Each consumer of TSA has a team leader and a team of staff who works with him or her. The emphasis of our files, hands-on training, input of team, and planning for any consumer is to acquaint ourselves with their abilities, interests, needs, and especially how they communicate them. Each individual’s goal becomes our goal. We understand our customers’ goals by helping them to expand their experiences, and from these they will make choices.
We learn the difference between safety and risk-taking; refusal and reluctance. Sometimes there is interest shown, but there is also discomfort because it is new to them. In many situations we give them the opportunity to retry an experience. If a consumer is just not interested, we follow their lead and then move on to other options.
We then help persons demonstrate behaviors and social skills that are appropriate so they can be more independent in their participation. We have seen consumers change the way they have habitually acted when the individual can directly see how these sometimes unusual, inappropriate, or even unacceptable behaviors affect their independence. We help consumers actually identify these and give them the chance to change by providing a safe and reassuring environment in which to do so.
We allow them the opportunity to deal with their good times and disappointing times, and then to problem solve. For example: A consumer may arrive at a planned event only to find it has been cancelled. They must learn to deal with this disappointment in a socially acceptable manner, and then learn they can be flexible enough to make a new plan.
For some people, simply changing their routine can be very upsetting at first. This doesn’t mean they don’t want to make the adjustment. We need to show them what they are missing, and give them time to learn that those same routines may be there waiting for them when they get back. Or perhaps, consumers may create a new lifestyle as a result of exploring, participating in, and living everyday experiences, while using the very resources that are available to all citizens in their community.
Making plans and living life in the ‘Main Street USA’ affords us many opportunities to help teach these lessons. As a team person, we keep the rest of the team informed about problems and successes. Our plans hinge on whether or not the individual agrees with them. Consumers’ extent of participation typically increases as they learn we will respect their choices.
Since we perform our work beyond walls, we take the opportunities to enjoy the forest by creating new paths. Consumer choice is first and foremost in what we do.
Karen Weyenberg, Community Aide/Team Leader