#056 The power of social roles in creating fulfilling lives with Darcy Elks

#056 The power of social roles in creating fulfilling lives with Darcy Elks

You can listen to this podcast episode on iTunes or Spotify.

When you think of all that is good and fulfilling in your life, what comes to mind?

Your kids, your work, your family and friends, your hobbies, your faith?

I may not have it all exactly right but I bet I’m not too far off.

All of these fulfilling aspects of our lives are directly related to our social roles.

My list looks something like this…

Mom, midwife, wife, sister, daughter, friend, grad student… ❤️

My heart and my identity are all tied up in these roles.

If you took any or all of those things away from me I would be devastated.

And I likely wouldn’t have a very fulfilling life unless I replaced them with other, equally powerful, social roles.

What are the social roles that your child with a disability has?

What are the roles that you are working towards as they grow up?

So many people with disabilities have very few meaningful social roles. And many of them are not roles that lead to a fulfilling life.

Client. Patient. Service recipient. 😥

This week on the podcast, Darcy Elks talks about how meaningful social roles have led to a fulfilling life for her daughter.

It didn’t just happen. They had a vision. And they kept their eye on the prize throughout the ups, downs, and distractions of life.

Student, employee, friend, dancer, aunt.

OR

Client. Patient. Service recipient.

It is a direction that we get to choose.

Transcript

Genia:
Well, hello and welcome. This is like my 11th take to try to introduce this podcast episode. Do you ever have days like that? I totally do. I’m going to try it one more time and if I don’t get it right, I’m just moving forward because taking the steps I think is going to be way more important than actually trying to get this right. Welcome to the Good Things in Life, the podcast that helps parents support our kids with intellectual disabilities to build fulfilling lives at home, at school and in the community. Yes, I finally nailed it. Today’s podcast episode is the audio version of a live presentation given by Darcy Elks. So grab a pen and a paper and get ready to take some notes and we will dive right in.

Darcy:
It’s really nice to, it’s really nice to have you here. And I’m going to talk about the importance of social roles in the lives of our family members. And one I’m going to share with you is based on the work of Dr. Wolfensberger. And I was fortunate enough in life to have met him as a young woman before I had children. And he taught me so much that I have now for years and sharing to other people that I think is just really useful and helpful. And when I became a mom, I realized that this material is so important that I started developing it and sharing it with families.

Darcy:
Well, okay. Okay. So this is my daughter. Some of you I think have met her. This is the first page of a presentation that Mary put together about her life, but I just wanted to introduce you to her. She’s 28 now and things, she’s had ups and downs in her life, but things seem to be going pretty well. She just got back from a trip to Puerto Rico where she went with two other friends for a week. So that was pretty awesome. And this picture actually, and the title of her presentation, This is the Life, was developed when she first started university. In the first day in her role as a university student. Mary walked into the door, she looked at her dad and I, and she said, “This is the life mom.” So we thought that’s a beautiful image when we’re thinking about supporting our family members to really help them to experience the joy of what they would say, “This is the life.”

Darcy:
So I also wanted to begin by just going back to those precious days when Mary was very new in the world. And I think in this picture she was maybe two days old and she is our first child. So you remember what it’s like when you have your first child. And we were just over the moon about her. And I remember that day and standing there and all the thoughts that were going through my head. So I was thinking, “Oh, I hope she has a wonderful life. I hope that she has a great education and that she’ll really enjoy school and she’ll want to go to school and she’ll be a student. And I hope that she has friends and that she’ll be a friend. And I hope that she finds something she really loves and she’ll pursue that. And I hope that she will be an, you know, grow up, work, have a decent salary and really find joy in her employment.”

Darcy:
And so those were the kinds of things that I think are not unusual thoughts, maybe not in the same words, but those are not unusual thoughts that all parents have. Now, at that point, these were just thoughts, you know, running through my head. And of course, as Mary began to grow a little bit and I started thinking, well, how would I make those kinds of thoughts, real and tangible in her life? And so it was at this point that I began to reflect on the meaning of Dr. Wolfensberger’s teachings in terms of really making my dreams and my husband’s too. That’s my husband Martin. Our dreams that we were imagining more concrete. And so in my study with Dr. Wolfensberger, this is a theory that he had developed called social role valorization and I know that’s a big mouthful, but it’s an idea that’s really important.

Darcy:
And let me just say and it’s completely understandable. So we’ll look at this definition in just a minute, but I would like to say if they’re probably, I’m sure there are people on this webinar who heard Dr. Wolfensberger speak, know of his work. For those of you who don’t, he was a very, very awesome advocate who worked tirelessly on behalf of people with disabilities, particularly people with intellectual disabilities. And his work was all focused on assisting people to have access to the good things of life and his accomplishments were really major and pushed not only the field of disability forward, but the thinking, the most important thing is thinking forward. And so this is his theory and we’ll just, we’ll break it down. So first of all, you know, social role valorization, so what is it?

Darcy:
It’s the enablement, establishment, enhancement, maintenance and or defense of valued social roles for people. So I’ve highlighted the valued social roles piece because that is really the heart of this idea. And we’ll look a little bit more valued roles in a minute, but I just also wanted to point out to you the action words in this definition. So the enablement, the establishment, the enhancement, the maintenance and or defense of valued social roles. So all of those words imply taking action around valued social roles with the person that we are, you know, thinking about and advocating for and walking with in life. And doing that, particularly for people who are at risk of being seen in a negative way by society. That’s what we mean by value risk. And we even get more direction from these, these lines by using how do we assist people in terms of enabling, establishing, enhancing, maintaining or defending valued social roles.

Darcy:
We do this by as much as possible, culturally valued means. So what is that referring to? Those words are giving us direction that when we are taking action, we need to take action in the most typical way possible in the way that we would do for people without disabilities. So this is an action packed definition. And that’s when I was looking for as a mom, really, I had, I had those ideas, but I wanted to figure out how to, as I say, make them concrete. So, you know, I began to study more in terms of well, social role, what does it mean? And this is another slide from Dr. Wolfensberger, his collection. So this is one of the first sociologists who talked about social roles and define them. Let’s talk cop Parsons. And he defined it this way.

Darcy:
A social role may be defined as a socially expected pattern of behaviors, responsibilities, expectations and privileges. So for example, if we take the role of elementary school teacher, that’s a role we’re all familiar with. And with that role comes certain behaviors and responsibilities and expectations. So, for example, we would expect that a teacher of young children knows how to communicate with children, knows how to prepare lessons, knows how to, you know, deliver those lessons to meet different kinds of learning styles that the students may have, knows how to communicate well with parents, is a good team member with other professionals within the school and so forth. And hopefully there are also some privileges with that role. So for example, you know, teachers have young children in elementary school, they have a pretty good schedule because they get, you know, the summer off.

Darcy:
And that’s quite a nice privilege. Also, you know, the rural has a bit of a status associated with it. Now it’s interesting, all of us are familiar with social roles, but we don’t stop and think much about them. In your life, it was expected, for example, in your family that you would, you know, be a student for a number of years. Most families have the expectation that their children will grow up and that they will be employees. You are in the role of a son or a daughter or a niece, a nephew, as a child. And you’re in the role of a friend, you know, many different roles and it’s just so natural for most people that we don’t stop and even give it a second thought.

Darcy:
So these kinds of roles, you know, being maybe a member of a sports team member of a club, just adding to some of the ones that I’ve already mentioned. Being a student, and this is interesting, a student of a specific grade. So being a first grade student, a second grade student, a third grade student, and so forth. Now those roles stand in contrast to what happens for people who are devalued in the society or seen as not being quite as valuable or as important as, or as worthwhile as other people. Who often get cast in roles that are roles that we would not choose for ourselves. So just to mention a few of these, and maybe you can think of some experiences that you might’ve had along these lines. So people with disabilities are oftentimes put into this role of being a burden.

Darcy:
And of course, that’s not a role that we would readily say, “I’d love to take that role on. I’d love to be a burden.” I remember the first time a friend of mine, a pretty good friend of mine actually sat me down and she was so serious and I thought, “Oh, what is she going to say?” And she said, “Now I just want to tell you, it’s really important that you don’t burden your other children with your daughter with disabilities.” And that was such an interesting moment for me because quite frankly, it had never occurred to me. At that point, you know, Mary was a young child and she had one brother and sister on the way, and it just never entered my mind that she would be a burden. Instead I’ve thought of her as, you know, a member of the family as the big sister.

Darcy:
Another one that we’ve encountered quite a bit as a family is our daughter being put into the role of an eternal child. And by that I mean, you know, that she, she’s never really going to be adult. She’s never really going to grow up. She’ll always be childlike and childish. And this is so interesting because my daughter is pretty aware of fitting in and, you know, really wants to do things that people her age are doing. And, and, she’s developed a beautiful style of dress, which is very appropriate, you know, for her age and yet still, people will come up to her and address her in a tone of voice that, you know, you’d use with a very young child. And she’s 28. And of course that’s pretty offensive for her. And even when she was a little child, you know, I remember in school, I think this happened when she was in second grade and there was an aide in the classroom and the aide and Mary had gone to the library and Mary was picking out some books that she knew other kids in the class were reading, but the aide directed her to these very childish books that were designed for preschoolers.

Darcy:
And, actually Mary didn’t want them. She said no, but the aide insisted and then the aide check them out of the library and then gave them to Mary. So that’s a small example, but it is an example of how, you know, Mary’s had a number of these experiences. She gets put into that role just because of the mindset, you know, the old people like that they’re childish. Or maybe you’ve experienced this one that your family member has been an object of pity. So, you know, experienced people saying, “Oh, how do you do it? I don’t know how you do it.” And you may have even been called a Saint, right? Sometimes they’ll say that. People will say with the best of intentions, this is not something that’s meant to be negative, but these are some of the prevailing kind of role expectancies that are help there for people with disabilities or, you know, incapable, dependent person.

Darcy:
So, Oh, you know, will she ever be able to be on her own or, you know, when I say, Mary went to university, people look at me like I’ve lost my mind. You know, how would she be able to, to do something like that? I mean, you know, she, she, she’s always going to need to have somebody with her. And frankly, when Mary was in school, her best years, and she was always included in regular classes, her best years of the year, she didn’t have an aide. And yet the school, we had to fight the school not to have an aide. And when she did have an aide, we had to really work hard to convince the aide not to be by her side all the time. And lastly would be being in the role of sick. Now, I mean, if you’re sick, that’s a fine role to be in, but it’s problematic when you’re not sick.

Darcy:
So I have a friend whose son has a cerebral palsy and he’s a very healthy kid, you know, and he’s actually quite fit. And yet over and over again, people assume that he’s sick. And so then they treat him like he’s sick. And that is really annoying to him because he is this, you know, young, strong guy who can do lots of different things. So these role expectancies, these are just some of them. They lead to lots of problems. They really curtail people’s life. And a very sad thing that sometimes happens is you start to live what’s expected of you. And so I’ve met people who had years of these kinds of expectations and now they’ve actually entered into those roles. And I would say their life has become quite compromised in terms of experiencing a full, rich and meaningful life.

Genia:
Hey, I just wanted to break in here quickly to make sure that you know that we have a free Facebook group. The Facebook group is an awesome place to connect with other parents just like you, who feel really passionately about helping their kids to build fulfilling lives. And it’s also a great place to connect with other people who are listening to this podcast with you and who can have really good, rich conversations with you about the topics that we cover in the podcast. You can ask questions, you can share your observations, you can ask for some help thinking through something that you might be facing to find the Facebook group. Go to Facebook and search for the Good Things in Life For Kids With Disabilities Podcast group. I hope to see you there.

Darcy:
So I want to give you a few minutes to think about your roles and to list them. Okay. And so probably the easiest way to do this is to, let’s think about these different areas. So if you’ve got a pencil, pen, piece of paper, you could list and I’ll give you some prompts as we’re going along. So start out with your relationship roles. These are usually roles that come to our minds pretty easily. So being a mom, a dad, a parent, I mean a grandparent, sorry, an aunt and uncle, a niece, a nephew, a friend, a best friend, a neighbor, a colleague. And then what about your roles around home? So maybe you’re a gardener, a housekeeper or a homemaker, a cook or a chef, perhaps a neighbor, maybe an organizer or maybe, an accountant/bill payer. And then what about work? So certainly if you, if you are working, you’re in the role of an employee, but there might be other roles as well.

Darcy:
So you might be a role model for other employees. You might be a, might be a confidant. You might be a, you know, an encourager or maybe a trainer even though you don’t have that work title. You’re maybe a member of a team. And then the next two categories we can kind of combine together. You could think about what are some roles that you engage and then have to do with your personal growth, your interests in life, and having fun. So there are so many possible roles here. I’ll just start naming some. Maybe you are a hiker, maybe you’re a collector. Maybe you’re a chef, maybe you’re a student. Maybe you’re a dancer, maybe you were a rock and roll lover. Maybe you’re an artist, maybe you’re a runner.

Darcy:
Maybe a you are a singer, maybe you are a member of a choir. Maybe you’re a concert goer, maybe you are a water skier. Maybe you’re a boater, maybe you’re a traveler. And then the last category we would think of is your spiritual life. And when I say spiritual, I’m not necessarily talking about belonging to or being a member of a faith community, although it includes that. So being a member of a synagogue and being a member of a mosque church, but it can go beyond that as well. So if you think about roles that you have that really nurture your spirit, one role that I think of, my husband loves to read, and every time he gets opportunities to read, it nurtures his spirit and uplifts him. And so being in the role of a reader and a collector of books, those two roles are pretty important for him spiritually. So just take a minute and write down any roles that come to mind under spiritual. And at this point, Genia, can we open it up and people could just say some of the roles that they’ve listed.

Genia:
Absolutely. If people would like to raise their hands. So at the bottom of the zoom screen there should be a raise hand button and if you can click that, I should be able to identify you and turn on your microphone. And if some brave soul would just do me the honor on clicking the raise hand so I can figure out if this is working. Excellent. Thank you Guy. Okay. You may have to turn on, there we go. Hi Guy.

Guy:
Yeah, hi. Yeah, there’s just so many roles that women can have, but you’re looking at the last couple, Darcy, is what you wanted?

Darcy:
Oh, you can any of the roles, Guy, actually be good.

Guy:
Well just been a landscaper for one’s yard, you know, a gardener in one’s yard. For me, being a vegetable gardener is just a really, you know, takes a good part of my summer. It’s a big role and it’s also a great role because I’m able to give vegetables to neighbors.

Darcy:
That’s great, Guy. Yeah. It’s a very good example. Anyone else have an example? All right. Well I hope that you reflect on this and really give it some thought because quite honestly I never realized this until I started teaching about roles and thinking about my own roles is that throughout our lives we experienced roles. Many of us, people were thinking about roles for us before we were born. So, you know, it’s not unusual for parents who we’re expecting a child to be thinking in terms of we’re going to have a new baby, we’re going to have a new son or daughter or brother or sister in the family or grandchild. Some parents, they’re thinking about their children before they’re born, going to university and they start putting money away so the child can go to university and be a university student. And accordingly, you know, an employee.

Darcy:
And then you’re born and right away you’re in that role being a family member. And then you go to school and you’re in the role of being a student. And when you go to school, you get exposed to all different kinds of opportunities and you start to pursue those things you’re interested in by taking on a role. So for example, you may as a young child, a very young child, you know, played soccer with your dad or your mom and you really enjoy that. And then you go to school and there is a soccer team that you can join. And so you become a member of the soccer team. And that continues throughout school. Some roles, you know, you’re only in for a short period of time, other roles you maybe in for your lifetime. And your roles may, as you go through life, may expand or may shrink, but they’re there.

Darcy:
And you know, when I ask people to think about their roles, they oftentimes are surprised because it’s just so natural for us to be in roles that we don’t realize how many roles were in and how important they are in what they bring to our lives. So that’s really, you know, an important point to think about. When I think about my three kids who as Genia said are, they’re all in their twenties now. We’ve always wanted them to have a full, meaningful life and we paid attention, you know, to the big vision. But then actually as I said earlier, we’re able to make it concrete by thinking about roles and helping our kids to think about roles that we’re a good fit for them.

Darcy:
So let’s just think a little bit about what do those roles that you’ve listed there bring into your life? Well, they have a lot of impact. One is your image in the eyes of other people. So you know, for some of those roles that you’ve listed there, people only know you through those roles and they formed an image about you based on you being in those roles. And I think most people would agree that part of having a good life is having a positive reputation and some status. Equally important though is your image in your own eyes. And so you know, those roles that you have listed in that last exercise, they contribute to yourself image. And you know, part of having a good life is to have a positive self image. Of course it doesn’t mean you’re good at everything, right?

Darcy:
But usually we will gravitate toward roles that give us an opportunity to use our gifts, give us an opportunity to grow and give us an opportunity to be fulfilled. So that’s something to think about in life. You don’t always know that when you’re younger, right? But as you go along the path of life, the journey of life, you start to, as I say, gravitate to those roles that really help you to have a positive self image. Roles also bring acceptance in your life. So this is something that we learned when our daughter first started school. It became very clear to us that for her to gain acceptance within the school, she absolutely had to legitimately be in the role of a student. And it wasn’t just being the role of a student. She had to be in the role of the student of what grade she was in.

Darcy:
So grade one student. And we actually thought out, you know, what is it the grade one students do, where do they go, what kinds of opportunities are available to them, you know, how do they behave in the classroom, et cetera, et cetera. So that Mary could start learning those things and entering into those things to at least gain acceptance because then the kids would see, “Oh, you know, she’s like me.” And we also learned that, you know, being in a valued roles creates the condition for belonging. It doesn’t guarantee it, but because acceptances there, then that can turn into, you know, or move along into true full fledged belonging, which of course these are so important in anyone’s life to be accepted and belong. And lots of this has been written about this, you know, finding your tribe, so to speak.

Darcy:
Another part of having a good life is knowing people, associating with people, and then developing different kinds of relationships. And we also learned that, you know, for Mary, just like the rest of the kids in the class, had to associate with each other. And then by associating with one another, finding things that they had in common relationships and friendships could develop if you are in the role of being seen as a competent, you know, capable person and as a child. And then accordingly, as you grow into an adult, a capable adult, it is much more likely that you’re going to be given autonomy and even freedom. And so I, I think, you know, of some of the children that I’ve met who live with intellectual disabilities, whose parents out of the best of intentions, again, really love their kids have restricted them so much because they’re afraid, you know, that they’re going to get hurt. And sometimes, obviously you want to put some safeguards in place so that you’re not putting your child in a dangerous situation, but, but they’re really controlling.

Darcy:
And then I’ve met adults who’ve experienced that throughout their childhood and then into adulthood. And you know, sometimes they’re angry, sometimes they’ve become really compliant and are not able to, you know, think on their own and so forth. So having autonomy and freedom is pretty important part of having a good life. Roles also impact on your development of your competencies and your personal growth. So again, if you take a look at that list of roles that you’ve written, next to each one of them, if we had time, you could write all the ways that you’ve grown and developed as a result of being in those roles and the competencies that you have developed. Roles also oftentimes give opportunities to us in life and open up possibilities for us. So, I know Guy quite well. Guy and I work together for Dr. Wolfensberger and I think Guy, you’d probably agree with me on this.

Darcy:
When we started, we were very young and we didn’t have a big position, but that opportunity to be an employee and to be a mentee of Dr. Wolfensberger has opened up for Guy and I, many other opportunities in our life as we’ve go on throughout life. Clearly the next one has to do with the role of being an employee. And honestly, when Mary was little, that I think back to that first picture we were really thinking we hope she finds something she likes to do and that she can work and she’s going to be fulfilled and she’s gonna be paid for her work. And lastly would be your lifestyle. So those roles that you have listed have a lot to do with how you spend your day, what kinds of activities you engage in, the people that you come into contact with, even the clothes that you wear.

Darcy:
Okay. So one other thing that I wanted to say here is that sometimes I think there’s some confusion. People are often thinking, if you do an activity well that means it’s a role. And what I have clearly seen is that in school programs as well as in supports for adults, is that oftentimes there are activities that are presented to people, but they never go beyond the activity to really develop it into a role. So I want to give you an example of a contrast between an activity and really entering into a role. So in my neighborhood, one of my neighbors is a dedicated walker and she is really a walker. So, I walk, you know, I’ll go out like once in awhile. I’ll walk and I enjoy, you know, stopping and talking to people and seeing the gardens and in our neighborhood and so forth.

Darcy:
But that’s like once in a while, you know, and it’s usually for a short period of time. Now, Sue, she’s out there every single day. And she has studied walking. She knows all different kinds of walking strides. So it’s not unusual to see her changing, you know, the kinds of walking that she’s doing. She has all of the garb that you, that walkers buy. Special kind of walking shoes and multiple special kinds of walking shoes and the outfits, you know, that you wear, the special kinds of, well there’s all kinds of things, right? Walking in cold weather, walking in warm weather. And Sue actually started a walking club in our neighborhood and recruited a number of people to be members of that club. Now there is somebody who is a walker in contrast to me who enjoys walking and does it every once in a while.

Darcy:
It’s an activity for me. And so when we’re thinking about roles, we have to be careful. You usually start with an activity and try something out, see if you like it, continue in it. And if it’s something that really clicks with you, then developing it into a role. Right? So it’s growing, this is the way I think of it, is growing into roles and getting rooted in roles that really are a good fit for your identity. And all through school, we really, every single year throughout university, we were thinking that way. What can we do to assist Mary if this is a good fit to really, you know, get, grow in the role and get rooted in it?

Darcy:
So back to this picture and I’m just going to give you some examples of how, you know, things developed for Mary based on this idea of thinking about valued social roles. And the other concept I just want to note here is the idea of the trajectory of Mary’s life. So we were thinking when she was only days old, what is going to be the trajectory of her life? And we were very aware that in all of our lives there’s a trajectory and one thing builds on another, builds on another, builds on another. And so when it came to school, we, this was preschool and, you know, we’ve never, our dream had been that Mary would have a really good education. And so we had just moved to a new area when she was this age and we really had no idea where the good preschools were.

Darcy:
So we asked our neighbors, we said, you know, “Where do your kids go? Like, what do you think? What’s your research shown you?” And they mentioned this Montessori school we went to visit and they seemed pretty open. And so we signed Mary up. Now, she ended up being the first a student with an intellectual disability that they had welcomed. And they did really, I mean, they, it was great. Like it was a wonderful experience for her. She was fully in the role of being a student at this Montessori school, engaged in all kinds of activities, gained lots of confidence, and even had her first graduation. So, they, this is the school that took graduation very seriously and being in the role of a graduate from kindergarten, they had all kinds of activities that they did and a huge sleepover and a big party.

Darcy:
And so Mary got her first taste of being a student and being a graduate. And that helped her then to really want that as she went through life. And then of course, moving into elementary school. And so she, I think I’ve mentioned this and I’d be happy to talk to anybody about the idea of thinking about the role for each grade level and really, you know, digging in on that. We, this was second grade, we had some wonderful teachers. She made some very good friends. Some people in that picture she’s still in touch with today. And, you know, we paid a lot of attention to that making sure she was a typical second grade student. And then of course, high school, which was not quite as easy, but we, you know, persevered. And really when I say we persevered, it was Mary who was everyday getting up going into that school and you know, challenging a lot of the assumptions. I guess I would say that it was stunning to me. Now, Mary’s 28 so this was a while ago, but it is stunning to me that Mary was always the only student with intellectual disabilities who was fully included in the role of being a student in all of the schools that she went to.

Darcy:
And you know, that very first school experience and then all the way through led Mary on this path to want to be the university student. And when we were helping her think about her future, we started, you know, the school starts that around 14 and we’re sitting around, we’re having a big meeting. And we asked Mary, “Well, what do you want to do?” And she said, “Go to university.” And I thought the people on there the chairs are going to fall off their seats. They would, you know, and they just couldn’t figure out how that could happen. And you know, it did happen. Well, we had to be pretty creative at that point in time to really think about how it could happen. But it did. And Mary went to university for four years and she was not matriculated. as a audit status of a student.

Darcy:
And of course, embracing that role was a lot of fun. Okay. I have the stories I could tell, but I don’t have the time. Okay. Here’s another example. When Mary was little, she just loved dancing and she, you know, so she’s like trying it out. She’s kind of interested in it and it seemed like something that she should pursue further. So we signed her up for dance lessons. This was her first dance recital and indeed it turned out that, you know, Mary’s pretty good at this, despite the doubts of the person who owned the dance studio and the dance teacher. And then she went on, this is a trajectory. So she discovered, she started to really enter into the role, deeply discovered that she really loves this. It’s very enhancing to her self image.

Darcy:
And she loves performing and she continued to do this as an adult, to dance as well as an adult. So there’s that, the role, the vision, the roles, making it a reality and thinking in terms of the trajectory of life. Same thing with them singing, she’s always loved singing. And so middle school, she joined the chorus and then of course it would be logical. She knew what chorus was all about that when she went to university, she’s, one of the things that she wanted to do was to be a member of the women’s chorus. And being in relationships with friends. So this was in middle school that very rich elementary school and Montessori school experience she’d had where she’s had learned how to, you know, interact with lots of different kids, really helped her when she moved into middle school. And these are some of her friends and they formed a club called the Sleepover Club. And each time they had a club meeting, they had a theme. And this particular theme was spa night.

Darcy:
These are friends from high school, these are friends from the university. And what about work? So as a child, I’m sure, you know, you do this as well as parents. Mary was doing chores around the house. Expectations for her were the same that they were for our other children. And of course those expectations increase does she got, you know, older, she got more responsibilities at home that was all part of, you know, being a family member and also learning about work. And then as a, well I think she was about 11 or 12 years. She started doing volunteer work and then she got her first job, paid job at 15. And she’s continued to work and she has, you know, lots of different, done lots of different jobs. Mary, this is along with her interest. Mary was also very interested in, she’s always loved movies.

Darcy:
She’s always loved theater. So she took some theater classes at our local theater and that was a play that the kids wrote and were acting in. And she also got an internship at a theater. And then she volunteered at a theater and I’m happy to say she just got a job at the theater. So, you can see how the trajectory work there. Building on her interest, assisting her to be in valued roles. And this is a pretty new job that she’s only been in the job for three months, but she’s loving it. So we’re hoping this may be the job, you know, that she’ll stay in for a while.

Darcy:
Okay. So in conclusion here, this can be a kind of a helpful summary. I think of this idea of social role valorization which is adding value to your social roles. That’s what is meant by valorization. So start out with the vision and the desire for offering the good things in life to people. We know that through valued social roles, it is more likely that the good things of life will come to you or at least you’ll experience some of those good things through your valued social roles. I’d like you to just think back to that list that we went through of all of the benefits of roles. And when we’re thinking about assisting people to find, grow into and get rooted in valued social roles, we can think of, of course making sure that people are learning competencies in order to be in the role as well as having the image of the role and overall having a positive image. Because if you have a positive image and presentation, you’re more likely to get the opportunity to experience a variety of roles.

Darcy:
And so, here’s a website if you’re interested in learning more about social role valorization, it’s a very good website. And we have an International Social Role Valorization Association and there are a number of publications on that that you might be interested in taking a look at. And of course the website that, of this organization that Genia is sponsoring the goodthingsinlife.org. And I think a lot of what I have seen offered on the goodthingsinlife.org really touch on or help you to think about the vision, the trajectory and valued social roles in the life of your family members.

Genia:
Thank you so much for joining Darcy and I today for this awesome presentation on the power of social roles to help us build fulfilling lives. Again, I just want to remind you that we have a free Facebook group, which is a great place to connect with others about the topics that we’re covering today. I’m sure that you have questions. I’m sure that this doesn’t all fall into place into, you know, action initiatives and like things that you’re going to just do tomorrow. And the Facebook group is a great place to start a conversation about the questions and ideas that you might have. And I really hope to see you there. Again, you can find the free Facebook group by going to Facebook and searching for the Good Things in Life For Kids With Disabilities Podcast group. Or you can find a link in the show notes of this podcast episode. Take care.

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Special thanks to Darcy Elks for joining me this week. Until next time!

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