Office for People With Developmental Disabilities

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Claddagh Commission

Going Beyond Traditional Concepts of Self-Advocacy

Traditional thinking about self-advocacy is based on the assumption that people with developmental disabilities need an advocate to help them navigate life, and to the degree that they don’t, we call it self-advocacy. This thinking is similar to when someone gets arrested; it is assumed that the person needs an advocate (i.e., a lawyer), but if the person is capable, he may choose to represent himself. Claddagh’s philosophy is that someone may need a service coordinator to help navigate the service delivery system, or a lawyer to set up a special needs trust, but a person doesn’t need an advocate to fully participate in life. Instead, Claddagh Commission encourages individuals to see themselves as full citizens of their homes, Claddagh Commission, and their communities, and to act accordingly with all the rights and responsibilities that go along with citizenship. Each site has a citizenship committee that meets regularly to discuss what kinds of activities individuals would like to be involved in, developing their menu (among many healthy options), what community activities and volunteer opportunities are available on an individual as well as group basis, and how the agency could do things better.

As an example of the impact of this approach, one of the day habilitation citizenship committees was receiving training on how to conduct job interviews. When the topic of not talking about what goes on in the interview process came up, one of the committee members pointed out that staff have access to all of their information and aren’t always as discreet with that information as they would like. So, the citizenship committee is now developing staff training on confidentiality.

The agency-wide citizenship committee is composed of representatives from the various site citizenship committees, and it elects its own officers. The committee has decided to meet on a monthly basis to learn more about citizenship, to develop ideas on how to be more activity in their homes and communities and to make recommendations to the executive director on how to improve the services they receive. More than anything though, the agency-wide Citizenship Committee has wanted to know how they can help. For example, the agency-wide committee has formed a gardening club that plants flowers at the various sites.

"My brother lives in one of the Claddagh homes and attends day habilitation, and I know that the systems developed for Compass are responsible for the excellent care provided to him. I am grateful to be involved in the quality management committee to be aware of the dedication, commitment, and efficiency of Claddagh staff."
- Stephanie Gregorie

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