Communication is not about what works best, but what is right.
When we define our job in terms of results, we struggle to support the men and women who receive services at ILC in a manner they deserve. Direct support professionals are sometimes tasked with certain responsibilities that they see as their own, and to this end, will do whatever they need to to accomplish their goals. I have heard on several occasions someone justify using baby talk with an adult because that adult “responds better” to the voice. I’ve heard people use words like mommy or tummy because the person they are talking to understands those words. I have seen recommendations for restrictions or token economies in the hopes of getting someone to do or stop doing a target behavior.
We need to be careful that we do not get too wrapped up in what “works” or what is “effective”. That is the kind of thinking that leads to threats or bribes. I have heard Dr. Tom Pomeranz, on several occasions say that “we need to behave the right way, even if the people around us don’t.” We need to give the men and women we support every opportunity to respond correctly to our appropriate behavior.
By treating people with a consistency they expect from people outside of ILC, we give them the opportunity to make relationships with people who are not necessarily paid to be around. We give people the skills to talk to a variety of people and we help people become self-advocates. By using an inappropriate tone of voice or by engineering artificial outcomes, we rob people of these opportunities and admit that they will need us forever. The best thing we can do is help people be successful with a range of supports and interactions.
When we concern ourselves only with the outcomes, it shows a lack of creativity and effort. We must be willing to do the hard work, the real work. We must be willing to measure “results” or “success” on how well we treat someone. We will always be most successful if we give people the respect and dignity we would want for ourselves, and we have to trust that doing the right thing will eventually lead to the best “results”.
Director of Training and Development