Leo’s Letter: Community Update

Many of us like to mix things up from time to time like having curry or beef stew for dinner. Today I share a mix of recent events; which provide encouragement, foster new relationships and offer ideas for the future. Today’s session on Shared Living, last week’s “Beyond Real Lives” and the Autism Housing Think Tank held earlier, provide the settings and ingredients.

Today’s “Growing Strong Together” branded the 23rd Shared Living Conference in Marlboro. Ten individuals from several agencies comprised the organizing committee (see them here). Dan Tomasulo, Ph. D. and M.F. A. (among other things), the keynote speaker focused on the topic of “Gratitude and Relationship Development”. Shared living, around for years, is a new priority area as our country and region attempts to keep pace with the rising numbers of adults with disabilities (I/DD) who require residential supports. Twenty-three years of professionals and agencies collaborating to foster best practices is no small feat! The advantages of shared living are clear: a close housemate relationship where the supporter understands his/her housemate’s preferences and needs; and the avoidance of difficulties caused by turnover in a larger group setting.

img_2883“Beyond Real Lives” held on September 13 reflected another level of collaboration. People with disabilities were clearly represented in the presentations reflecting these themes: being able to listen when people don’t use words to speak; letting those being supported, lead, regardless of the setting; and advancing the voice of those with disabilities in our service system and wider community. Although a number of agencies in the Northeast have embraced these themes, I want to highlight The Arc of Greater Haverhill and MASS-Northeast region for their collaboration. It was reflected in the number of adults speaking up about their dreams and goals. You can learn more about Real Lives here at the DDS site where implementation of the Real Lives law is ongoing.

The autism housing think thank, held on September 10, brought together over 70 participants from different walks of life; including those outside our field that have banking, design or other expertise. Workgroups developed recommendations in regard to housing models. The collaboration was and is extensive and you can learn about it here. Autism Housing Pathways will pull together the recommendations and share with participants. Eventually, a report will go to the housing subcommittee of the Governor’s Commission on Autism. Many of the findings will be relevant for all individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. And we at The Arc plan to pull from these findings to share some ideas with constituents.

Get encouraged–learn more about these activities and help us advance
supports for our community!


Leo Sarkissian, Executive Director

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