We find solutions to the problems families face with disability services. It can be a challenge to get what you need when your situation is unique. If your needs don't fit what the system offers, meeting the needs calls for an innovative approach. That's what we do. (Not in photo: Brooke Varma, Kathy Crump)
"We always try to make everybody feel like they are part of the solution. When everyone feels included, everyone contributes to the solution."
Her Focus: Connecting families and caregivers with her team of consultants and publicly available resources.
Her Inspiration: As Nancy was growing up, her parents modeled the importance of living the Golden Rule, “Treat others the way you would like to be treated.” This belief system is the foundation of the work she does, and as a result—the time she puts in never feels like work, but more like a journey.
"We see the landscape in a way that none other of the individual players do. We come in to build a relationship, then identify the services you need. We can’t do anything until we earn your trust. "
Her Approach: Over decades of work with people with disabilities, Nancy saw that the system has become complex. There are numerous disconnected managers of the many parts and no one overseeing all of it. Her vision for Inclusion Consultants is to connect, coach and empower families and caregivers to benefit from publicly available resources.
"Trust is important because you are asking people to make changes, typically in times of crisis. You can build trust in a relationship, if you can prove that you will always be there."
"Every individual and situation is unique. My passion is working alongside families, school teams, and other professionals to meet those unique needs."
Her Focus: Meaningful inclusion for children and young adults in education and the community as a whole.
Her Inspiration: Brooke has the unique perspective of growing up in the disability community alongside her brother with Down syndrome. She is also the mother of two little girls, one of whom has multiple diagnoses.
"For inclusion to be effective it has to be meaningful. "
Her Approach: She is known for educating clients and families and preparing them to take the lead whenever possible. She arms her clients with “one liners”, key terminology, and effective strategies to be their own best advocate.
"I want to give you the knowledge you need to handle any situation with confidence."
“One of my priorities in life is helping people.”
Her Focus: Discovering what a client needs from her and giving it to them in a dignified way.
Her Inspiration: Kathy has an encompassing compassion for people. She wants to help others achieve a better quality of life and reach their personal best. Her character has been shaped by being in a military family and always learning to make the best of each situation. She shares those skills to help others become more resilient in daily life.
“When you invite people in, make sure you make them understand they are welcome with you."
Her Approach: Kathy's priority as an inclusion specialist is to establish trust and to make a connection with her clients. She has broad experience and interests and connects on a personal level while maintaining a professional relationship. She calls her approach "tough love," which to her means getting her clients to recognize that there are some things that need to be done in order to grow and learn, "even if you don't want to do them or if doing them makes you feel uncomfortable.''
“It doesn’t matter to me who you are or what you can or cannot do, I treat people the way that I want to be treated, with dignity, understanding, and respect.”
"As a consultant, I can say the exact same thing a parent says and get results, but the parent can’t. Why? The adult child doesn’t have an emotional history with me."
Her Focus: Helping people with disabilities build independent living skills.
Her Inspiration: Rhiannon has seen how far people can go with a little support and guidance. She believes people can do anything with a little help from friends.
"We do the tough work behind the scenes so it looks seamless for the family."
Her Approach: Rhiannon begins by learning what a client finds most challenging, and that's where the work is focused. Some clients want to socialize and participate in new experiences, and others need her help to find a job. She puts together outings and helps with application processes. She works with several different family members to ensure that an accurate picture is presented to agencies providing benefits.
"Everyone needs to be clear about each step we need to take. I want both the client and the caregiver to know that I am very transparent."
"All people with disabilities continue to develop new skills over their lifetime. We start by accepting individuals as they are and providing the appropriate level of support."
Her Focus: Solving inclusion challenges with adults with disabilities and their families.
Her Inspiration: Donna founded SPARC, SPecially Adapted Resource Clubs, because she wanted to offer adults with disabilities a welcoming place with opportunities to learn every day. The weekday clubhouses are in four areas of Northern Virginia.
"I’ve learned to listen, to really just hear things truly from another person’s point of view. We learn from each other at SPARC."
Her Approach: Her first goal is to help the adult client with a disability have a voice and express their preferences. Next, is to make sure the client's caregivers are knowledgeable about resources and take care of themselves. And just as much, to help make sure that service providers are doing what they are supposed to do.
"I know that adult children are very different when they're with their families. Our relationships with our participants and their families are at the core of everything because relationships feed into trust. Trust is the foundation for successful outcomes."
"The challenge for parents and caregivers is to feel responsibility and still be willing to hand some things over to someone else, and say, 'Help me.'”
Her Focus: Building language skills in social and work situations, and skills that affect understandability of speech.
Her Inspiration: Miriam's adult daughter has developmental disabilities. Miriam and her husband struggled to sustain their careers, to manage their daughter's disability and to plan for the future. When they realized they couldn't do it all, they turned to Inclusion Consultants for help. And now Miriam is giving the same kind of help to other families like hers.
"I surrendered a lot of what I do to Nancy and Inclusion Consultants because I knew what was in my toolbox. But I didn’t know what all the possibilities were for her."
Her Approach: Miriam says she wants parents to plan for "DD+1," which is the day after both parents have died. It's a blunt way of looking at it, but it frames the discussion in a clear way. Her goal is to help caregivers make sure that on DD+1, their child's life is as similar to the days before as possible.
"My daughter is taking on roles we never thought she would ever take on because we built in a structure to support her."
"Everyone is kind of afraid, parents included. You approach it by nurturing, but also with tough love."
Her Focus: Supporting and helping clients and families transitions to independent living.
Her Inspiration: Mikelle is inspired by witnessing others living each day to their fullest potential. She worked several years as a Program Manager, providing residential supports to persons with IDD and mental illness. She is dedicated to helping people gain independence, confidence and personal success in all areas of life.
"I have the ability to connect with adults with disabilities because I am able to gain trust. And I don’t give up."
Her Approach: She starts by building rapport and establishing a trusting relationship. Mikelle empowers her clients and caregivers by actively listening to them about what they want their life to be. With that in mind, she creates and helps maintain a system of supports that can get them through challenges. At times, she will step in to defuse a stressful situation, but always with the goal of giving the caregiver resources and contacts that can empower them to handle things themselves.
"Making decisions for your adult child encourages them to be dependent on you. It’s okay to let go. If you let go, you will see your child can do things you didn’t expect.”
"A major part of the conversation is 'What do you want?' and 'How can I help you get that?'”
His Focus: Supporting people with IDD and mental illness and substance-abuse issues.
His Inspiration: Rob's inspiration comes from the rewarding feeling of watching people believe in themselves and gain self confidence. He is inspired by the challenges of gaining someone's trust after a lifetime of doubt, that he is someone who actually hears what they want and can help them get that to live the life they desire. His inspiration is simply a genuine desire to help people learn how to help themselves as much as possible.
“One of the things I find is that trust is built on honesty. You can count on me to tell you the truth and to do what I said I am going to do.”
His Approach: Rob starts a new relationship with his clients by asking a lot of questions but also by listening. His approach is based on openness and trust. Everyone is different, so the approaches need to be different. What he does consistently is apply the "tough love" approach. He coaches caregivers and listens to their concerns. He wants to know their limits and respect them faithfully.
"Not everyone has a successful story, at least not yet. Success requires having many things in place all at the same time."
"We are not here to argue. We are here to listen and find out why things are the way they are."
His Focus: Supporting families with complex eligibility and families that prefer not to engage public services.
His Inspiration: Richard worked for years as a case manager, finding himself drawn to complex cases. As a private consultant, Richard embraces the challenge of using his knowledge, techniques and skills to help and educate families who need it.
"I offer solutions to the client along a range of options. Each has pros and cons, so we talk about each option to see what fits."
His Approach: Richard creates a service plan that involves and gives responsibilities to both the client and caregiver. It's an action plan sets out priorities, goals and target dates. He cautions his clients that accessing services usually involves a lot of documentation. It requires careful planning and most of the time there are waiting lists for services. But there are still things the client and family can do while waiting. It's good to plan for a “marathon, not a sprint," he says.
"I like the challenge of helping people who've fallen through the cracks of the public-services system."
"I work with people to help them navigate the world around them. That’s different for everyone, with different living situations, work environments and social lives."
Her Focus: Helping clients develop social skills, plan social interactions and make community connections.
Her Inspiration: Merle's son, Adam, is an adult with cerebral palsy who she says is "tired of listening to his parents." She knows from experience that adults with disabilities need someone they can turn to for advice that a parent might give but who is NOT their own parent.
"I'm not your mother, but I can do what I think your mother might have done."
Her Approach: Merle takes her clients with disabilities under her wing and helps them decide what their needs are. When she's talking with caregivers and clients about goals, she reminds the caregiver of the client’s strengths and weaknesses. Recognizing a client’s needs helps set realistic expectations for the caregiver, but recognizing their strengths helps them both aim higher.
"It’s really valuable to see a situation through fresh eyes. Inclusion Consultants has a different perspective, and we understand the context of the system."