Who Is Behind Perspective Co-Op?
At a very young age, I was keenly aware of (one could even say hyper-attune to) and deeply curious about the differences in the way everyday people perceived and treated individuals with disabilities, especially those with visible intellectual disabilities such as autism, down syndrome, and cerebral palsy.
I have also always had passion and felt a strong responsibility to understand the essence – or causes – of attitudes and perspectives of non-disabled people toward people with disabilities. I thought that if I could understand what caused some people to act with love, adoration, acceptance, problem-solving, perseverance, and celebration regarding a person with intellectual disabilities vs. what caused other people to feel sorry for, infantilize, patronize, and underestimate individuals who appear, move, speak and act differently than they do, then I could do something to change whatever caused these barriers and make the world an understanding place for people like my little sister who is autistic, my peers at school, and fellow community members who faced navigating relationships and places that seemed fenced off.
As I grew and started to plot my career path, I journeyed right into a mission of immersing myself in reading, listening, watching, and working next to the experts, professionals, and self-advocates, in the disability field.
These experts taught me valuable lessons, including:
Making the least-dangerous assumption
What it takes to build inclusive learning environments in schools
How to understand challenges with the body, neurology, and behavior to fully support non-speaking or unreliably speaking individuals building connection, belonging and access to opportunities
I tested what I was learning by joining the ranks of public education teachers and continued to look for evidence of the traits in people, places, and practices that fully supported individuals with disabilities vs. the ones that left them isolated from their peers and opportunities to connect with important people and events going on around them.
All the years of studying, working, observing, listening, asking, writing, and reflecting, gave me a lot of information and unique experiences.
What Makes a Difference
The absolute most common and influential factor that makes a difference and holds true across various environments and circumstances is this:
» An active presence of at least a small group of caring people – parents, professionals, and community members – that are: United in the belief that the person is capable of learning, that they are worthy of a quality of life well lived, and that they possess unique strengths, traits, and preferences that can be built on to enrich both their own life and the lives of others.
The bottom line is this; every time I witness genuine and authentic belonging and positive outcomes, there is the presence of a shared perspective and belief in the capacity and capability of the child/person to thrive.
Collaboration, Effective Outcomes, and Working Together
Collaboration with parents, guardians, professionals, and support providers of people with visible intellectual disabilities based on a shared mission and outcomes makes all the difference.
However, collaboration can be tricky, scary and sometimes grueling.
Certainly, no one is perfect when it comes to all the communication and work that needs to be done. I know it is critical to put forth my best effort to work effectively with others. Like anyone else, even professionals have insecurities and off days. For example, most of the time, I am a complete professional and eloquent in my communication. However, there are times I stumble, bumble and my communication may not be perfect.
At the end of the day, nothing changes the fact that I am committed to mission, values, and most importantly, the care and development of all Perspective Co-Op clients. I believe that the best relationships form organically, and sometimes it takes time to develop and build trusting collaboration. But when it does happen, regardless of if it happens in an hour or a year, it's like magic. When interdisciplinary teams are gelling and work with a unified vision an individual starts to make meaningful progress.
Perspective Co-Op Values
Perspective that is grounded in the individuals' strengths, is person-centered, and presumes competence for people with disabilities.
Collaboration with parents/guardians and support team providers based on a shared mission and outcomes.
Opportunities that are formulated for a safe, supported, and empowered life.