Events, features and things to do for families in New Hampshire
By Joel B. Green
Helping individuals who receive support services, who may need a voice that they have yet to discover, we as providers may take for granted. It often isn’t given the value it deserves.
To reach out and lend your heart and hand to make a real connection with someone who really needs to connect with their communities is a vital element in the art of helping and can bring great joy to all of us that participate in this activity on a daily basis.
Each connection creates more joy, which ultimately has a multiplier effect for the individuals we support, the community and those of us paid or unpaid to make this connection. This also assures the helper they are doing the right thing, which can often be disguised under layers of rules, regulations and systemic constructs that may be well intended, but at the same time, tend to crush creativity.
Creativity and the Individual Service Plan need to marry and go beyond the typical comfort zone by identifying goals that will lead to less formalized service delivery, and to more natural occurrences of community connection, membership and contribution for the individuals we serve as providers.
One way to tap into the collective creativity of a community is to form alliances with the artistic community and the service provider community. A coalition of creative people and deeply committed service providers may in some cases help to solve community access challenges by aiding the people we are trying to connect to the community to find their expressive voice through art, music, theater, etc.
Art’s relationship to those who may live with a disability has proven to result in very positive social, cognitive and educational outcomes. A good example of this connection can be found in Reading, Mass., where the Center for Emerging Artists has helped individuals express themselves through fine art, specifically painting, for a number of years. Their paintings and other work have sold well thus giving them earned income typically above minimum wage, and have been exhibited in many public places where they have been recognized as the artists that they have become and thus connecting them with their communities.
The art connection may in fact help individuals drastically improve their quality of life. We need not label our activities with professionally designed terms such as social integration to help an individual achieve the happiness as a tangible and real presence in their communities can bring, which we all hope will be a part of all our lives. It’s really a matter of doing the right thing, using our instincts, seeking advice and most importantly, learning to walk in the shoes of the people we support in a hyper-vigilant way that recycles throughout the time we spend with each person.
We need to celebrate differences and warmly embrace that which we all share in the things we like and want in our lives. We need to really take stock of what it is each person really needs as defined by them and those who know them best, and then help them and their families truly pursue it with the least amount of roadblocks and obstructions as possible.
Joel B. Green has been working in human services for more than 30 years largely supporting people who live with intellectual challenges and their families. He is the President and CEO of Community Services Council of New Hampshire.