Recently, I started teaching adults with disabilities. As part of my new position, I was sent to training on helping adults create a life they value. The trick is to help adults create a life they want but also help them create a life their support system will, well, support.
The trainer advised that we all remember that we are teaching adults and we don’t recommend (nor make) them work for the things they like. Which started a rabbit hole of thoughts starting with “Don’t all adults have to work for what they like?”
I like electricity, a house, food, and Netflix. I work really hard to keep those things in my life. I also understand that I cannot sit at home and watch Netflix all day if I want to keep those things. But if you really get down into the nitty-gritty of it, no one tells me that I cannot sit at home and watch Netflix all day. Do I have the right to tell another adult they can’t?
My question is not a new one. Behavior Analysts started questioning limiting reinforcement and choices for adults in a research article titled BALANCING THE RIGHT TO HABILITATION WITH THE RIGHT TO PERSONAL LIBERTIES: THE RIGHTS OF PEOPLE WITH DEVELOPMENTAL DISABILITIES TO EAT TOO MANY DOUGHNUTS AND TAKE A NAP.
While we all agree that adults with disabilities have the right to be as integrated into their community as independently possible, what is disagreed upon is how to ethically achieve this. For example, if I am working with an adult who curses do I have the right to intervene on that behavior? Or because they are an adult do I need to respect their choice? Do we go around telling other adults that they have to use replacement words?
No, we do not. We do assume, however, that most adults know when cursing is appropriate. And that’s what I try to teach, when it is expected and unexpected to exercise your rights as an adult. Exercise your right to binge watch Netflix (after you’ve completed a shift, not in the middle of it); exercise your right to scroll Social Media (on break, in your free time, not during a business meeting); eat that 12th donut (if you paid for it, not if there are only 12 donuts in the workroom); and by all means, curse away (at home, or with your friends, not say in a public park with children present).
Because as much as we want to believe that being an adult means FREEEEEDOOMMMMM (yell that in your best Mel Gibson voice). It actually does not. We are not allowed to do whatever we want whenever we want. Even adults live by rules.