Learn why Day Programs for adults with disabilities are not as effective for your loved one as they are advertised.
Here are three (3) reasons why Day Programs are NOT Effective:
1. Lack of Inclusion: Grouping individuals with developmental disabilities together separates them from ordinary community interactions – even if out in the ordinary community.
2. Ineffectiveness in Teaching Life Skills: The inefficiency in teaching life skills within day programs is rooted in the pretend environment they provide. This creates a significant hurdle in transferring acquired skills to practical, real-life situations at home.
3. Challenges in Forming Meaningful Friendships: Forming meaningful friendships becomes a challenge as individuals with disabilities are consistently grouped together, with others also trying to learn or improve their social skills. The best way to learn social skills is be being in relationship with other people who already have strong social skills.
As an alternative to day programs, I suggest encouraging your loved one to pursue their childhood dreams – or in other words the things that they are interested in ordinary community settings.
Interested in learning more about this? Click the video below, where I go deeper on this topic. Watch now or read the transcript below for more details.
P.S. Looking for more strategies to nurture your loved one’s independence? Download my free “7 Strategies for More Independence” guide.
Written Transcript of the Video:
Hey there, Eric Goll here from Empowering Ability, and I have a question for you today: What was your childhood dream? It could have been a doctor, a teacher, a professional sports player—whatever it was for you. I want you to think about that. Great! Now you’ve got that image in your mind of what your childhood dream was. But no one has ever had a childhood dream of going to a day program every day and doing activities in a pretend environment amongst other people with developmental disabilities that are being othered and separated from the rest of society. No one has had that as a childhood dream. So, this is the dominant option, the most prevalent option that’s presented to families that have a loved one with a developmental disability—often the only option. And is that right when we put it in the context of our own childhood dreams and what we think about what would be possible for our lives? Why don’t we do that sort of thinking for our loved one with a developmental disability as well? Use that awesome ordinary life lens to expand the possibilities of what could be possible for our loved one, instead of just thinking about, “Well, you know, they have a disability, a day program is the only option for them after high school.”
So, I want to help you expand those possibilities beyond a day program, and I want to share why a day program is not best for people with developmental disabilities, no matter how that day program is being marketed. Okay, now before I get into that, I just want to preface the rest of this video. I have no judgment on a family or on you if your loved one is currently going to a day program. Day programs are marketed to families that have a loved one with a developmental disability as kind of the only option many times. Okay, but what I want, if your loved one is in a day program, is for you to start thinking about how could we take a little bit of the resources and time from that day program and invest that time and that money into what would be better. Okay, so we’re going to talk about that. I’ll talk about that in a minute here, a little bit later in this video. So, let’s talk about what the problem is with day programs.
The first thing is that day programs separate people with developmental disabilities from the rest of society and group them together in a place, in a pretend environment. Right? So often, day programs are marketing inclusion. They’re marketing learning life skills. They’re giving an illusion that our loved one will make friends. And none of this is true. None of it is true. Let me go through each one.
Inclusion—how can you have inclusion in a place where it’s designed just for people with developmental disabilities and they’re being grouped together? That is, by nature, separating people from the ordinary places doing ordinary things in our communities. Okay, so you can’t have inclusion when people with disabilities are grouped together. Even if we’re grouping two or three people with developmental disabilities together, it becomes very hard for those people to interact with other people in ordinary community places.
Let’s talk about life skills. Can you actually learn life skills in a day program? Well, first off, it’s a pretend environment. Let’s take an example of something like cooking. Even if you’re cooking a legit meal in that day program and somebody’s guiding you to do that, you’re probably not getting one-on-one support to do it. The other main challenge here is that, is that going to be transferable? Because where we need to be learning life skills is where we’re actually going to be doing the life skill, so in our home. Right? So, it could be making lunch. Well, we need to look at what are our family dynamics first because if we’re not getting the opportunity or the right level of support and encouragement to make our own lunch in our own home, where it’s never going to happen. So often what I’m seeing is, you know, what’s being learned in those pretend environments in a day program is not translating into building actual capability in a person’s life because where that needs to be learned is at home with one-on-one support. So, we need those real situations to actually learn.
And then, friendships. Right? This idea that, okay, we’re going to—you’re loved one’s going to make friendships at the day program. It doesn’t happen. Why doesn’t it happen? Because, again, people with disabilities are being grouped together, and often those people haven’t had the opportunity to interact with other people that have strong social skills. And we learn social skills—we learn how to make friends and be in a relationship with people through people who have good social skills because then we can mirror those social skills. Right? And when that other person has good social skills, it helps us to enter into a relationship with them. So, we’re grouping together people that are all trying to learn social skills, trying to develop their own social skills. So what happens most often? People with disabilities are drawn to the staff that work there who are neurotypical and try to build relationships with them. And that’s a whole other problem because if those staff are acting as friends and aren’t actually friends, then that’s very misleading and it can actually be very harmful and cause trauma towards a person with a disability because somebody is acting like their friend and isn’t actually their friend. So, there’s a whole bunch of stuff there. I’ll create another video on maybe paid supporters acting like friends in another video, but I just want to help you understand that day programs are not going to be delivering what they promise. And it actually excludes your loved one from community, from real opportunity, from pursuing their actual interests, right? Pursuing those childhood dreams because no one has a childhood dream of going to a day program.
So, what’s better? What’s better is actually pursuing your childhood dreams. What does that mean in kind of more ordinary terms? It means exploring your interests in ordinary places. It means maybe exploring what paid work could look like, right, in an ordinary place. And to do these sorts of things, to explore your interests in ordinary places, to explore paid work, that often requires one-on-one support. Okay? And that support helping that person to explore their interest, helping that person to get that paid work. So, if you’re interested in exploring more on what’s better and maybe shifting some resources into what would be better if your loved one is going to a day program—I’m not saying stop the day program entirely, right? I never recommend pulling the rug out from someone’s routine, from someone’s life. But how can you, over time, shift some of those resources into the ordinary, into investing in your loved one’s interests in ordinary places, into investing into paid work?
So, if you’re interested in learning more about that, I’ve got a free upcoming workshop. I’ve got the link below this video, so you can go ahead and click on that link and register. It’s completely free. I also invite you to leave a comment below in the comment section. And I’m Eric Goll. Together, let’s take a small step forward this week.
If you found these strategies helpful, consider subscribing to my channel for more valuable resources. Additionally, for those seeking further guidance on fostering independence in their loved ones, check out my “7 Strategies for More Independence” PDF guide. I’m Eric Goll, and together, let’s take a small step forward toward an awesome, ordinary life.