Immersion in Community Pathways

Being Part of the Ordinary Flow

Immersion means making the best of what a particular place on a community pathway has to offer. It means paying attention to the people who benefit the most from their participation. With those who benefit as role models it is possible to figure out how a person with developmental disabilities might come to experience more of what those who make the most of the pathway get from their engagement.

Each community pathway offers multiple places to participate and multiple roles to take. There are a variety of jobs to seek, community organizations to support, places to live and leisure activities to join. Each offers a distinct variety of roles and activities to channel and challenge participants’ abilities. Some of these roles and activities are written down in job descriptions and policies. Many are unwritten and informal. Each place on a pathway has formal and informal rules, routines and rhythms, rituals, signs of identity, ways of communicating expectations, and methods to develop the capabilities necessary to participate. Think of the wardrobe and activities of a die hard sports fan when their team is in the playoffs.

Janet Klees has supported people to immerse themselves in valued community roles for many years. Her work is guided by three deeply connected principles. She wants her work to be family led, use one person at a time thinking, and be rooted in community. Use the podcast player below to listen to some of what she has learned.

Each person with developmental disabilities experiences an individual pattern of differences in learning, moving, sensing, regulating emotion and mood, communicating, understanding and decision making. Some of these differences are always present, some show up more in one place than another, or follow daily, weekly or annual cycles. How much these differences limit immersion in a community pathway depends on how supports are designed and delivered.

Good support for immersion is intentional, individualized, mindful and flexible. It focuses on the intersection of a specific person and a specific place and role on a community pathway. Good support changes as the person and place change. It answers the question, What will support this person to be a full participant in what goes on here and to form good relationships with the other people here?

Intentional support keeps purpose alive. Immersion means being part of the ordinary flow. Mindful, individualized support trusts the goodwill and capabilities of those involved in a well chosen place. It encourages the positive ways a place adapts to a person’s differences and the positive adaptations a person makes to what a place offers. Encouragement often means stepping back far enough to allow accommodations that can become natural to a place to develop rather than trying to rescue by jumping in to solve problems. Making good judgments about when and how to step in is an important aspect of capable support. Good support is an art. FMS funding enables families to hire good people who want to learn and practice that art.