Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Developing "My Dream Portfolio". (Life Planning)

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Developing "My Dream Portfolio". (Life Planning)

Article excerpt

Children with disabilities are routinely discouraged from developing their own self-determined quality of life. Expectations tend to be based on the individual's disability label instead of the individual herself. This has been evident to me in both my personal and professional experiences.

Because I was born with cerebral palsy, I have faced disability issues my entire life. While I was fortunate enough to be placed in regular classrooms and earn a standard diploma, for the most part my future was still decided for me based on my disability label. Not that I blame my parents, or the school system, or anybody else for that matter; on the contrary, without my support system I would not be the success I am today. Growing up in a small town, I was raised as an ordinary child instead of one with special needs. Therefore, deep in my heart I had the dreams and ambition of an ordinary child instead of a child with speech and physical impairments. Thanks to my faith in God, I was able to change my future, from the sheltered and safe lifestyle that most people with have to one that contained the values, interests, and goals of my serf-determined quality of life.

SELF-DETERMINATION IN PURSUING DREAMS

My professional experience comes from my work as a certified rehabilitation counselor/licensed mental health counselor. I've worked with clients of all ages, disabilities, socioeconomic statuses, and cognitive levels, Reflecting back the diversity of my interactions, I realize that no matter who I work with, there is one universal treatment goal: encourage clients to dream en route to the development of their self-determined quality of life. When individuals set their sights on something better--a serf-fulfilling life--focus is taken away from the problem area and good things start to happen.

Hope and possibilities appear when children imagine the future that they would like to live. Ambition and confidence come alive. A dream composed of the child's serf-determined quality of life is formed, including interests, values, skills, preferences and desires. Once that dream is formed (but not necessarily set in stone), excitement and determination become motivational factors for therapeutic process. Sometimes I think I must be missing something because it seems like such a simple process. Why isn't it being implemented everywhere? I've seen it work and have witnessed many wonderful success stories. By helping children create their dream life, I developed "My Dream Portfolio," a process which allows individuals (and family) to create their own options by encouraging children first to dream without limitations, then find ways to accomplish those dreams.

The "My Dream Portfolio" process derived from the frustration I had experienced in seeing many people with disabilities settling for less in life, unaware of their limitless potential. My frustration became most pronounced when I became a transition coordinator, helping high school students with disabilities prepare for post-school living. It sounded incredibly exciting yet simplistic to me. After all, spending most of my life in the "disability circle" of central Florida had given me an abundance of local contacts and resources. All I had to do was connect students with the appropriate resources needed to make their dreams come true. I was ready for the challenge!

The challenge was greater than I had anticipated. When I asked these high school kids what they would like to do after high school, I got blank stares, shrugged shoulders, and responses such as, "let me ask my mom and tell you tomorrow." Even after emphasizing that I wanted to know their dreams for their lives, most of the 60 or so students could not give me an honest answer.

No one had ever asked them about their dreams before, at least not in a serious manner. Working with these students reminded me that instead of being viewed as individuals with their own set of needs, values, preferences, skills, etc. …

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