Your Best Life
As many readers know, Support Solutions feature a tagline of “Your Best Life,” simply a descriptor of the overarching goal that we have for persons receiving support. It seems an appropriate time to reflect on what that phrase “Best Life” translates to and for persons with intellectual disabilities. We know that mostly people are now supported in smaller homes in their home communities as opposed to larger settings operated by the States or other residential providers. Smaller homes certainly represent one step along the road to a better life, but let’s consider some others that may be important to persons receiving supports and services.
First, the opportunity to work and be productive is important to everyone. Recent trends indicate more emphasis on community employment efforts and this emphasis can provide the foundation for persons with intellectual disability to have greater opportunity and rewards in the workplace. There was a recent study published in Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation by Robert Cimera that found that individuals with disabilities fare significantly better financially from working in supported employment as opposed to sheltered employment. In addition, the same study found that supported employment is more cost-effective from a tax-benefit perspective than traditional sheltered workshops.
Secondly, a good life offers opportunity for establishing and building good friendships. We can have a great professional support system for persons with disabilities, but friendships among peers and persons external to the service provider may be critical to their overall happiness and fulfillment. Community providers need to prioritize community membership and expanded options for people supported. Next, spirituality is vital for all of us and we have an absolute collective responsibility to insure that persons with disability have opportunities for spiritual practice, education, and learning.
Next, I would suggest that the good life or “best life” has a cultural dimension including attention to one’s heritage and ethnicity as well as participation in the present day cultural milieu of a person’s own community. This will include the opportunity to enjoy a broad range of community and artistic events. Play and leisure activities are important to all of us and need to be always considered in our person-centered planning efforts.
Lastly, for a person to experience their “Best Life,” it is essential that he/she be given the encouragement and means to participate and be fully included in a wide variety of community experiences. From sports to arts to religion and all kinds of memberships, it is imperative that we join together to promote and enhance community opportunities of all types for persons with intellectual disabilities. This concludes my list of some of the considerations that are important for people to live their “Best Lives.”
Let me know what you think. As we hear from readers, we will add to this list and keep working together to insure that we are mindful of what it takes to live a vital and happy life.