Patriots plan to draft individuals with developmental disabilities who've never played football?

At several of the settings where I see individuals with various developmental disabilities, I'm noticing a particular trend. It seems very common to hear staff and clients giving compliments on an individual's talents in the form of unrealistic aspirations. Here are examples of things I've heard:

"Look at him toss that football! He could play for the Patriots."
"She's an awesome singer. She should be on American Idol."
"Yeah, I do know a lot about movies, huh? I should work in Hollywood."

Now, I've talked before about the idea of not shooting people's goals down. I'm a firm believer in this. Research in the field of rehabilitation shows that people do best when they're working toward goals that are meaningful to them. But the problem with these things I'm hearing is that the "working toward" component isn't happening. Staff are missing a great opportunity here. Wouldn't it be fabulous to suggest that we find them a local weekend football league, or help them sign up for a music class at the adult education center, or see if their vocational program has any hours at a movie theater? Very few people make a living singing or acting or playing football, so why are we throwing around these careers as if they're readily achievable?

That being said, I definitely don't think we should shoot down someone's own goal. But if someone states that they'd love to play for the Patriots, why don't we provide them with the realistic feedback that professional players have a rare talent and practiced for years before playing professionally, so a first step toward getting involved in football would be to sign up for a local non-tryout league? Why would we communicating to someone who is not playing football seriously that they have a chance playing football for the Patriots? This is not accurate information. It's important to remember that people with developmental disabilities often do not understand hyperbole, even if they seem to have strong language skills.

I also think these lofty career goals originate from special education schools. It seems very developmentally typical that children (and their caretakers) in the elementary school years might talk about goals of being famous and talented. This usually disappears in the pre-teen years, when people start to recognize and pursue their own talents. I think though that for children in special education settings, staff continue to reinforce identities of "he wants to be a rock star!" and "she wants to be a TV host!" well into the teen years. This is well-intentioned, and is much better than identifying them as "invalid" or somesuch, but I believe it does them a disservice. Again, there is no need for staff to invalidate people's goals, but they can try to focus on realistic compliments ("he's really good at helping people" and "she's very neat and organized.") I think it's important to recognize that people with developmental disabilities often have few role models, and they often have a hard time understanding hyperbole. It's important that we help them recognize their true strengths and find outlets for these.


MLB-TV: what's the point?

I was considering getting MLB-TV, thinking I could spend less money on beer and nachos by watching baseball at home. It's $29.95 for the whole season. I poked around, and I found that they black out all Red Sox games in my ZIP code. What's the point then? Sure, there are still games I'd want to watch, but it's hardly worth it without Sox games.

Damn you, you stinkin baseball in-charge people who went and put the games on cable. Isn't baseball supposed to be the great American pastime? It should be freely broadcast over the airwaves, dammit.


Supported work programs help people with disabilities and can help just about any type of business

I recently observed a client who attends a supported work program and was very impressed by the way this particular program was run. Out of respect for his privacy, I don't want to mention which program, but please feel free to contact me if you'd like some of my observations and recommendations regarding various programs in the area.

I've written before about my mixed feelings regarding how some of these programs are run. At several programs I've observed, people are placed in settings where expectations of professionalism are nothing like they are in a typical work environment, they behave according to expectations of their current setting, then are assessed as not having the skills necessary to be professional in a typical work setting. As I've said many times, "treat someone like they're five years old and they'll act like it."

To give some background, some individuals in supported work programs are contracted out to perform labor such as cleaning or stocking (and might eventually be hired directly to do this type of work), while most of the individuals perform supervised tasks such as sorting, assembling, or packaging items. Common tasks include putting labels on envelopes or putting a certain number of items into a retail package and sealing it. These tasks can be adapted for people with various skill levels and can be closely supervised. One individual who can count reliably might be assigned to count objects, while another who has reliable motor skills might run the bags through a sealer. An individual who cannot count might be given a product that is packaged with one item per bag, or might be given an egg carton or similar aid to help with counting. Almost every individual with the exception of people with the most severe disabilities can participate in this type of work and be paid for it.

With automation and overseas outsourcing become more available and less expensive, it is becoming more profitable for companies to have their sorting and assembling done by machine or in a foreign country than to have it done by workers with disabilities. This means that these work programs often have a lack of work for individuals to do, sometimes for several days. Because most of these individuals require supervision at all times, they continue to attend the program regardless of whether there is work. If they were in a community where supported work was not available, they would likely attend a day center each day and would never have the opportunity for paid work.

At several programs I've visited, the program response to a lack of available work is to insist that individuals seat in assigned seats and participate in unpaid assigned activities. Individuals might be asked to complete worksheets or do similar tasks. In my view, this is unrelated to real-world vocational skills and is insulting to these individuals. I've also observed that individuals report resentment and feel disrespected. And indeed, it does seem strange and disrespectful to ask individuals to complete unpaid work for staff convenience. When I work in settings where I'm paid for each therapy session, no one tells me how I have to spend the time when I'm not seeing clients. If Blue Cross or MassHealth sent me a letter telling me how I have to spend my free time, I'd quickly be on the phone with the attorney general. Even in salaried or hourly settings, I've never been given expectations for my downtime aside from the basic expectation that I be respectful of those around me. Why should individuals who are not being paid be asked to do anything other than being basically respectful?

At the setting I visited last week, I saw staff offering individuals choices of leisure activities such as tossing around a football in the parking lot or watching movies, but staff made it clear that these were truly choices and were not required activities. I saw a number of individuals looking through magazines they'd brought, socializing, or listening to their iPods. What I noticed most was that aside from the infrequent comments regarding disappointment at the lack of work, the individuals were happy to be there. I didn't hear the usual complaints about how "I have to come to this place that has no work for us, so they make me fill out worksheets."

I'm now going to end with a shameless plug in which I encourage everyone to consider hiring individuals with disabilities. Just about any business has roles for these folks, whether it's janitorial work, collecting recycling bins, answering phones, sorting, assembling, or making copies. Some individuals, depending on the extent of their disability, can legally be paid below the minimum wage (this isn't actually a bad thing; it enables them to keep their other benefits so they can get healthcare, housing, disability services, transportation, etc.) and the business might qualify for tax breaks. The programs I know of off the top of my head in the Boston area are Center House Enterprises, East Middlesex Industries, and Work Inc.. If you're in another area, you can likely find a similar program by contacting your state's mental health or developmental disabilities department and asking for names of vocational programs.


This is actually a serious question about why the MBTA elevators suck

Hopefully someone who knows more about elevators than I do can answer this. Why is it that the elevators in most every MBTA station, including the new ones, take about 10 seconds to slowly slide into place once they're almost to their destination? The elevators don't seem to do this in any other building, including buildings with old and downright scary elevators.


Sometimes misuse of quotation marks isn't just stupid; it's downright disrespectful and unethical

In the past week, I've come across a disturbing number of records from various mental health providers in which an aspect of someone's life is placed in quotation marks. For example:

lives with her "fiancé"

has been spending the mornings at his "job" (in the case of someone who is paid cash for doing odd jobs at a local business)

his "girlfriend" was observed to be in the apartment

told this writer about several of his "friends"

belongs to a "Kingdom Hall"

What is the deal here? I really wish I could just attribute this to shoddy grammatical skills, but unfortunately I'm familiar with the writing style of all of the people who completed these records (or received a large enough sample to decently assess the writing skills), and none of these individuals seem to be deficient in use of grammar or punctuation. They all seem to have a good command of the language. Good enough, in fact, that they effectively used subtle sarcasm, rather than objectively describing whatever reservations they had about someone's friends or place of employment or place of worship. Which, if they had spelled out in prose, they would have probably realized were inappropriate and not their place to make judgments.

Because, really, what would you write? "Told this writer about several people who he refers to as his friends, but who, in this writer's judgment after a five-minute conversation, are clearly not friends, which indicates that he does not have sufficient judgment in terms of the language he uses to define the people in his life?" Even if it was relevant to note that he was describing dysfunctional relationships, I don't see how it's anyone's place to question the word he uses to define someone's role. Plus, the writer eliminated potentially helpful information, such as whether the person seems to have a strong support system, or maybe doesn't seem to have such supportive friends.

"Lives with someone whom she refers to as her fiancé, except that I can't just accept this at face value, because they haven't shown me any engagement documents, and there's no way I can just trust information from someone in the DMH system, wait, you say there's no such thing as engagement documents? Well in that case..." I can't fathom why the quotes were remotely necessary or appropriate.

"Job"? "JOB"? The only gramatically appropriate use of quotes around this word would be if the person were a prostitute or pimp or drug dealer, and in that case, it clearly isn't appropriate in any type of serious writing. In the case of this guy, why can't we just be pleased that he's doing something with his time that doesn't hurt anyone?

I think the "Kingdom Hall" one offends me the most. Yes, that is in fact what this particular place of worship is called. It does not need to be in quotes. Do you remember that part of ethics class where you learned that if you're not familiar with your client's culture, you get familiar with it? A quick google search would tell you that this is indeed a legitimate place to worship. Hell, even if the person reports that they attend the local Adifjidalofeliv Eudfkmgushdsldn, does it matter if you or I approve of the place?

Next time I get a record like this, I think I'm going to send a reply addressed to the "director of the school" or the "nursing supervisor." Or putting people's credentials in quotes. Or possibly their names.


I know it's the Metro and all, but...

...either hire an editor, or just stick to reporting only the fluff stories. If you're going to run stories that give personal details of the life of someone who's accused of a crime, you're going to want to make sure some fact-checking is occurring. You know, libel laws and all that.

This is from today's front-page story, about a woman charged with a killing:

who listed a litany of drugs she takes to treat bi-polar disorder and manic depression

Quick, can you spot the error?

That's right, "bipolar disorder" (note that it shouldn't have a hyphen) is a correct term for a diagnosis. "Manic-depressive illness" (ah, that's where the hyphen came from) was an older term and isn't currently used as a diagnosis. "Manic depression" and variants are sometimes used as the names of books or support groups, but are now considered colloquial.

The important thing is that they refer to the same freakin' illness. She doesn't have both disorders, because, uh, they're different names for the same thing. No, this error doesn't greatly change the intended meaning of the information being conveyed, but it's clear that the person who gathered the facts didn't run the diagnoses by a professional to make sure they'd gotten down the right terms. Hell, they clearly didn't even google the diagnoses. I wonder what other more important facts they didn't bother to check.


Won't you be my neighbor?

My downstairs neighbor is selling her place and asked me if I'd try to see if anyone I knew was interested. I don't actually know anyone who is looking to buy right now, so, I figured I'd go with the universal solution to everything: blog about it!

So, it's four bedrooms, about 1100 square feet, and it's the second floor of a triple-decker. The place is on a woodsy residential street on Fort Hill, 0.2 miles from the train station. There's coin-op washing machines in the basement. I'm pretty sure the unit doesn't have working laundry hookups, but the kitchen is configured to install hookups and stacked machines. For people who've been to my place, this unit is pretty much exactly the same as mine. It has hardwood floors throughout and a lot of original (1893) details. It has gas heat and hot water. $299,000.

These are pictures of my unit when it was empty:

kitchen -- picture I stole from realty website master bedroom -- picture I stole from realty website living room -- picture I stole from realty website mantle -- picture I stole from realty website

And here's the exterior:

Our house


Because Boston shark attack is so much more fun than posting actual content

As far as the Boston shark attack is going, at least one of my tricks to improve google ranking seems to have worked. Once the game has died down, I'll share what I think helped, if anyone's interested. In the meantime, I bring you this screen capture. Because you can never be too rich, too attacked by sharks in Boston, or too proud of yourself on the internet:





Boston shark attack, anyone?


Boston shark attack, or something

Charles Swift and his Boston shark attack posts are at the top of the google ranking now. He thinks it's because he has Boston shark attack in his post title and in his url. I'm going to play around and see if he might be onto something. I think that having links in and out, especially to high-ranking sites, might also be helpful, so I'm also testing out that theory.

I'm thinking it might also help if I post some stupid image that I stole somewhere and renamed Boston shark attack.

(I mean, why post actual content when you use your blog to mess with search engines?)


Boston attacked by sharks; Smoot Bridge unscathed

So, all the cool bloggers, like Charles Swift and Jay Fitzgerald, are trying to get the highest google ranking for their posts about Boston shark attack. As far as I know, Boston hasn't actually been attacked by any actual sharks, and this is just some dumb internet game that started when Jay posted about various shark articles in the Boston media and decided it was shark week, which made other bloggers talk about Boston being attacked by sharks and making blog posts about Boston shark attack. And stuff.


In which I refrain from making snarky comments about Texas

I was writing a treatment plan for someone who wants to quit smoking, and I needed one of those worksheets that helps someone identify why/when/how they want to quit and set goals based on this.

I did some googling, and the first annoying thing I encountered was that most of the hits I got for "smoking assessment worksheet" and "quit smoking plan" brought up drug company websites. Now, at first I was happy that drug company sites were coming up, because a lot of the manufacturers of antipsychotics and mood stabilizers have great resources on their sites focusing on components of recovery other than medication. I have no problem with giving my clients many of these pamphlets from drug company websites. This wasn't the case with the smoking drugs; their "worksheets" all involve checking off a few boxes, which instantly leads to the determination that they're a candidate for the drug being marketed. Nice.

So, I started narrowing my search down to focusing on the sites of medical centers, public health departments, and universities, thinking they'd have more neutral information. I noticed that several pages all over the country are recommending trytostop.org, a project of our very own Massachusetts Department of Public Health. I poked around on it, and it's a wonderful site. It has lots of great information, and it has a "quit wizard" that seems to be exactly what I was looking for.

Only one problem: the site requires users to create a login, and the assessment and goal-setting is set up so that someone can only do it interactively. There is no way to just print out the questions and use the resource without a computer, or at least not without a lot of reverse engineering. Sure, I'm the first one to say that interactive gadgets are great, but come on people, this is the Department of Public Health. Aren't they, like, required to provide information in formats that are accessible to everyone? This individual has a very low income, no computer, and no computer skills. This person needs a worksheet.

Fortunately, the Texas Department of State Health Services has a much less-snazzy website, with their smoking assessment and goal-setting worksheet in a convenient .pdf format that can be printed out and handed to someone. I guess I wouldn't expect anything less from the state that has the coolest anti-littering campaign materials ever.


MBTA introduces solution for wet-pants problems during rainy-day commutes

I was just IMing with the lovely Jodie regarding how it's normally cool when rain is falling sideways, except when it does this as one is walking to the T, which results in having wet pants for the rest of the morning. As usual, she had a brilliant solution:

Don't wear pants while walking to the T.

It's perfect. It takes care of everything, plus it provides valuable entertainment for fellow passengers.

Really, it's the best solution to all of the MBTA's problems. All they need to do is install pants-changing booths in the stations, and roll out an ad campaign advising passengers to wait until safely in the station before putting on pants.

HELLO THIS IS DAN GRABAUSKAS. DRYNESS IS OUR NUMBER ONE CONCERN AT THE MBTA. IN ORDER TO PROVIDE THIS FOR OUR PASSENGERS, WE'VE INSTALLED PANTS-CHANGING STATIONS IN MBTA VEHICLES AND STATIONS. THANK YOU FOR RIDING THE MBTA.

Once pantless commuting, uh, takes off, they could charge triple the fare and run trains half as often and not a single person would care. The whole commuting experience could revolve around the donning of pants:

ATTENTION MBTA PASSGENGERS. DUE TO ROUTINE INCOMPETENCE, WE ARE EXPERIENCING DELAYS. FOR THOSE OF YOU WAITING IN AN OUTDOOR STATION, PLEASE CONTINUE TO WAIT ON THE PLATFORM BEFORE PUTTING ON YOUR PANTS. WE APOLOGIZE FOR THE INCONVENIENCE AND THANK YOU FOR RIDING THE MBTA.

I think this is almost ready to present to them. All it needs is a good slogan. Drop trou then drop token--OH WAIT THERE AREN'T ANY ANYMORE. Charlie doesn't wear pants and neither should you? Eh.


Boston.com pays tribute to government-sanctioned homophobia

Boston.com is running a lovely little tribute to the Boy Scouts of America. It isn't the tribute itself that's offensive, as mainstream media frequently commemorates anniversaries of events that aren't necessarily supposed to be seen in a positive light (disasters, bombings, genocides, etc.) What's bothersome is that their tribute portrays the Boy Scouts as something that's been a part of the lives of many "great Americans," yet completely glosses over how the Boy Scouts isn't an option for many talented and hard-working Americans.

There's also a mention of the scouting movement having started in England, yet no mention of how the English scouts have a nondiscrimination policy.

Their comparison of the American Boy Scouts to the American Girl Scouts is particularly offensive. I'm particularly offended as someone who was a scout for many years and continues to support the Girl Scouts. The Girl Scouts is an organization that actively conducts research and initiates programs that promote diversity and acceptance of self and others. It's a very progressive and feminist organization, really. The Boy Scouts is an organization that actively works to inflitrate our public schools and public community centers with groups and events that exclude individuals and families who are athiest or include queers. They use government resources to spread the message that it's important to teach leadership and discipline to boys, but only those who are straight boys from straight parents. Is it to much to expect that professional journalists would know that every group with "scout" in the name is not the same type of organization?

For those who are interested in some aspects of Boy Scouting but don't wish to support homophobia, Scouting for All provides resources for starting troops that have an antidiscrimination policy at the troop level, and helps members and families locate these troops. As far as I know, the troops still have to pay dues to the (homophobic) national organization, so it's not perfect, but it's at least a way to be involved in scouting without supporting homophobia to quite the same extent. And no, Boston.com didn't bother to mention this wonderful organization. So, uh, happy 100th anniversary, Boy Scouts. Hopefully it won't be another 100 years until your organization learns that real leaders need to be taught acceptance of everyone.