This article is a case study and story of a journey that a young man took through the state facility system to eventual return to the community. In analyzing his journey, we begin to realize how he used the principles of "Everyday Lives" to reach his goal with and without the system's help.
Several years ago when I read this quote of Mr. Hockenberry, it influenced me enough to frame it and put it on my office wall. At that time I wasn't sure exactly why, but it became clear as I began to think about this article. Many times as we begin the process of constructing "Person Centered Plans" or "Essential Life Style Plans" for individuals like Brian, we begin to bog down the process by trying to formulate the Plan utilizing only what we know and are familiar with, rather than asking persons like Brian what they want and what could be. We discovered that Brian's hopes, dreams, and desires were not as complicated as we had thought.
Brian's journey began in 1967 when he came to the state facility at the age of 7 years. I came to know Brian in 1976 when I began my employment at that state facility. As I think back, I can see that Brian was, in his own way, utilizing many of the premises of the "Everyday Lives" concept even then. He was very selective in choosing staff and/or individuals with whom he lived and in forming relationships; he always looked to form relationships with staff who were more community oriented and became involved with offered activities which were community oriented (community church, community advocacy groups, community shopping). He began to use each of these opportunities to form ties with the people he met and shared experiences with. His many contacts in the community began to strengthen his control over choices of friends, of recreational opportunities, of where and with whom to socialize.
As he became more adept at accessing the community, his freedom of movement -- to travel to the restaurant at the Mini-Mall each day to socialize with his friends -- added permanency to his life and he eventually became more secure in the community. His next big step came when he secured employment at the local McDonald's. There, he gained individuality outside of a state facility setting. He soon gained community recognition for who he was as an individual with considerable talent and many natural gifts.
His community employment in a real job began to create citizenship for him by allowing him to become a part of the community at large and to establish a feeling of connectedness. It also provided an opportunity to become prosperous by raising his ability to earn a competitive wage.
For those unfamiliar with the Everyday Lives Philosophy, each of the words and phrases in bold comes directly from the document entitled "What Do People Want?"1
Attempts at actual community living had not worked for Brian in years past for a variety of reasons, but I believe now it was because Brian had not seen what he wanted. In the Spring of 1996 we began to explore with Brian the possibility of becoming involved with the Family Living Initiative. A host family became seriously interested in having Brian return to the community and live in their home. In discussing this with Brian and his biological family, Brian began to speak of his dream of living with his sister. As the reality of moving to the community under the auspices of Family Living, with his Base Service Unit supporting him, began to be seen as a reality, his biological family saw Brian's potential. They recognized his growth over the past 30 years and requested instead that he return home to Pittsburgh with them, with support from his Base Service Unit.
Many van trips to Allegheny County later for planning sessions at his Base Service Unit resulted in several private providers of community services becoming interested in working with Brian. At the same time his sister requested that he actually come and share her home while working in the community. The result was that Brian returned to his sister's home, secured employment Monday through Friday at the same business where his sister is employed, and now works on Saturdays at a local McDonald's.
In August, Brian and his family returned to our facility to attend the traditional family picnic. All one had to do was see the expression on Brian's face or talk with him for a short period of time to realize that he had found his spot back in the community and that life was good for him.
I tried to analyze what was different for Brian this time -- what made for success. Once the initial planning began at our state facility, we moved the actual locus of the planning from where Brian was to where he wanted to be -- specifically, the community. We had all planning meetings at his county Base Service Unit, which seemed to add both credence to the process and a sense of urgency to the placement process. This move was a good idea.
We also learned that the staff people at the facility were indeed the most knowledgeable about Brian. Thus, it was necessary to access them into the community with Brian until his Base Service Unit was able to fully construct his needed Circle of Support.
We learned a lot from Brian's journey, but the most important thing we learned was not to be afraid of dreaming a different dream or trying a different approach, because both Brian and we knew the real thing when we saw it.
The Pennsylvania Journal on Positive Approaches is published by the Pennsylvania Office of Mental Retardation (OMR) Statewide Training Initiative through Temple University, Institute on Disabilities, University Affiliated Program and Contract Consultants, Inc., 105 Old York Road, New Cumberland, PA 17070. For subscription information, please contact Contract Consultants, Inc. at  774 - 5455. Copyright © 1998 OMR/CCI. All rights reserved.
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