Monday, December 21, 2015

Dealing With Santa

This time of year is filled with joy and anticipation of visits from Santa and his reindeer.  In North America we cling to the methodology of Santa Claus with an iron fist.  He's in commercials, he's on soda pop cans, he's at the mall, and tune in to ABC Family or just about any of the dozen's of children networks found on television and you'll see dozens of specials with Santa.  Santa is involved in saving puppies, stopping Jack Frost, and even having a day off.  He's everywhere!  Children usually from the age of about two or three until anywhere between eight and ten cling to the idea that Santa is coming.  It seems like most children around eight to ten begin to figure out that Santa can't go around the world in one night, and that it's odd how much Santa's handwriting looks like mom and dads.  It's that time when families usually sit down together and talk about the legend of Santa Claus and in our case how Santa's spirit of giving in honor of Jesus' birth has been passed from parent to parent.  It can be a sad time, or a joyful time when parents can no longer spend Christmas Eve late planting presents around the tree.  But what about the person who has Intellectual Disabilities?  The person with ID is often regulated by psychologist to an age range of 0-6 years of age for the rest of their lives.  Many of them never stop believing or arrive at the questions their peers may come to.  How do we as professionals deal with Santa Claus?

It's not an easy for professionals.  We are constantly reminded, often by surveyors and others, that we should ensure activities and events are "age appropriate."  It is not really "age appropriate" for Santa to visit a group home of say six forty-something year old men.  But, if you've even been to a Christmas party with people who have diagnosis of ID, then you've seen them respond to the arrival of Santa.  It is like the magic of childhood never leaves.  They scream, get excited, tell him what they want for Christmas and often receive presents already arranged by staff.  To be blunt, it can be a crazy time and fun time!

As professionals, we have to make decisions everyday.  Those of us who work in the ICF programs with the IDTeam to help the person we're serving make the best decisions for his or her life know how tough decisions can be.  We help people decide how much money to spend, when to get a job, if they can take college classes, how long they will be in high school, what medications they will take, what goals they will train on, and so on.  We spend a great amount of time in the ICF setting deciding people's lives all while striving to encourage their independence.  So ultimately with Santa we have a decision to make.  We can tell the person we serve that there is no Santa.  We can tell them the stories of Santa and how he was a real person.  We can tell them that the people who show up to parties are simply carrying on the spirit of Santa.  We can if the IDTeam feels that is important, but in the big scheme of things how important is truth about Santa to the well being of the person who has Intellectual Disabilities?

Maybe it's okay to sit back for one little party each year and let the person believe.  Maybe we should look to that psychological assessment and hold the psychologist to their assessments - if they say 0-6 years of age, then that's the age someone would believe in Santa.  Why not let it be?  We are usually talking about one party a year where the person gets excited, believes that Santa has arrived for the party, and wants to get a present from Santa or even talk to him!  Out of 365 days a year, will a couple of days of Santa really throw the person with an ID diagnosis into a tailspin?  It's not likely to happen.   So, unless there is some sound reason, based on the individual's needs, it's okay to let the party roll, let Santa visit, let everyone have fun and believe.  It's not going to hurt anyone.....and to tell the truth, I've been to a few of those parties where I'm pretty sure the beard was real and it makes me wonder during those moments too!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Dealing with Serious Threats at the ICF/IID Level

Inland Regional Center from
For those of us working in the ICF/IID field, the unthinkable happened yesterday in California when a shooting took place at a facility for people with developmental disabilities.  The facility serves several thousand people and has an employee list of over five hundred.  This type of shooting could have just as easily have happened in Texas at a state supported living center, a local LAR facility in just about any county, a state run small facility, an HCS setting, or even a private ICF/IID home.  

The shooting in California at a state run facility has brought the very real threat of a potential attack here in Texas home (News Report).  This was not a shooting in a mall, movie theater, or some other large public event where a shooter decided to harm others.  This shooting took place in a facility where people work with people who have developmental disabilities.  It took place with people who could have been our co-workers.  I encourage all facilities to consider putting policies and procedures in place to deal with a threat within the facility immediately or to review your current policy and procedures for these types of events.  This threat could come in the form of a telephone call, digital threat, employee, family member, or an unknown person.  We need to be prepared.  

I am pasting a potential policy and procedure here.  If you wish to have a Word format copy, please email me at (My QIDP)  I will be happy to share this policy with any facility or organization.  If you have specific questions about the policy, do not hesitate to ask me.  If you would like for me to provide training for dealing with a potential event (threat) at your facility, we can arrange that for a small fee to cover travel and expense.  This is too important to minimize.  The shooting in California brings this close to home.  We have very comprehensive disaster plans in most ICF/IID settings in Texas, but I seriously doubt everyone's plan addresses the kind of events we saw unfold yesterday.  

Start: --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Policy and Procedure


Armed Threat, Terrorist Threat or Violence Policy and Procedure

It is the policy of the facility to take all precautions possible to ensure the safety and well-being of residents (clients), staff, and visitors during any potential armed threat, terrorist threat or violent threat made toward the facility, a specific individual(s), or on the property owned by the facility at all times.


Telephone or Electronic Threat

1.     In the event of a telephone, text, fax, electronic, or digital threat made against the facility, a specific individual(s) or toward the property owned by the facility, the facility will take immediate action and notify 911 services and the Administration.
2.     A threat against a building or property will be reason for immediate evacuation from the building or property unless otherwise directed by city, county, state or federal officials designated to respond to the threat.
3.     A threat against a specific individual(s) will result in immediate protective action as follows:
a.     Notification of local law enforcement
b.     Follow directions of local law enforcement
c.      Secure or lock down the building or property

Armed Threat / Terrorist Threat or Violence

1.     If there is an armed threat, terrorist threat, or violence event at the facility or on the property of the facility, the facility will take immediate action in response:
a.     If possible, lock the facility or property to slow or stop the event from occurring or proceeding.
b.     If the event has occurred within the property, secure residents (clients) and visitors away from the event as quickly as possible including the possibility of evacuation or lock down.
c.      Immediately notify 911 – follow directions
d.     Leave the 911 line open to allow officials to possibly monitor events as they unfold
e.     Report all known information, including descriptions, number of individuals involved, injured, locations within the facility, etc.
f.      Move residents (clients), visitors, and staff away from any known threat area as orderly and as quickly as possible if move can be accomplished safely.
g.     Care for any injured as quickly as possible
2.     If the event leads to a hostage situation follow these procedures:
a.     Remain as calm as possible
b.     Listen closely to any directions from those holding hostages
c.      Follow directions if provided
d.     In the event of a rescue, be prepared to cooperate with rescuers immediately.

Standing Rules

1.     For any potential event of an armed threat, terrorist attack, or violence, there are certain measures the facility will have in place:
a.     Evacuations routes will be clearly posted.
b.     Security and safety of all residents (clients), visitors and staff will be priority.
c.      Facility address and phone number should be placed clearly next to each phone within the facility.
d.     During non-business hours, and at all times for ICF/IID homes, the facility should be locked and secured with the obvious exception of such times as residents (clients) are using outside facilities.
e.     All staff will be trained on this policy.
f.      The facility will have one “Armed Threat / Terrorist Threat or Violence Threat” drill each calendar year.
g.     The administration will review and revise procedures pending results of the annual drill.
h.     Any part of this policy and procedure may be modified, changed or deleted at any time during the year by administration and at anytime during an actual event by city, county, state, or federal officials designated to respond with an event.
i.       Once security has been maintained, the Administrator or Designee will notify DADS of the incident and follow recommendations or outlines as directed.
j.       The facility will designate one person to act as “Spokesperson” for the facility.  The spokesperson will respond to any news or media questions or inquiries on a local, state, or national level. 
k.     Staff other than the spokesperson may only respond to any news and media questions with “No comment” unless otherwise given permission by the spokesperson or the facility Administrator or designee.