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The Meadows Blog

Equality

Michael Crawley - Saturday, October 05, 2013

Equality is an all-inclusive concept, however, far too many of us feel free to make exceptions at will. Why do we find it easy to believe that some people are equals while, at the same time, we are convinced that others are not? What do we base our assumptions on? What criteria do we use to compare ourselves to others? And how does it feel to realize that we are the ones not being treated as equals?

For equality to be real, it absolutely must apply to everyone - and that includes men, women and children with intellectual challenges. Every person, no matter what their IQ, cognitive function or mental acuity might be, must be accepted as a completely equal member of society. For true equality to exist, there can be no exceptions.

Equality is a profoundly important truth, and yet many are still not willing to recognize it. They are convinced that if a person is nonverbal, or has autism or Down syndrome or some other type of challenge they are less than equal. These people feel superior to those who need supports and services to live as independently as possible. They look down on individuals who require 24 hour care. They are quick to pass judgment on anyone who looks or acts differently than them. They are certain that the 3% of the population with developmental disabilities is not equal to the other 97%.

Believing that inequality is natural, and therefore acceptable, tears at the fabric of our culture. It provides an unjustifiable excuse to prevent people from reaching their potential. It makes their needs invisible to us. Thinking that inequality is a valid point of view allows us to rationalize why it is okay for individuals with great power to take advantage of those with less power. It becomes far too easy for society to neglect people who are vulnerable, because men and women without a voice are easier to ignore. It leads us on a downward spiral until we actually begin to believe that some lives are not worth as much as others.

Tragically, if we do not begin to endorse equality for all, we are doomed to repeat the past. A past filled with disrespect and abuse. A past that created unnecessary suffering and hardship. A past where so many were left behind. But that does not have to be our future - if we are willing to learn from our mistakes.

The belief that we are all equal is the highest ideal human beings can aspire to.

Equality has to be at the very core of our values because it increases the level of tolerance we have for others. It allows us to appreciate the fact that people can contribute to society no matter what their particular challenges might be. In essence, it makes the world a better place for all of us because it allows everyone to live with dignity.

Once we subscribe to the idea that all people are completely equal, we begin to stand up for their rights. We provide them with the range of assistance they need and deserve. We see them not as statistics but as people who deserve the opportunity to live and thrive. Believing in equality enriches our lives. It creates in us the desire to reach out to everyone regardless of their circumstances. It makes us want to take action immediately, and not wait. We realize that the injustice endured by others is something that cannot be tolerated. We develop a willingness to accept responsibility for the well-being of those who are vulnerable.

That is why our acceptance of equality is so critical. It recognizes the worth of every individual above and beyond anything else. It rejects bias and prejudice and replaces them with tolerance and inclusion. It allows people to be accepted for who they are - not for who we want them to be. Equality is the natural outcome when we practice diversity. It is the life affirming result of compassion. Embracing the concept of equality is a moral imperative because it inspires us to act in a positive and benevolent way which is vital in the fight against the injustice that too many people with developmental disabilities still face.

Equality allows society to understand that our perceived differences are nothing more than self-imposed illusions that have no basis in reality. It convinces us that judgments, made without the facts, are wrong and can divide us. It teaches us that trying to categorize human beings with convenient labels causes us to form unfair and inaccurate opinions of people we don’t really know. But most importantly, it clearly shows that it is our shared humanity that binds us together in this life.

Being considered “normal” is meaningless. Being considered equal is life changing.


 
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Judgment

Michael Crawley - Saturday, September 21, 2013
It is a sad fact that we do not hesitate to judge each other. This usually happens quickly and with little or no evidence to support our conclusions. We form unfounded opinions based on nothing more than appearance, the way someone moves or the way they talk. None of those things actually tell us anything important about the person, and yet we accept or reject individuals constantly based on our immediate response to their physical presence. It is completely unfair to the people we are so quick to judge, and we also cheat ourselves out of the opportunity to get to know many interesting people who could eventually become very important in our lives.

This is never truer than when it comes to the way the public sometimes reacts to individuals with intellectual challenges. Thankfully there are many people who willingly accept those whose appearance or behavior may seem different in some way. They are tolerant and respectful, and they do not judge those they do not know. This is how it should be. Unfortunately, there are others who are not so enlightened. They immediately decide they want nothing to do with a person they perceive as being different.

Each one of us believes that we are important and that we have something unique to offer to the world, and we are right. Whatever our physical appearance may be, whether we struggle to express ourselves or if we are restricted in our ability to be active, we are still convinced that we matter, that we are relevant and that we are irreplaceable. But for some reason there are those who do not believe that is true for people with developmental disabilities. Because their appearance, lack of social skills or mobility issues can make them stand out from the crowd, they are shunned by those who will not make the effort to get to know them as a person.

For many people, being in the presence of someone with an intellectual challenge makes them rush to judgment based on nothing more than a brief exchange that does not allow them the opportunity to actually interact with that individual on a meaningful level.

An example would be encountering a young adult with Down syndrome who is dealing with significant hearing loss which makes it difficult for him to control the volume of his voice. Let’s suppose that Robert goes to a nice restaurant with his mother. There are about 50 other people dining. After being seated, he becomes very excited as he looks over all the choices on the menu. His voice rises to a level that draws the attention of those at surrounding tables. His mother does her best to remind him that they are inside in a public place and therefore he should lower his voice, but it is no use. Robert is so happy to be eating out that her admonitions go unheeded.

In this case there would probably be a variety of reactions from the other diners. Some would feel uneasy and wish that the host had seated him farther away. Some, without even realizing it, would stare at his table and wonder just what exactly is “wrong with him”. Others might feel sympathy for his mother because she “has the burden of caring for him her whole life”. In each case they would have formed an opinion about Robert without knowing anything about him as a person.

For those who felt uncomfortable in the restaurant and rushed to judgment, it would benefit them to stop and carefully consider their inappropriate reactions. What made them feel the way they did?  Was it unfamiliarity? Have they never been around a person with Down syndrome? Do they not personally know anyone with a developmental disability? Or is it something more unpleasant? Perhaps they actually believe that “people like that” should not be allowed in a public place. Maybe they think that Robert is not their equal and that he should stay around “his own kind”. Heartbreakingly, there could even be some who think that, because Robert had Down syndrome, he should not have been allowed to be born.

Fortunately, there would be others in the restaurant that would see a person who was obviously overjoyed to be dining out. They would see his unrestrained excitement over the available food choices. They would see someone who was loved by a caring parent and who returned that affection without hesitation. They would see two people who were happy to be out of the house and enjoying each other’s company. They might wonder if they were there to celebrate a special occasion such as a birthday. They would avoid jumping to conclusions about Robert as a person, and they would simply accept the situation for what it was; two human beings engaging in one of the normal activities of society that we all enjoy.

Judgment is wrong because it hurts both the innocent person it’s directed at and also the person who engages in such limited and shallow thinking. When we judge someone who has an intellectual challenge, without really knowing them, it serves no worthwhile purpose. It only reinforces stereotypes that people have fought against all their lives, while adding insensitivity and intolerance to the world. This type of judgment is morally unjust because it creates barriers to acceptance for those who have done nothing to deserve such treatment.

On the other hand, when you meet someone who has a developmental disability they are usually more than willing to accept you just the way you are. They are far less likely to judge you on a superficial level, and most of the time they see you as a potential friend. The world would be a far more compassionate place if we all took this approach with everyone we encounter on a daily basis. We can learn a great deal from the very people we are so quick to label, if we will just keep an open mind and not form opinions until we get to know them as a person.

But for those that are inclined to judge individuals like Robert, they would do well to remember that at any moment they could have a serious accident or medical crisis that could leave them struggling with a life altering intellectual challenge.

How would it feel when they realized they were now being unfairly judged?

 
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A Success Story

Michael Crawley - Sunday, September 08, 2013

Each morning more than 40 men and women with intellectual challenges make their way into our building. Some have mobility issues and others have problems with their balance. Some deal with tremors, and some with seizures. Others have difficulty with their vision and some with their hearing. Others are almost nonverbal, while some love to talk but their speech is difficult to understand. But no matter what specific issues each person lives with, they all have one thing in common; they are employees of the Meadows Center for Opportunity.

Each day when they come into our facility, their job is always waiting for them. They never have to worry about layoffs or cutbacks. No matter what the economy is like, their jobs are secure for as long as they want them. They will always be allowed to work at their own comfortable pace, and they will never be pressured to work faster or to produce more. And even as they age, and their abilities decline, they do not have to be concerned about being replaced. They will always be a welcome part of our family.

Throughout their lives, the men and women we employ have defied the odds. Most of them have had significant and even life threatening health problems that they and their families have courageously overcome. Many were told that they would never be able to work at a “real” job. They have spent their lives fighting against the ignorance and intolerance that is too often directed at people with developmental disabilities. They have acquired vocational skills that will be valuable to them for the rest of their lives. They have gained the confidence necessary to attempt new tasks. Their ability to interact appropriately in a social context has improved which has earned them the trust and respect of their coworkers, and they have been accepted for themselves. Our employees have faced life altering challenges that most of us have been spared and yet they have triumphed. They are productive members of society.

Their amazing achievements are the result of their incredible hard work and their willingness to test themselves and to grow as human beings. These individuals are leading positive lives while dealing with a wide variety of intellectual, physical and emotional challenges. However, it would be completely wrong to think of them as “victims”. They are survivors. They are perfect examples of the power of the human spirit, and it’s that strength which has enabled some of our workers to remain with us for 20, 25 and even 30 years. Their longevity with our organization is a testament to their desire to be treated as equal members of society. Their employment at the Meadows has become one of the most important aspects of their lives. Their jobs fill their time with meaning and give them an identity that they are rightfully proud of.

The fact that they find their jobs to be rewarding and fulfilling is critically important because each afternoon our workers head back to the reality of their personal lives where some cannot tie their shoes. Some do not know their age. Some cannot remember their phone number. Some cannot tell time, and some cannot read or write. But despite these issues, they feel good about themselves because they have spent the day performing a variety of jobs, including multi-step complex tasks, with complete accuracy, that provide beneficial services to businesses and the public. They have achieved what many people thought was impossible. They have withstood the physical demands of their job and they have risen to the challenge of thinking in new and creative ways. They have experienced the satisfaction of performing at their personal best, and they have enjoyed the camaraderie of working together as part of a team to reach specific goals. Their lives are richer and fuller because of their employment experience, and it has added immeasurably to their self-confidence and self-esteem.

For over three decades we have fulfilled our mission to employ adults with developmental disabilities. We have served our community and the state of Oklahoma with professionalism, offering a variety of services that more than 3,000 customers statewide count on, while at the same time we have been honored to play an important role in the lives of hundreds of families who have loved ones with intellectual challenges.

The current success of our organization is the direct result of the dedication and commitment of the men and women who have worked with us through the years. We are incredibly proud of the individuals we employ. They inspire us in countless ways, but most importantly they demonstrate what a person can accomplish when they are given the opportunity, the support and the tools to succeed.

 
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A New Client

Michael Crawley - Saturday, August 24, 2013

Every person with an intellectual challenge that seeks employment deserves to be accepted for who they are - not judged by what they can or cannot do.  
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Parents

Michael Crawley - Saturday, August 10, 2013
They are not saints, they are not superhuman and they are not perfect. The parents of children and adults with intellectual challenges are just ordinary people. They come from all walks of life. They can be wealthy, economically deprived or part of the middle class. They can belong to any religious faith or have no affiliation whatsoever. Their ethnicity is meaningless. They can be liberal, conservative or moderate in their political views. They can be any nationality on earth, and their age can fall anywhere over a span of 6 decades. However, they do share one special bond that other parents may not understand. They have endured serious life altering experiences with their loved ones, while at the same time they have developed a deep appreciation for what is really important in life. They have been tested, and they have risen to the occasion.

For some, the life they lead was a choice. They lovingly made the decision to adopt a child with a developmental disability, or they courageously decided to go ahead and give birth to their baby after a diagnosis of Down syndrome was made. But many mothers and fathers were thrust into this role with no advanced warning, and they had no idea what the future held for them and their loved one. To go from the hopeful expectation that your baby would be perfect, to the realization that your newborn will have certain challenges to deal with for its entire life, is a powerful combination of disappointment, anger, fear and finally an acceptance of who their child is. Some parents handle this torrent of emotions better than others. Some immediately welcome their child into their families without regard for the changes that will be brought into all of their lives, while other parents go into a form of denial and refuse to believe that their child cannot somehow be made normal with enough effort and sacrifice.

However they react, there is a full range of human emotions that any man or woman can go through when they find out they are now the parent of a child with developmental disability. It is just the first of many times in their lives when they are going to face a reality that is different from what they expected. The adjustments they are forced to make in their own lives and in the lives of other family members are just the beginning. Their future has been changed forever. There is no going back to “before”. Most of the decisions they make in the years ahead will hinge, at least in part, on how they will affect their child. A day will not go by where they can completely forget about the responsibility that has now been given to them.

It is a pressure that rarely subsides because raising a child with an intellectual challenge is not an easy road. There a moments of pure frustration and searing anger along the way. For some parents there are times when they just don’t understand why they have been placed in this position. They feel like giving up. They believe that caring for the particular needs of their child is adversely affecting the rest of their family. These are all genuine emotions that are completely valid. To have these thoughts is not wrong. To have doubts and worries is not wrong. To sometimes wish that your life was simpler with fewer constraints is not wrong. It just means you are having human reactions to what, at times, can feel like overwhelming circumstances.

Unfortunately, one of the most serious issues that must be dealt with is the safety of their child within society itself. Parents of those with developmental disabilities rightfully feel protective of their children, but they also know that they cannot completely shield them at all times from those who are cruel and insensitive. It is the agonizing realization of each parent that their child could become a target for verbal and even physical abuse and that they have to be constantly on guard to make sure that their child is not placed into an unsafe position. It is a sad commentary on the world we live in, but it is a fact that there are individuals who will take advantage of a trusting child or adult if given the opportunity.

But for all the difficulties and heartaches, there are many other moments that make the tears, the frustrations and the sacrifices more than worthwhile. When a child begins to communicate either verbally or in some other creative way, when they become ambulatory with or without the need for physical supports, when they begin the educational process and when they are older and they find employment, these and many other milestones are celebrated with intense pride and unbridled joy by the parents who played such a crucial role in making them happen. But above all else, the one thing that makes the journey of life with a child who has special needs so rewarding is the love.

There is a purity of affection that an individual with an intellectual challenge has for a parent. There is a complete and total trust between that child and their mother and father. It is a bond that will last through all of their lives, and it will provide them with the strength, the willpower and good humor to face the many obstacles that society will place in their path. For each child that you see accomplishing more than was ever expected, there is a loving mother, father or both who made incredible sacrifices to ensure that their son or daughter received the education and supports they were entitled to. When an adult with a developmental disability is able to lead a life that is enriching, they have, for the most part, accomplished this with significant parental help.

In the end it comes down to this; two human beings create a third. The result of that union, no matter how society may label them, is a beautiful baby that has the same rights as anyone else. Whatever medical or psychological terms may be applied to that child as they are growing up, the fact remains that they are a living breathing person who deserves to be loved. When it comes to their worth as a human being their IQ does not matter. Their motor skills are not important and their cognitive abilities are meaningless. They are simply someone who is alive at this moment, on this earth, with everyone else. They deserve the same opportunities, as we all do, to live the best life possible, which includes being safe and healthy. A good deal of this will be accomplished through the dedication and devotion of their parents.

The men and women who nurture and support their children from birth through adulthood know that it is a commitment of pure love. The parents are the unsung heroes who often remain in the background gently guiding their children as they struggle for acceptance and success. Their reward is the knowledge that they have given their all to see that their child is living the best life possible. Because of those efforts they deserve our admiration and respect. In most cases it was not a life they volunteered for, it was just the life that was handed to them, and they responded with courage, honesty, patience, goodness and compassion. We should all embrace those characteristics for they represent the very best of humanity.

 
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IQ

Michael Crawley - Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Do you know what your IQ is? Do you feel it is the most important thing about you? Would you want your entire life to be judged by that one single number? Does it accurately describe your personality or temperament? Should your opportunities or choices be limited by your test results? Would you want others to think less of you if their IQ was higher?

These are the issues faced by those with intellectual challenges. For some, their lives have been unfairly limited by this one particular measurement. The weight it has carried has, in some cases, determined the direction of their lives. Often it has been the overriding factor in decisions that may or may not have been correct or in the best interest of the individual. The power of that one number cannot be overstated when dealing with the lives of the men and women who are at the mercy of those who make judgments and recommendations based on the results of this data.

No one should have their life adversely affected just because of how they performed on a test. We do not all fit into neat categories. Many people do not endure the stress of the testing process that well. For some, a simple lack of focus can skew results. Others do not feel comfortable in unfamiliar surroundings creating anxiety which produces less than accurate scores. This is not an attempt to make excuses for how people do on these exams, but it is an effort to point out that the results can be affected by a variety of factors.

In the world of developmental disabilities, IQ tests play a prominent role in determining possibilities, predicting outcomes and in setting realistic goals. Of course some people place more emphasis on the number than others. State agencies often use test results as part of the criteria for deciding who is eligible for aid and services. Health providers use it as a screening tool to help them focus more clearly on the ability of an individual to function at a certain predetermined level. In both of these cases the test results are used as part of a plan to improve the lives of those who it is felt could benefit from extra levels of care and support.

However, some in the general public view a lower IQ as a basis for intolerance, prejudice and neglect. Individuals who are perceived to be below a certain level of intellectual capacity become targets for exclusion, cruelty and abuse. But what does it say about the abuser’s own intelligence if they lack the ability to feel compassion and respect for those who deserve to have the same rights and opportunities as everyone else? What good does it do to have a higher IQ if your behavior is still guided by ignorance and insensitivity?

I am constantly amazed by how some people believe you cannot interact with or be friends with someone whose IQ is different than yours. Why not? You have more in common than any differences that might exist. Friendship is built on trust and respect. It develops through tolerance and understanding. It thrives on non-judgment and acceptance. These are qualities we should all be seeking. The world would be a much better place if we would all embrace these truths and apply them in each of our own lives.

When we examine the true significance of measurable intelligence we must consider how it relates to our humanity. Do we honestly believe it is the most important factor in determining the value of a person? Certainly it can be an indispensable tool in delivering the appropriate supports to a particular individual, but we can never allow ourselves to lose sight of the human being represented by the test score. Each person must be viewed in total and must not be reduced to a number that cannot provide a completely accurate representation of who that man or woman is or what they can achieve.

That is why it is so critically important to remember what IQ does not measure.

It does not measure how kind we are, how generous we are or how forgiving we are. It does not measure our sense of humor or the acceptance we find through friendship. It does not measure our enthusiasm or determination. It does not measure the joy we have for life. It does not measure our ability to dream or to help others find their dreams. It does not measure our honesty, our gentleness or our courage. It does not measure the happiness we bring into this life. It does not measure our sense of wonder, our sense of adventure or our imagination. It does not measure the impact we can have on the world. It does not measure our ability to love and to be loved. And most importantly, our IQ does not measure our worth as human beings.

We can never forget that each individual in society, regardless of a test score, is our equal. We all have the same rights, and we all deserve to live our lives free of the stigmas attached to tests, evaluations and exams.

No one, under any circumstances, should have their entire life defined by a single number.

 
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Disability Programs Still Vulnerable After ‘Fiscal Cliff’ Deal

James Hill - Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Programs for indivduals with disabilities in jeopardy of being slashed. 
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A Particle of Security.....Destruction is a process--not a particle.

James Hill - Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A very important perspective regarding document destruction. 
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LATEST NEWS


Why We Are Not Hiring

Michael Crawley - Sunday, February 25, 2018

People frequently contact the Meadows to see if we are currently hiring individuals with intellectual challenges. Unfortunately, as much as we wish we could, the answer is NO. 
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The Men and Women of the Meadows

Michael Crawley - Sunday, February 18, 2018

The mission of our organization is to provide employment and vocational training for adults with developmental disabilities as well as other intellectual and physical challenges. 
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Physical Challenges

Michael Crawley - Sunday, February 11, 2018

For those of you who are familiar with the Meadows, you know that on this blog we focus primarily on intellectual challenges. That is because each of the men and women we employ has an IQ of 70 or less, which is the state’s criteria of determining a developmental disability. 
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Public Perceptions

Michael Crawley - Monday, February 05, 2018

As people drive past our building each day it is impossible to get a true sense of what is going on inside our 42,000 sq. ft. facility. That leaves the general public with a natural curiosity about what kind of organization we are and exactly what it is we do. 
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Every Life Matters

Michael Crawley - Sunday, January 28, 2018

Each one of us believes that our life is important. But, unfortunately, our fixation with our own significance can sometimes lead us to presume that other lives don’t matter as much as ours. We often fall into the trap of believing that we are superior and, therefore, by default, others are inferior. 
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More Than A Job

Michael Crawley - Monday, January 22, 2018

Our jobs play an important role in each of our lives. In many ways, they help to define us. For some, it means having the ability to provide for their families. For others, it is a lifelong commitment to a meaningful career. But no matter what the circumstances, our jobs occupy a significant portion of our time. 
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A Friend Is A Friend

Michael Crawley - Monday, January 15, 2018

Friendships are some of the most important relationships we have in life. They add a richness and warmness to our existence. They provide comfort and make us feel connected. They allow us to be understood and accepted for who we are. They provide us with people we can count on during difficult times. And, just as importantly, friendship gives us someone to share our happiest moments with. 
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The Families of the Meadows

Michael Crawley - Monday, January 08, 2018

When an individual arrives for their first day of work at the Meadows, it is an accomplishment resulting from a lifetime of effort. It’s the culmination of years of commitment and dedication. It’s the achievement of a goal that at times seemed unattainable – but is now a reality. 
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The Unseen

Michael Crawley - Monday, January 01, 2018

Most people would be shocked to learn that three out of every one hundred Americans have a developmental disability and that in the United States there are approximately ten million adults, teens, and children with some type of intellectual challenge. 
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The Year Ahead

Michael Crawley - Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A new year is a time to not only reflect on what has been - but to also anticipate what could lie ahead. 
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The Meadows
Center for Opportunity

1000 South Kelly
Edmond, Oklahoma
73003-6081

phone: 405.348.4470
fax: 405.340.5395