By Marcia Tewell
Quote from a participant in the presentation:
I cannot thank the Developmental Disability Council enough. My world is very challenging and bringing these resources – such as Mr. Martinis – to Colorado has made all the difference in helping our lives be more live-able. I think your work is a blessing. — Dr. L.
The Developmental Disabilities Council was pleased to host Jonathan Martinis JD of the D.C. Quality Trust regarding supported decision-making (SDM), which is a way of thinking/acting that can avoid guardianship. It is a great topic that
dovetails well with the new Settings Rules out of the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services. The hope with the rules (as well as many efforts previously) is that more and more decisions will be made by those receiving services and supports as decisions by others fades out. As these decisions are made, independence and real lives become more likely and learned helplessness decreases.
Although Jonathan indicates that there are times in which guardianship is necessary, he recommends SDM as the first option. Jonathan indicates that guardianship is NEVER needed just because you:
1) have ______,
2) are _____ years old,
3) need help,
4) because that has always been the way it has been, or
5) for your own good.
The most frequent referral for guardianship comes from school personnel when a student turns 18. Another common referral source is case management as well as hospital staff. A simple question posed when one thinks there is a need, is what do other people do who need advice or assistance? I always get advice on medical decisions, car repairs and definitely taxes- without guardianship. Usually ask an expert on the topic, a friend, or others for assistance – not seek guardianship. How many 18 year olds need assistance in making decisions? Likely, all.
Another large motivation for using SDM is that of impact on the individual, their self-confidence, their assumptions about responsibility, as well as providing a foundation/experience for future decisions. Studies have shown that if an individual uses SDM, they are healthier, more independent, well-adjusted, and better able to recognize abuse and resist it. Additionally they are more likely to have a real paid job, live independently, have friends other than staff or family, go on dates and socialize, and practice the religion of their choice. This has a similar parallel to inclusion in school. If a student has been in a regular classroom with good accommodations in school, they are much more likely to be included after they leave school. Some of these basic life-styles lead to increased participation in life generally.
One of many ironies Jonathan highlighted includes that of the goal of education to create students who are full citizens and self-determined. “Schools should focus on improving students’ ability to set goals, solve problems, make decisions and advocate for themselves and, just as importantly, to give students the opportunity to exercise these skills. (Wehmeyer and Gragoudas, 2004). The irony is that at 18 years of age, school staff often recommends guardianship – in opposition to what has been hopefully occurring the student’s entire educational career.
The above is a short summary of the concepts presented. Do visit a great website for further videos and information at: SupportedDecisionMaking.org . The information there is thorough and almost as good as hearing Jonathan live.