Monday, July 23, 2018

Haircuts and Homogenization

If you join the US Army, you will be required to get a regulation haircut, even if you are the king of rock and roll.

The official explanation for the required short hair is that it makes it easier for soldiers to put on their gas masks. But an important underlying reason is to break down an individual soldier’s identity and impart the idea that the soldier is now part of a team, and indistinguishable from all the other members of the team except when it comes to rank.

That is sound logic for the purpose of the army, which is most effective when it operates as a machine, with every part of the machine working together toward a unified goal.

Applying that one-size-fits-all mentality to other aspects of life can be dangerous, however, and I fear that is where we are heading with the delivery of services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

As regulations increase, we find that the options for people to find the services that best fit their needs, goals, and desires, shrink in proportion. This pattern has repeated itself over and over, especially during the last decade.

The thing is, people with I/DD aren’t one monolithic group with the exact same needs. This isn’t the army, and we’re not trying to create a machine. Quite the opposite. If you’ve met one person with an I/DD, you’ve met one person with an I/DD. Like all of us, every person with I/DD has his or her own set of needs, goals, and desires, and the best way to provide services is to have as much flexibility as possible so we can adjust to those unique needs, goals, and desires.

This isn’t some outlandish pipe dream I’m proposing. It can and has worked in the past. Right here at Imagine!, from our Autism Spectrum Disorder Program to our participation in a WaiverMarket pilot project, we have lots of data and evidence indicating that putting the decision making into the hands of families and people in services brings better outcomes. And it actually costs less than our current top heavy, heavily regulated system.

So let’s stop acting like every person with I/DD is exactly the same. We’re not the army dishing out short haircuts. We’re working to provide individuals real opportunities to become active, participating members of their communities. That takes flexibility, not rigidity.

Then again, what do I know?

No comments:

Post a Comment