Growing up, I knew a man called Tom. Tom was a member of my church community, and most of our interactions occurred in a Wednesday night faith class. Tom was a participant, and I volunteered.
Tom had a disability and received services from a local agency like Target. He lived in his mother’s home, in a basement apartment space. Each day he engaged in supported employment through the agency and left for work around 4:30 am. Before retiring to his apartment, he came home in the evenings to enjoy one beer and the television program Wheel of Fortune.
In the summer months, many individuals who attended the Wednesday night class participated in a week-long sleep-away camp. After one summer, I wondered why Tom did not join us. It was explained to me that routine was essential for Tom and that stepping away from his morning and evening routines and the job would create chaos in his life and manifest in negative behavior.
We know that behavior is communication. Let’s consider that again. Behavior is communication. It can be challenging to know exactly what behavior is communicating. Still, when we understand the underlying root of the behavior, we must create structure and support systems to eliminate that antecedent. As a special education teacher, who occasionally had to be away from the classroom, I often returned to notes from a substitute teacher, exclaiming that a particular student demonstrated attention-seeking behaviors the previous day. Part of my baldness must come from wanting to pull my hair out at this specific note.
When we can identify the root of behavior, we must address it. If a student is acting out in the hopes of attention, let us find ways to provide positive attention, with any luck, before the negative behavior.
Back to Tom, a transition and a loss of routine are hard. Even in my life, days away from my routine sends ripples through my general mood. I am good at clearly communicating my wants, needs, and desires…or at least I think I am. If you are a family member or close friend with a different perspective on my communication ability, I beg you to leave those thoughts out of the comments box.
Not everyone we serve at Target can openly communicate stress related to change. Spring is a time of much change, especially in our residential program. Community living managers graduated from McDaniel College this past weekend. As those individuals graduate and transition away from Target, new managers arrive, and staff pick up extra shifts to create and maintain high-quality service.
Change is hard. The constant in this change is ever-improving programs for those we serve. We are grateful for those who have served, those who step in to assist with the transition, and those new folks who will soon join our team.