Today I walked into my office (located at an adult day program) to the piercing sounds of wailing and sobbing. One of the students at this location was upset regarding having to leave class to go to a doctor’s appointment or something of that nature. I remember feeling sympathetic to his pain and anguish deep within me as I sat in my office; I don’t like to see anyone that upset.
Although the reason for his sadness was not significant, he perceived it as such. Nevertheless, what caught my attention was the way his teacher/caregiver responded to him during this time. She didn’t become impatient or agitated, like most people who were seating in the lobby; she knew just the right words and cues that would eventually render him calm. She looked at him in his eyes and reasoned with him while stroking him on his back; all of a sudden he was totally quiet. I’m so glad that this young man had such a caring and supporting staff member by his side.
Most adults with IDD end up spending their days at an Adult Day Program (ADP). ADPs offer individuals with disabilities the opportunity for experiencing meaningful interactions, and community participation; these facilities are designed to meet the distinctive social, emotional, and educational needs of individual adults with a wide range of disabilities (United Cerebral Palsy [UCP], 2015). However, some facilities and staff alike don’t share those principles.
It is imperative to have supportive staff and volunteers that will help reduce the daily stress levels that individuals with IDD experience. Studies prove that life event, such as (a) change of staff in the residence, (b) being attacked by another resident, (c) death of a first-degree relative, and (d) some daily changes are huge risk factors for stress and psychological problems in adults with IDD. Social support has been found to improve physical and mental health as well as play a protective role in times of anxiety.
Suggestions for ADP Directors/Owners
- Hire individuals with the right heart—talent and skills will follow with proper training
- Expect nothing short of compassion and a spirit of purpose
- Demand that all staff adhere to the set standards of excellence
- Encourage staff to treat their students with IDD even better than they would their own loved ones—no room for slackness
- Teach everyone to take all distressing occurences seriously, however miniscule they may seem
Finally, I implore all staff members and caregivers, to make the day program experience pleasant and enjoyable for all individuals with IDD; you never know what they are feeling inside or what their family or group home life dynamic is like.