Finding a voice: Self-advocacy in action at Devereux New Jersey
One day per week, in one of 10 Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health New Jersey vocational programs located across the Garden State, a small group of adults served by the nonprofit meets with staff to learn more about self-advocacy; how to voice concerns and opinions; and how to propose new ideas.
“Let’s hurry up and write down our ideas,” said Griffin, who is enrolled in Devereux New Jersey’s vocational program in Millville. “It’s our right to have our own favorite hobbies and make our own choices!”
“That’s right, Grif,” replied Devereux New Jersey Direct Support Professional Jason Diemand, who reassured the group of nearly 10 self-advocates by saying that was, in fact, the point of the meeting.
During a recent meeting, the group in Millville discussed two topics: 1) how to register to vote in their home districts for the upcoming New Jersey primary; and 2) items to be included in their submission to the statewide “We are Proud to Be” poster competition.
For the first topic, Diemand explained that registration forms will be mailed to Devereux New Jersey’s group homes. He encouraged adults to keep a close eye on their mailboxes, and advocate for themselves by filling out the forms when they arrive.
When discussing the poster project, members of the self-advocacy group shared hobbies and interests they want represented on the poster. For example: Joe enjoys cooking; Frank likes to bowl; Rich loves fishing; Griffin is a musician; John is a DJ; and Paco is the resident “foodie.” At the end of March, the group’s poster will be judged against other vocational program submissions in the state.
Benefits of self-advocacy
Self-advocacy is about understanding your strengths and needs, identifying your personal goals and communicating those goals to others.
Devereux New Jersey’s self-advocacy groups help adults living with emotional, behavioral and cognitive differences feel empowered by their hard work and proud of their accomplishments. Individuals develop social skills, including communication, problem-solving, decision-making and conflict resolution.
Program Manager Lancia Ingram reflected on the success of the Millville self-advocacy program, noting, “The adults we serve have a voice. They have goals, passions and interests. They know what they want, and, through this program, we are proud to support them as they strive to achieve those goals!”
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