Tuesday, July 12, 2011

One Size Does Not Fit All

There’s a common saying among those of us who work in the field of developmental disabilities: “If you’ve met one person with a developmental disability, you’ve met one person with a developmental disability.”

Last year at Imagine! we served over 2,600 individuals and their families. In each case, the needs, goals, and desires of the individuals and their families were different. In each case, the disability (or disabilities) manifested themselves in distinct ways. That is part of what makes working in this field so challenging and yet so interesting and exciting at the same time – to see how we can use our skills, knowledge, and resources to serve so many unique individuals.

Despite that reality, our field is overrun with the kind of thinking that one size does in fact fit all when it comes to funding and delivering services for some of our most vulnerable citizens. Whether it is the idea that a single entry point for services is an effective and efficient way to get every person served the best services possible, or the idea that the Medicaid system is capable of meeting all the needs of those we serve, we are too often surrounded by a simplistic approach to funding and delivering services that doesn’t take into account the many, many differences that exist among the individuals we serve.

This kind of "siloed," “one size fits all” thinking also exists within organizations that serve those with one or more developmental disabilities. We recently discovered a case of this happening right here at Imagine! (which is why I’ve been thinking about this topic lately).

I believe that organizations such as Imagine! simply cannot be effective in fulfilling their missions if they are stuck in this kind of thinking.

What if we were all required to drive the exact same kind of car? It wouldn’t matter if it was a brand new Bugatti Veyron (the most expensive street legal car available on the market today) or a 1981 Buick Skylark. People simply wouldn’t go for it. People choose the cars they drive for all sorts of reasons, and nobody wants to be told they can’t pick the car that best matches their means and their wants.

So if the idea that a person can’t have choices when it comes to something as simple as the car they drive is unthinkable, why, then, is it so easy for us to accept a lack of choice when it comes to the way we fund and deliver services?

One size does not fit all. It is time to stop pretending that it does.

Then again, what do I know?

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