In partnership with ASuggestion for Wellness, The Arc Gloucester recently participated in a panel presented by HealthMatters, a program from The University of Illinois at Chicago. CEO Jake J. Jones and Agency Nurse Robyn Blanchard participated in the discussion with ASuggestion creator, Greg Wilson and colleague in the I/DD space, Jade Pollock.
Below is a recap of the seminar, and the links to the recording are included at the bottom.
CEO Jake J. Jones is no stranger to the challenges presented in the social media world for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In a previous position, Jones was a Day Program manager. Throughout the day, the individuals in his programs expressed a desire to interact on common social media platforms. Unfortunately, this, at times, presented a problem.
No Room for Error
Social Media as it stands is a less-than-forgiving space for individuals with I/DD. Take for example, our fictional individual with I/DD, "Jack." "Jack" wishes to interact on social media, and perhaps encounters "Sally," (another fictional individual). "Jack" and "Sally" engage on social media, and "Jack" makes a comment that is inappropriate or offensive. On most social media platforms, "Jack" is left open to public humiliation, cyber-bullying and potential expulsion from the platform. "Jack" may not understand why he is being treated this way, nor why he has been expelled from the platform.
This got Jones' wheels turning. "We need a platform that can allow some experimental learning. There should be a platform where the individuals we serve can experiment with conversation and have the benefit of someone helping them navigate these things," Jones remembers thinking. "We can leverage our DSP staff to perform intervention where necessary and moderate these conversations." Jones just needed the IT support.
A Chance Phone Call
Years later, Jones received a call from Greg Wilson pitching his ASuggestion platform as a space for employees and staff to engage with the organization. But Jones saw another opportunity, so he asked Wilson if this platform could work in the capacity he'd imagined. Wilson responded with a question, and the two began to collaborate on what would become a revolutionary new tool in the I/DD space.
And thus, ASuggestion for Wellness was born. The platform provides a space where providers can leverage DSP staff to manage and moderate healthy discussion with individuals they serve in a safe, secure and anonymous space.
Leadership Change & New Opportunity
When Jones took over as CEO of The Arc Gloucester in January 2020, he planned for the agency to begin participating in ASuggestion for Wellness. It was just a matter of finding the right time.
Then, COVID-19 hit, thrusting the agency and the individuals we serve into crisis. Suddenly, everyone began to feel isolated, worried, and anxious. The individuals served in our Day Programs and Group Homes no longer had the daily social interaction with their peers, therapists, support staff. Routines were thrown into chaos, which can be detrimental for many of the individuals we serve.
Jones approached Robyn Blanchard, Agency Nurse about the platform, and Blanchard worked her "Content Generating Engine" magic. Blanchard saw a real need for immediate social interaction for the individuals we serve, as they had begun to suffer a real loss of companionship. Blanchard launched "Wake Up Call with Nurse Robyn," the first social room on The Arc Gloucester page.
"Wake Up Call with Nurse Robyn" immediately drew an impressive following from the individuals in our programs, as they were now able to engage with friends, The Arc Gloucester staff, and comment, post and discuss healthy recipes and a plethora of topics which Blanchard consistently posted about.
Improvements and Exciting Developments Galore
Since then, so many different rooms have begun (largely, in part, due to Nurse Robyn's content generating machine of a brain) and the individuals participating have immediately benefitted. Some of the Rooms developed encompass sports topics, healthy food recipes, "Laughter is the Best Medicine," (a place for jokes) and much more! Individuals can choose to participate in the rooms that they are most interested in, which allows such independence Blanchard is simply in awe. She feels in many ways it is the "answer for a lot of our prayers when we want to help the people that we serve to feel acknowledged, to feel appreciated, to express a personal right and to express their creativities."
Where We Stand & What We Need
To progress ASuggestion for Wellness further, The Arc Gloucester and ASuggestion need more collaborative partners. The possibilities for this platform are endless. Imagine providing a platform for caregivers of those with I/DD to connect, support each other and get advice, or for DSPs/staff to connect and learn. Imagine a platform for all individuals with I/DD, where they can learn, experiment with the guidance of the knowledgeable DSP staff and leadership.
These dreams can (and in some ways have already) become a reality, but we need partners to help us take it to the next level! If this excites you, or you can envision your place on this platform--please contact us!
You can email Jake at firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "ASuggestion for Wellness" for more information and to facilitate a conversation. We look forward to your partnership!