In the field of care of developmentally disabled people, there is a very important concept that comes into play on a daily basis. This concept is important to remember on a small scale, as well as a larger scale in the lives of the developmentally disabled. We are talking about “dignity of risk.”
Dignity of Risk
“Dignity of Risk” is the concept that surrounds the idea that all people deserve the right of some level of self-determination. Imagine if every small detail of your life was determined by someone else. You would feel helpless and very likely frustrated. The developmentally disabled are no different than you or I in this regard. They can and should have some level of autonomy. As we all know, choices have to have consequences. When you are using rewards and withholding of privileges to shape behavior, you are allowing the individual to exercise their judgment, and this is a good thing. When you are able to take this to a further extent, you can allow the person to make choices, be more independent, and own the consequences. Depending on the level of functioning of the person in question, there are different levels of independence that are safe to practice.
A sense of judgment is essential to our humanity. We make choices and face the consequences, both positive and negative. Essential to the dignity of risk is the right to fail. When you are allowed to fail, you are experiencing a wider range of human experience. We all make mistakes, take wrong turns, forget to do things, and make other choices that have consequences.
Everyday things that we take for granted can be opportunities to take dignity of risk to new levels.
For some people, riding their bikes or riding on a plane alone can be confidence-building and broaden their horizons. It’s not easy to let the developmentally disabled go by themselves at first (or ever). We fear someone will take advantage of them, that they will be faced with a stressful situation with no help there for them or that they could get hurt. But all those things could happen to anyone and letting the disabled experience those things increases the range of their human experiences.
Traveling can be a great opportunity to practice the dignity of risk. For some developmentally disabled people, going to the store by themselves can be the adventure they’ve worked toward for a year, and for another, a trip to Disneyland where they get to choose when to go and which attractions to stand in line for.
Here at the Arc of Burlington, we offer residential homes and services to enrich the lives of developmentally disabled adults. Call us today to see what services are right for the special person in your life! To support our organization, be sure to shop at the Arc Store at 223-5 High Street in Burlington City. We also offer lawn care services through our Lawn Crew, part of the Lumberton Adult Vocational Program. Need your lawn cut and edged or those pesky fall leaves raked and bagged? Call us to set up an appointment.