, integration, and inclusion. The project aimed to strengthen the efforts of existing self-advocacy groups, provide quality training on best practices, and demonstrate effective personal life planning for adults with DD.
At the project’s start, two self-advocate groups were active in the Dallas area. With the goal of strengthening the presence and voice of people with DD in the community, the project provided the groups with links to community resources, recruited and trained mentors to support them in meetings and community settings, and provided training to assist advocates in negotiating service systems. Four self-advocates were also mentored to speak publicly on issues of self-determination and self-advocacy. Each year, self-advocates participated in two service projects to give back to the community.
The project provided educational seminars and trainings for parents, advocacy organizations, provider groups, and the general public on a variety of topics. These included the history of self-determination and the self-advocacy movement, what self-advocacy and self-determination mean, and the family’s role. Trainings for regular and special education teachers introduced them to the principles of self-determination and person-directed supports.
Trainings for new and current board members for the Down Syndrome Guild of Dallas provided information about boards, responsibilities of a board member, what to expect in meetings, and how to participate in meetings. Concurrent to the parent classes, a training for self-advocates was held on self-determination, person centered planning, supported employment, supported living, community inclusion, and leadership skills. A training was also held to teach volunteers to mentor and support a child with DD in their regular Sunday School class.
The project also assisted adults with DD, by their request, with personal life plan development. Personal outcome measures were used to get a snapshot of the person’s life at the time of the plan and determine priority outcome and support needs. Different planning tools were used depending on the purpose of the plan and were adjusted to meet the needs of the individual. Some plans were short-term with several specific goals, but most plans involved major life changes with several priority outcomes. Armed with a person-directed plan, individuals could more effectively request and direct the services they needed.
- By the end of the first year, self-advocate officers were leading meetings with minimal support from mentors
- Attendance grew from 10-15 people to 35-40 people each meeting
- One self-advocate presented at the National Down Syndrome Guild Congress to about 150 people
- Up to 11 children with DD attended their regular Sunday School classes with mentors
- 20 individuals were assisted with developing and executing person-directed plans
- Participants were able to accomplish a range of goals, including being able to continue to live in their communities, attend school, gain employment, and receive needed equipment