There was a group of very disappointed folks this week watching the TV weather reports. In just a three-week span, we have had to cancel both a trip to the County Fair Amusement Park and to The Long Island Game Farm. These get-togethers are important for the people we support, not just because of the social opportunities they offer, but because they are inherently different and build flexibility.
We talk constantly about community building and strategies for strengthening relationships in our towns. One technique we often employ is assisting the person we support to set up a schedule. They can then go to the same places in their community each week and see the same people. I love talking to everyone on the Circles of Support and hearing all of the success stories. They range from being the “mayor of the bagel store” to being approached for a job because the owner said the person is “here all the time anyway”. There are numerous studies proving the effectiveness of these techniques. We need to continue to train DSS (Direct Support Staff) in the newest areas of research regarding sameness in routines and community building.
However, the area of research and training we seem to spend less time on is Behavior Flexibility—trying new things as well as sticking to routine. Last week I was reading an article in Research in Developmental Disabilities, Vol 29, Issue 5, Sept-Oct 2008, regarding the Behavior Flexibility Scale (BFRSR). Of course it was another rainy day here on Long Island, so a good day for following up with other articles on Behavior Flexibility. I started to think about the applied value of some of this research. Specifically, how important it is to help the folks we support be comfortable with change, handle disappointment like rainy days and canceled trips, deal with long lines when none were expected and embrace new staff who come along with new talents, interests and ideas.
Scheduling these trips based on interest-based feedback is an important part of building behavioral flexibility.
This week we offered suggestions to everyone about what do if the trip were canceled. I felt encouraged when I saw all the independent thinking and flexible suggestions. We don’t want to be one of those big groups of people who converge upon the mall food court looking like a “day camp, day hab or school gone AWOL.” It worked out so well with this rain cancellation that some people texted each other and went to the movies, some met for lunch at the mall, some folks used the rainy day to just stay home and clean or do laundry and of course someone had the idea of going to the puppy store! This started some major conversations about the difference between breeders and pet stores. We identified 14 different dog species and had several bouts of uncontrollable laughter. We were also able to discuss what everyone wanted to do under the pavilion if our Beach Party gets rained out next week. I now feel better about rain and cancellations since I can remind myself that it increases behavioral flexibility in all of us! T.G.G.