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Proposed Special Needs Communities Stir Debate


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A debate is brewing in Florida between families who want to establish retirement-style communities for adults with developmental disabilities and those who believe that inclusive, community living is more appropriate.

Groups across the state want to develop new neighborhoods specifically for people with developmental disabilities and their families. Much like the retirement communities that dot the sunshine state’s landscape, the proposed developments would offer a mix of apartments, single-family homes and group homes in addition to amenities like community dining rooms.

Trouble is that a Florida law bars group homes from being within 1,000 feet of each other, largely preventing the retirement-style communities from moving forward. Now, a bill under consideration in the state legislature would allow local governments to make exceptions to the rule.

Families advocating for the law change argue that people with developmental disabilities would be more comfortable among those who can relate in specialized, gated developments. And, they say, these communities would provide safe environments for individuals who, for example, forget to look before crossing the street.

But critics of the plans say they would amount to institutions and that people with developmental disabilities need to live in the greater community so that they can learn appropriate behavior, reports the Miami Herald. To read more click here.

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Comments (8 Responses)

  1. Blondie50 says:

    If it smells like an institution, it looks like an institutionand it is an institution. Although it would be nice to be closer to other families dealing with what I have to deal with on a daily basis, the supports I rely on, friends, family, church, school, etc., would largely be unavailable in a setting like those proposed. As a parent iwth 2 special needs children, I am unable to lend much support at all to other families in the same situation. I also agree that having my children go to “regular” school in an inclusion program has helped their behvior tremendously. when they went to summer school for special needs children, they picked up all kinds of unacceptable behaviors after 6 weeks, that it them months after to unlearn. Yes, it would be convenient to have all services close by, but at what cost?

  2. JR says:

    As far as I know, the only living situations that are defined as institutions for people with developmental disabilities under Medicaid are Intermediate Care Facilities for the Mentally Retarded and nursing homes. Many advocates, in their zeal to promote inclusion, have proclaimed that any specialized program or living situation that provides services in group settings to people with developmental disabilities is segregated and discriminatory, whether or not the people served consider these programs necessary and part of their definition of community.

    Apparently, the worst thing that could happen to people with developmental disabilities is that they might have to associate with people like themselves. Now that’s discrimination!

  3. suelowery says:

    Please read the full article, I HOPE that I have misread or interpreted Mr Ross’s statement:“People with developmental disabilities have to be in contact with good models of behavior. If you surround them with people that don’t have normal types of behavior, what we are going to see is more people with bad behavior.”

    If he is saying that the “normal” community is the model for good behavior, he needs a serious wake up call! My disabled son is NOT the one who calls others names. He is NOT the one who throws a coke out the window at a person who looks different riding his bike. He is not the one sniggering and making fun of someone who is different. Model of bad behavior????

    I would like to see all of the proposed above choices available to my son. If he chooses to live in an exclusive community it would be there, if he wants to live in a diverse community, that too would be an option. However, at this point, I would just be glad to have an “option.” He has NO option but to live with us!

  4. twinkie1cat says:

    It sounds like a gussied up institution. Why not integrate this housing INTO already existent retirement communities instead, so there would be a mixed population instead of one that was all DD. This arrangement would also provide jobs for some of the DD residents as personal care aides, gardeners and housekeepers for the elderly residents.

  5. Angel Without Wings says:

    No one votes to tell you where to live so why are you voting to tell them where they can live? If people got together and stopped you from living where you do, how would you feel? If you would educate yourselves on the many disabilities, you may realize that they are similar to ourselves. The only difference (and it is a very large difference), is that they are genuine wit their emotions and we are usually not! If they smile, it is usually a real smile. Not like some of us who smile in your face and talk about you behind your back! If they hug you, it is a real hug, or they laugh, it can be heard everywhere and it is a real laugh! Or when they shake your hand. Have you ever looked into their eyes? You see raw emotion. They will work hard and long and they are pretty honest and forthcoming which we know the majority of us (if not ALL of us), will lie!

    I would welcome them living next to me,with me, etc. You should too as they are the best friends you could ever have, and would make great neighbors! (smile)

  6. Rylee55 says:

    Personally, my feeling is that i need to “live in the greater community” so that i can “learn appropriate behavior” is pretty insulting.

  7. Judith Greenbaum says:

    Institutionalism should be related to programming not to size. As far as I’m concerned a 2 person condo where 2 people with DD watch television all day is an institution. 3 to 4 houses in a neighborhood that house 4 to 6 adults with DD apiece who are engaged in the community every day thru work, recreation, social activities, do not live in an institution.
    Choice is the key to self determination. Some adults with DD may choose a more protected environment, that in fact, may allow them more freedom on a daily basis than living among people who could menace, swindle, or just plain ignore them.

  8. Mary Morosky says:

    I love the embracing concept of “special needs” communities within already designed retirement communities. Does anyone know of such a community somewhere in the “warmer” states? We have been looking for such a community for us and our adult disabled son, and have yet to find an open, welcoming place.

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