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How to deal with OPWDD services when you or your loved one is developmentally disabled

Updated on June 26, 2012

Adults and children with disabilities need help!

Obviously, children and adults with disabilities need more help than the average person in order to live as close to normal lives as possible. The help exists, that's for sure, but as with anything else that exists in this world, there are problems with the help that is given to our disabled people, especially developmentally disabled persons. The Offices for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) offer an abundance of services in which developmentally disabled persons can take advantage of--and by all means should. In order for a person who is developmentally disabled to live the fullest and happiest life, they need these services. Some examples of services offered by OPWDD are residential services, recreational services, respite services and so on. The problem does not exist in the services but in the people working at the programs/faciiities where these services exist.

How to avoid problems with services...

As I have come to understand, since in the last couple of years having been amongst various programs funded by OPWDD, I came to find that many people who are working with the developmentally disabled are not properly trained to do so. Given that this is a difficult population which needs extra care, there should be more qualified people amongst the developmentally disabled. With the amount of money put into these programs by our government, the focus should be on the reason why these programs exist, which is obviously to help developmentally disabled people. Although there are some caring people who are really trying to help, in contrast there are cases where the benefit that comes from helping these people is for the program/facility to profit. While this does make sense for the program/facility, this is a disadvantage for the developmentally disabled population because they are fooled into believing they are being helped, when they are really not. In fact, it does exist today, where a program such as a day habilitation program, will keep an individual who may be ready to work outside of their program, just because the program is gaining money from the individual. The goal of day programs is to prepare individuals who are able to, to work in the real world. This is unfair for the individual, because work outside the program can help further their life options, but because of the selfishness of the program, the individual will never know, of coarse there are audits that exist for this reason and many other reasons, but for the most part, noone will ever know the secrets kept in certain facilities.

A way to avoid these problems is to find a good service coordinator and by good, I mean someone who actually shows they care and shows it through their hard work. When dealing with OPWDD services you must stay on top of the programs/facilities' coordinators. If you are a family member of a developmentally disabled person, keep tabs on their progress throughout all their programs. Whether it be their school, day habilitation, physical therapist, occupational therapist,etc. or simply their doctor. Speaking to the people who are involved in the disabled individuals' life is very important, and speaking to them on a regular basis will help you understand how well the individual is doing, and then you will find out from there how well/hard the people are working with the individual. You will see if they are truly trying to help or not. Use your instincts, and if you feel someone is not working well with the individual, you can always change programs/services, no problem, no questions asked. (Well some questions may be asked but overall it's not a big deal.) Research, if possible, the programs ahead of time and talk to the employees in the program before you enroll your family member, to make sure the program is a proper fit for the individual. Lastly, and most importantly, become educated about the services that OPWDD offers by taking some of their free classes and researching as much as possible. There are so many opportunities for individuals with developmental disabilities, and most are free, so it is important to take advantage of as much as possible/needed. Remember, educating yourself is key for almost everything in life!

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