Transition to Retirement: A Guide to Inclusive Practice: Adaptations for the Current U.S. Context
Chapter 6: A New Routine
Regularly attending a community group involves important changes to the person’s previous routine. Depending on individual circumstances, going to a community group may require changes for the individual with IDD, for their home life, for their employment, changes at the community group, and changes in travel arrangements. Chapter 6 discusses the many aspects of creating a new routine for the day when the person goes to their community group. These changes can also affect other people at the person’s home, work, or community group.
Adaptations for the Current U.S. Context
Chapter 6 includes a section on Changes for the community group (pp. 70–72) that discusses ways in which mentors and the TTR coordinator can support the person with IDD to join in the group’s activities. The focus is mainly on ensuring the person has enough to do and is not isolated or bored. There is less emphasis on social interaction or conversations. The suggestions below are intended to support more and richer social interactions.
An encounter is usually a brief interaction between a person with IDD and a person without IDD. Encounters typically involve a greeting and/or brief chat. Convivial encounters signify positive social acceptance. This form of social interaction has received increased research attention since the TTR manual was written (e.g., Bigby & Wiesel, 2015, 2019) and deserves a clearer focus when implementing TTR.
Bigby and Wiesel (2019, p. 41) emphasized that “a convivial encounter should be valued in its own right as an essential element of social inclusion”. Brotherton (2022) noted that individuals with disability find encounters socially satisfying and comfortable and: “for some participants the level of conversation that they were comfortable with was exchanging greetings, being known and recognized, and convivial encounter” (p. 180). These individuals may find more complex conversations difficult or stressful.
On this basis, we propose that support for and encouragement of encounters with other community group members should be prioritized.
- The person with IDD should be supported to offer greetings and use verbal and nonverbal strategies (e.g., photos; YouTube clips; valued possessions) to initiate brief chats/encounters.
- Likewise, mentors and other group members should be encouraged to take part in encounters with the person. One valuable additional component for mentor training would be to help mentors to recognize that a relatively brief greeting or chat is an enjoyable, socially satisfying experience for many people with IDD, especially if they have quite limited communication skills. Other training could include teaching mentors to initiate encounters themselves, and to respond positively when a person with IDD tries to start an encounter.
Bigby and Wiesel (2015) identified a range of strategies that support workers can use to facilitate congenial encounters. Bigby and Wiesel, (n.d.) developed a free online training course on how to facilitate socially inclusive encounters involving a person with IDD.
Conversations, Relationships, and Reciprocity
Many individuals with IDD are comfortable with more sustained conversations. Reciprocity (give and take) in social situations supports the development of genuine relationships. Brotherton (2022) proposed that interactions that support reciprocity include features such as:
- exchanging greetings
- discussing shared interests
- revealing personal life stories
- sharing a joke
- taking part in joint tasks
- giving and receiving support or gifts
- contributing to the group’s functioning (e.g., activity setup)
Feeling Safe and Included
Stancliffe and Hall (2023) found that true social inclusion for people with IDD requires that they feel safe in social situations, especially regarding psychological safety. Such safety involves both positive social support and acceptance (e.g., being heard, valued, and treated well) and freedom from (fears of) negative social experiences (e.g., being teased, bullied, put down, excluded, or ignored).
These issues should be included in mentor training and mentors should discuss ways to check in with the person with IDD about whether they feel safe. Likewise, mentors should brainstorm potential scenarios of social exclusion and how to manage them. Examples could include no-one sitting next to or talking to the person with IDD, overt or implied put-downs, exclusion from certain activities, etc.