“Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make makes you.”
I do not know who John Maxwell was, but I do remember the above quote and I believe that quote helps to portray what we try to make our work about. Yes the focus of The Arc of Augusta is about individuals with DD (Developmentally Disabled), but it is also about choice and about empowering individuals to make their own choices. Many times the average person seems to forget about the power of choice, choosing what they want to do is still a mainstay of life. By and large we are a result of the choices we make.
As an organization The Arc advocates for the rights of DD individuals to live, to work if they so desire, to be as active in their community as they want to be and to spend their time where they choose. The Arc of Augusta offers two adult day support programs that help to provide socialization, education, activities and the opportunity for voluntary interaction with members of our local communities. Our staff does their best to assure that our programs meet what the individual wants to experience, wants to learn or wants to have fun with. It is a choice when an individual decides to attend our programs. We only serve adults with DD, but they are of every age group, every level of interest/ability and some have significant needs, but all are welcome. And it does not matter if the person who wants to attend comes 1 day a week or 2 or 3 days or maybe all 5 days that we are open, what matters is that we honor and respect the choice made by the individual. The people we serve may choose to be a part of either our Community Program or our Center Program only 2 days a week because 1 day in that week they work and the other 2 days are spent in another activity. We think that is wonderful! That shows that they get to participate where they want and from the choices they make.
As a parent of a disabled adult it is easy to simply assume we know what is best for our child if there is a disability, but what does that child or adult child think of it all? The individuals we serve are people first, and deserve the same opportunities, the same dreams and the same life we have and many times take for granted. We have to advocate for what we want and the individuals with DD themselves need to advocate as well, to communicate their stories, express the experiences they hope to have, and to talk about their dreams.
In my decade of service with The Arc I have learned from the people we serve and as a parent in that same time frame I have learned from my son. I have learned patience, I have learned perseverance, I have learned unconditional love and I have learned that everyone has the right to choose.
The Arc of Augusta not only advocates for the right to choose, but we practice it as well.
Warren J. McKeen