This post was published as an essay on Dorothea Mordan’s Medium.com page.
When a critical number of people see a problem, some start seeing an answer.
This essay has to start with a shout out to one of my favorite urban legends/intellectual theories — The Hundredth Monkey Effect. In short, this is a reference to a 1950’s research study of monkeys, which produced a theory that once a critical number of members of a group (in this case 100 monkeys) has learned a new behavior, that behavior will be acquired spontaneously by other groups of monkeys, despite being separated by great distances. In this study, the successive groups of monkeys were on different islands, separated by many miles of ocean.
Myth, Legend, Theory, Solution
One of the best things about myths and legends is that they give a form to things and occurrences that are observed or known in pieces but not quite understood or identifiable as fact. For millennia they have given us humans the inspiration to search for meaning and to create something tangible that meets the need for understanding our world. In Norse mythology thunder can be caused by the gods playing a game — bowling in Asgard? Then one day Ben Franklin connects with lightening, discovering a means of understanding electricity. On another day Thomas Edison applies that understanding to the creation of a light bulb — Myth, Legend, Theory, Solution.
Similarly to shared leaps of understanding of physical world phenomena such as weather patterns and chemical reactions, human social changes often occur with a sudden group leap after years of complacency. This may be a “monkey island” effect, or related to the concept of a “collective unconscious“ which is also a bit of a mystery. But doesn’t everyone need a bit of mystery in life? Whatever the reason, bright ideas, and new behaviors do reach multiple human populations simultaneously. As fractured as the world of people and their politics seems right now in 2019, positive changes in human behavior are happening at the same time.
Realizing solutions to a problem which has caused persistent trouble throughout human history — developmental disabilities
When searching for independent living options for an adult with developmental disabilities, the query is never a simple ask — My brother, sister, child needs a place to live that is safe, where can I find one? That question is for people who fall into whatever it is that we call the normal ability range.
When a loved one has a developmental or physical disability the question is a story.
My brother, sister, child is …
high-medium-low functioning autistic or has a different developmental disability — and a history of social trouble because of poor social skills, mental health, minor drug use leading to bad decisions that they never seem able to atone for, or which makes them vulnerable to scams
… and needs a place to live that is safe, where can I find one?
The story is a run-on sentence because these conditions permeate our entire life. Everyday scenarios are series of events that overlap in ways that are as amorphous as they are tangible.
Facing human behavior problems has been a thankless task since the dawn of time. It’s easy to get frustrated, angry, and even merciless when pressures of survival have competition with the rigors of mental un-health. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. Cultures from around the world and all eras have had cruel social solutions for their children and adults with developmental disabilities — eugenics, lobotomy, death from neglect.
How humans deal with such conditions has evolved from fear of the unknown, through observation and questioning the conditions and their causes; from fear of the unknown to our contemporary ability to make survival possible for an incredible array of health afflictions — mental or physical. If you do not understand that genetics exist or that brain trauma causes developmental problems and other disorders, then how do you see the real problem, much less find a solution.
Now that we are all potentially surviving to an increased average age, how and where do we all live in the vast, often impatient society. Is the problem the array of abilities or the limitations of our social order?
Answers are being found in our existing social and financial order, and one result is to create a new tool with our existing skill set. A new style of organizing independent living facilities is becoming more common in the U.S.A. The term accommodation is evolving into incorporation. Everyday, people in need — our friends, family, and friends we just haven’t met yet — are being incorporated into, rather than accommodated by, our society.
Mental and physical health challenges and solutions for fitting into society come in many forms
Group house, affordable housing for people with developmental disabilities, affordable housing, housing within a community. These are words and phrases associated with the search for housing for people who need some sort of care or accommodation. Vocabulary to ask for what our loved ones need is a fine tool but the question still needs answers.
In the United States social norms have changed dramatically since the late 20th century. People with disabilities have access to a variety of services created and offered by private and government agencies. Defining the needs of many individuals and then matching them to solutions is a huge task.
Kitsune, Inc is one of many US organizations filling a vacuum of need for affordable housing for adults with developmental disabilities
I am a founding board member of Kitsune, Inc. About 5 years ago, I, my husband, and a few of us got together to discuss our kids. We had each raised a child with a developmental disability and we had concerns about their ability to survive living independently as adults. The central realization of what they lack, but need to survive is a bit of backup in organizing daily life and interactions in our society. It is the back up that parents and other family members provide to any child. One day we won’t be here to provide that back up, so what happens then.
Economic issues need to be addressed as well. With stagnant annual incomes and increasing housing costs nationwide, there is a growing need for affordable housing. Imagine adding a developmental disability to the equation.
Federal or state programs such as ARC serve an adult population with developmental disabilities which include intellectual disabilities. In Maryland the people without an intellectual disability, (for example, autism with an average IQ), do not receive public assistance beyond the age of 21. This group is upwards of 60% of the group with a diagnosable developmental disability.
Kitsune addresses the needs for affordable, independent living for adults with developmental disabilities but without an intellectual disability.
Many of us have raised, known or have otherwise been aware of people who, due to a variety of developmental issues, do not have the social skills needed to thrive and sometimes to actually survive in our society. Kitsune hopes to provide for, a person who needs a persistent little bit of back up to avoid scams, or simply monitor meds, long term or to transition to traditional self sufficiency, should parents and family or other caregivers no longer be able to.
Our model is a small group of rental apartments with a director who lives on site, not just a check-in (e.g., daily, weekly), providing the back up that was given by family.
Our first objective is to be part of a larger affordable housing project. Kitsune will administrate and sublet apartments for this model for independent living.
Problem solving with our collective unconscious
Kitsune-like communities are happening around the country; a connective fabric of solution, even evolution, of human response. With each successful model for independent living, we as a society will have more inspiration to find solutions when we spot a challenge.
Links to some projects around the USA: