Aspire’s self-advocacy group is hitting its stride. The group has met four times, both virtually and in-person. Participants come from all four states where Aspire operates, including groups who gathered in Massachusetts and Maryland. Participants bring a wealth of ideas and a diversity of backgrounds to the conversation.
The self-advocacy group has a full agenda for their work. After organizing meetings around a set of agreed upon rules focused on respect, the initial meetings focused on a discussion of rights and an introduction to the upcoming satisfaction survey.
In October, members identified that staff changes have a major impact on them, for example adjusting to new staff when a DSP leaves is very challenging. Given the high number of vacancies and the impact of hiring the “right” staff, the group decided that being included in the interview process is a high priority for them. They chose to start working on this issue by developing a list of interview questions that individuals can reference.
At the November meeting, members discussed the purpose of interviewing and the types of questions that would serve that purpose. A couple of participants had previously participated in DSP interviews and shared their experiences. The group brainstormed many possible questions, and they plan to finalize them at their next meeting.
Group facilitator Linda Kaiser brings a long-term perspective to her support for the group. Twenty years ago she started as a DSP in Massachusetts, became a manager, and ultimately joined the quality team. She has seen a big change in how regulations and policies affect self-advocacy. “When I first started, service planning meetings did not include supported individuals. The team would decide what was going to be put in place.”
Now the person receiving services is at the center of the planning process, and we’re listening to what the person has to say.
Sometimes, employees can feel like the goals and desires of supported people might seem unrealistic or unsafe, but Linda points out that asking questions can clarify their interests and help them create a realistic plan toward their goal. “People tend to say ‘no’, without saying ‘let’s check into that and see what it would entail’,” said Linda.
The self-advocacy group is helping individuals develop their expectations for person-centered support. “The group is really the starting point for so many ideas we have, as an agency, for the future,” said Linda.
This winter the self-advocacy group will have their first meeting with CEO Lou Giramma. An interview process for individuals interested in serving on the Board of Directors will start in January. Linda is also looking for adults supported by Aspire who would like to serve on the Human Rights Committee. Those interested can be from any state since meetings are virtual. If you know someone who would like more information, please email Linda at email@example.com or mark your calendar to attend the next meeting!
To see the full calendar of all self-advocacy group meetings at Aspire, click here.