(IRI) Independence Residence, Inc. (the IRI facebook page is here and twitter is here too : IRI and their youtube page is here: IRI) is a non-profit agency that works to help establish connections and better relationships for people with developmental disabilities and other disabilities to be self-actualized, committed to fulfilling independence, guiding the people they serve, and creating connections to last for a lifetime. This is what IRI does because they really care and are simply the best agency in the New York City region.
I started at IRI back in 2013 as a mentor/self-advocacy liaison as I continuously work to strive to positively impact the individuals that are served by the agency. Before I started at IRI, I always knew what I wanted to do, but was afraid to go about it. IRI gave me this opportunity as a gift that has allowed me to embark on my journey toward not only self-discovery, but a journey at helping others in the disability community find themselves and their voice.
Self-Advocacy is an important factor that helps people know who they are by identifying the way any one feels comfortable, learning to speak up, knowing their civil rights, learning what taking responsibilities means in their daily lives, helping our friends speak up when they are worn out or overloaded, and incorporating every aspect of their life by giving to the world the gift of self-actualization.
My work at IRI started out in this way especially when I started working with about 6 to 7 of their self-advocacy groups late in 2013 to teach self-advocacy, self-determination, and living an independent life. I have done so much for them so far including creating presentations, creating my self-advocacy board game, using my muppet “Max” (non-binary gender, multi-sensory, Autistic, 85 years old, Max is non-binary gender in appreciation of those friends who really are non-binary gender) from December 2010 when I bought them at Columbus Circle. I continuously build connections with not only all the individuals who are my peers, but with the staff who I can say are my peers too in the broader community.
I have earned their respect. I have helped in so many ways including the way they thought about re-writing a vision, mission, and values statements for their organization. I brought them to the next level of being able to guide the individuals they serve toward the person’s with disabilities self-determination.
Now I have self-direction services in which they were part of the help toward me achieving this for myself as I help their individuals. Although, my self-direction services is through Westchester Institute of Human Development, ARC of Rockland, and my 13 people and growing of my circle of support I create for myself.
What is self-determination?
Well, self-determination means something different for everyone. That’s the beauty of self-determination is that it is a definition that changes for each person’s own individuality. Some people need a balance of the medical model and social model while others need solely the social model of disability. Social model of disability is obviously the not so stigmatizing model. The social model is good for everyone to understand that they have a choice of whatever is good for them. This is what is called ‘person centered’ approach.
Social Model vs. Medical model
The medical model is not and never is ‘person centered’ because it states that the person is the problem and needs to be fixed or eradicated from society. It also is stigmatizing in many other ways by saying that the person is not human and a burden unless they conform or fix their ways to be like the mainstream ‘status quo’ of the society the individual belongs to.
Conforming can be in the way people move, make eye contact, quiet hands, or even speak with the same language as the masses do. The ‘status quo’ is not necessarily bad, it just means that everyone is standardizing the approach to communication, language, movement, hearing, sight, touch, and expressing oneself in the world. This is why the social model of disability is better!
Is this right or wrong? Well, it depends on what an individual wants from their life. Some people are fascinated with the status quo. But, what does the status quo even mean? What does it mean to be mainstream?
Communication is Key!
Some people or most people in society, expect immediate responses to their communication in an impromptu response through speaking through the mouth. However, any one who speaks too deviant from however the status quo mainstream people speak, is often shunned, ostracized, silenced, placed in institutions, and/or written off as not even human due to being seen as bad people by much of society. This is the reason why mainstream society and the majority individual non-disabled citizens of the world strive for perfection with their black and white thinking of what they deem the ‘perfect’ human being. This is not right, not fair, and does not allow diversity to thrive in the world.
Everyone is different and societies in this world need to remember diversity matters rather than pretending it does. Differences is what makes us human no matter who we are and what we do to achieve our successes in the world. If you meet one human being, you’ve only met one human being.
Appreciating and grateful for my connections I make and my family
IRI, CUNY SPS, JCC in Manhattan, ASAN, my connections I made from CAFETY, SANYS, the many peers I have met through the years especially since 2013, and of course my wonderful loving family have all helped and continuously help me in so many ways.
I have created an amazing network of people I can say I know and cherish every moment of my life as an amazing creative story that I make for myself. If it wasn’t for these people I have in my life, I would not been given a chance to embark on my own self-determination. Not only that I am now able to build my goal of finally becoming the person I always wanted to be. Ultimately, finding my voice and self even though it’s hard when being influenced by so many people I talk with in my interactions in the community. And, these people help find and give me my voice!
Detaching from other people’s conclusions to finding my Authentic Self
It’s difficult to detach from other people’s conclusions when I have thousands of people’s conclusions in my mind that confuses me. I am learning to detach each and every conclusion to formulate my own personal conclusions without forgetting any of these people either (meditation is the perfect grounding point for me). Everyone’s story and conclusions is important and unique to them. Though, my voice and authentic self is what counts to what I want for myself and what is good for me, nothing more. That is my self-determination!
“Turning Dreams Into Reality”
Happy Autism Acceptance Month that begins in 24 hours as April begins. Thank you for everything from everyone who helps me especially my family! It is my life now and what I want to do finally and guess what, I have not only my family supporting me, but so many others as well.
Emotions roll over us all the time, but it’s just a matter of staying a positive force in the world to become the wonderful person that we are with the spirit that lies within us…
Love is wonderful thing!
Now, listen to this song: (Almost Paradise by Mike Reno)