Recent activity in the courts and on Ds social media has focused on the issue of doing away with sheltered workshops.  I’d like us, as a community, to come up with a statement that says what we think and how we feel.   Here are my initial thoughts.  Please feel free to critique and add yours to them.   We hope to have a comprehensive statement on the issue for next month when we focus on jobs as the topic of the month.

Legal actions forced de-institutionalization and inclusion in schools.  This IS a good thing – but not appropriate for everyone.  Now, states and private companies are afraid of lawsuits and that is hindering their ability to provide services for those who really need them.

We need to learn from the past. In MANY cases:

  • De-institutionalization = homeless and abused
  • Inclusion = often ignored and bullied without “full” inclusion OR educational benefits

Some people NEED extra care. It should not be abolished or stigmatized in the name of progress towards civil rights.

We are on the same path right now with sheltered work environments.

Parents and advocates who want to keep segregated settings in place are being shunned, criticized, ignored, and accused of “over protecting” when they suggest that their child needs “more restrictive” settings.  The voices that ARE being heard are the ones fighting for IDEAL circumstances right now, without a plan or resources in place.

We, as parents of adults, need to stand up and say what is on our minds.  We are the majority, but we are not as organized as the groups who are pushing this legislation.  Our voices NEED to be heard.

Of course we support inclusion within the community for our sons and daughters.  We have learned from experience however, that our children become the guinea pigs for these “landmark” decisions and suffer the consequences when governments race to avoid litigation without a clear plan in place.  The same generation that was the first to be “mainstreamed” in schools will now be the first to face losing their jobs in the name of progress.

If there is ANY doubt as to whether or not every child with an intellectual disability is safe in the community right now – remember Ethan!  The theory / philosophy behind ending the abuse and neglect of some some sheltered settings is laudable – but society at large is not ready for instant, widespread reform, and frankly neither are some of our children or their families.

There is no right answer to the question of how long will it take for society to be ready and accommodating of all abilities.  The question therefore should be – do we have appropriate supports and alternatives in place BEFORE we dismantle the current system?