Guest Blogger, Pam GreenThis week I am pleased to introduce our guest blogger, Pam Green, Shared Living Placement Coordinator and Self Advocacy Advisor for Horace Mann Educational Associates (H.M.E.A).

During my college experience, I first majored in Communication Disorders and then switched to Sports Management. Curiously enough, the first 15 years out of college I managed a Health Club then owned my own fitness studio. In 1994, I started working for H.M.E.A., a wonderful company that supports individuals with developmental disabilities.

It is here where I first learned about self-advocacy and the importance of opportunity for all.

Self Advocates choose to learn

Leaders Educate Advocacy Delegate Empower Respect Support (L.E.A.D.E.R.S.) GroupTwo years ago, with the support of H.M.E.A. I was offered the role of co-advisor for a local chapter of Mass Advocates Standing Strong, (M.A.S.S.). It soon became apparent that this group was eager to learn, explore, and take control of their lives.

While researching topics and trainings for this group, I came across the curriculum for My Health, My Choice and My Responsibility, developed by the Westchester Institute for Human Development in collaboration with the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State. Topics include developing a health plan, self-advocating at the doctor’s office, physical activity, nutrition, safety and cleanliness in the home, hygiene, and emotional health. The program is designed to be used directly by users with special needs to learn about healthy living.

Bingo! Finally, 33 years since college, I found a way to make BOTH of my majors relevant in this one training!

App offers self directed learning

What’s really wonderful about this training is Able Link’s cognitively accessible self-directed learning App for iPads. With monies received from a grant, we were able to purchase two iPads for the self-advocates to use during our sessions. We also incorporated the opportunity for each self-advocate to co-train with an advisor, adding to their learning experience.

Each session has been a wonderful collaboration of personal experience and sharing among the self-advocates. They listen to each other. The teach each other. They want to learn more.

If we truly want to support individuals with developmental disabilities, we must continue to offer individuals the opportunity to learn.

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”
John Fitzgerald Kennedy