Building Life Long Visions:
Where do professionals fit in?
By Colleen Tomko
Parents are the key people in developing
desirable outcomes for their child. They, along with their child, are
the one's who must plan where the child's future will lead. Everything
that is done for a child should be a step toward those desired outcomes.
Where they want and don't want their child to live, work, and be
involved as an adult, and what types of relationships and friendships
they desire for their child are crucial for every decision. When
planning long term visions, parents need to be provided with information
about all the issues that can affect their child's overall quality of
Long term visions are "not" based on
achievement of "normalcy" they are based on meeting the desirable
outcomes of the individual and their family. The vision, as for all
children, should not be based on having a child do in life what they are
not good at. It should never focus on attainment of skills alone, but on
a much bigger picture of providing the child the things that most people
value, including things such as: relationships, being a part of the
community, using one's abilities, and meeting the primary needs that all
children have. Only after the family determines this type of long term
vision can truly meaningful short term goals be developed.
The role of the professional is to
support the child/family's desired vision. The child and the family
should determine their future as they would for any child. It is not the
place of others to determine their future for them or attempt to make
them conform to fixed rules and regimes. Professionals may have a
child's best interest in mind, but a family has their best interest in
mind and in heart.
Professionals, by virtue of being noted
as "experts" have a tremendous power to influence what parents do or
don't desire for their children. Parents may not be aware that they have
a choice or will simply go along with what a professional told them
because they figure "well, they are the professionals," "they should
know or know best." However, the professional's expertise is sometimes
formed around a medical model approach of "fixing" and not on a person
centered model of optimizing overall quality of life. Unless the
professional has been thoroughly trained on disability rights and issues
as well as overall child development, they do not have expertise in
meeting all areas of need for the child. Unless they are working as
partners to help the family/child achieve their long term vision, they
are simply conforming to the system and not to the child's needs.
What the system has to offer does not
determine the child's needs. Children have the need and the right to be
fully included in their schools, neighborhood programs and communities.
When all of a child's needs are met in an integrated way, it enhances
every area of their life. Professionals should not perpetuate having a
child focus only on their deficits. They should use their expertise to
adapt the system and the regular environments to meet all of the child's
needs. The focus must always remain on the child/family's life long
vision, the whole child and viewing the child as part of the whole
Written by Colleen F. Tomko
Material Copyrighted 1996 Kids Together, Inc.
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