I can hardly believe that 2015 is almost half way finished! In preparing for the rest of this year, I wanted to talk to you about QUALITY OF LIFE. We use the phrase "quality of life" in planning and discussing children and adults with autism and other special learning differences. But what is a quality life?
A quality life includes:
- the opportunity to make real choices, not just select from less preferred options. A "choice" needs to be made by selecting from an array of highly preferred options to be a quality choice. Choices need to be available regarding every aspect of life from as simple as what socks are going to be worn today to what restaurant in which to eat, what environment in which to live and what people with whom to interact.
- the opportunity to be treated as an adult if you are an adult! We MUST stop interacting with adults with disabilities as if they are naughty children when they do no do as we ask or cooperate as we expect. MY quality life includes not having to always do the things I do not want to do. I do not go where I do not want to go, and do not eat what I do not like. Most adults who are living a quality life strive to make choices that reflect their own needs and wants, desires and preferences. Adults with autism or other differences need the same approach if they are ever to have a "quality life."
- the ability to communicate with a variety of people in a variety of situations using a variety of different means and discussing a wide variety of topics. How many goals on individual plans for children and adults address this essential need? Some people with ASD can only communicate in one way with one or two people. This will NOT lead to a quality life.
- the opportunity to find a way to be a healthy person and have a healthy body. Long ago a person said to me, "If you have your health, everything else can work out." I did not understand that like I do now! We need to be sure that elements of health such as movement, healthy food options, careful choices in essential medication, outdoor activities, drinking clean water, etc. are included in each child and adult's day, every day. Motivation is key here!
- the opportunity to be liked, loved, understood and accepted. Those of us working in the field need to emulate parents who focus on positive and endearing qualities of their children, minimizing problems while addressing problems.
- the opportunity to "self-actualize" to become the fullest person you can be. Here is a great dictionary definition of "self" ..."a complete and individual personality, especially one that somebody recognizes as his or her own and with which there is a sense of ease." We want children and adults with ASD to be at ease with themselves and others. We need to become more at ease with the wide variety of personalities and personal styles we encounter in the unique people who share the characteristics of autism spectrum disorders. In this way we can really individualize and be sure that we are not promoting "one size fits all" in our programs and approaches.
What else contributes to a quality life? Let me know what you think as you discuss this with your friends, family and
colleagues. You can reachme via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 708-966-4683.