A life of purpose and meaning is something that many people we support never get to experience. When someone’s focus is on feeling safe, healing trauma, having enough to eat or coping with illness or pain their focus is on those things. For this reason, people we support are often not aware of their own preferences, possibilities or gifts. When people need assistance to accomplish the daily tasks of living and/or they are taking an enormous amount of time and energy to get through, opportunities to help or contribute to others may be overlooked.
Sadly, people who need more care in a day, often don’t see themselves as being needed. Therefore, as their supporters, we need to remain curious and have conversations that may uncover possibilities which have not have been considered. This involves open ended questions that will have answers unique to each individual. Like, “if you could do anything you wanted to do without having to worry if your staff would help you or not, what would it be”? Or, “if you could do anything you wanted to and you knew you wouldn’t fail, what would that be?” These questions reach beyond the routine, check-the-box questions people with developmental developmental disabilities have learned to expect and help them to consider what their dreams might be.
Everyone needs to know that they belong, have gifts to contribute and are valued for who they are. Person centered discovery skills help us to identify those gifts and skills and then to connect them with a person’s hopes and dreams. Our core responsibility as supporters is to intentionally find ways to do this so that everyone is valued and can achieve their dreams.