- “Inclusion is a must. If we don’t continue to increase inclusion in our schools and in our community, we are going to be setting our individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities backwards. We’ve got to include people with disabilities, in order for them to thrive, grow, and increase their abilities.” - The Arc Mid-South Executive Director, Carlene Leaper
Chartered by Tennessee Secretary of State on November 2, 1950, The Arc Mid-South has a rich history spanning 70 years in Memphis. Over the decades, many milestones have been made benefitting Memphians with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). A few notable achievements include The Arc Mid-South pioneering the first special education classes in both Memphis and Shelby County Schools, as well as the creation of Adult Activity Center, which is known today as Shelby Residential and Vocational Services (SRVS). Through advocacy, family support services, and career and job placement, The Arc Mid-South continues to enhance the quality of life of those with IDD and their families by fulfilling its mission to empower individuals with IDD to reach their full potential.
What does it look like to reach one’s full potential? In the words of The Arc Mid-South’s Executive Director, Carlene Leaper, “Inclusion is a must. If we don’t continue to increase inclusion in our schools and in our community, we are going to be setting our individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities backwards. We’ve got to include people with disabilities, in order for them to thrive, grow, and increase their abilities.”
Independence also is heavily emphasized at The Arc Mid-South and is often seen as an integral component to reaching one’s full potential. Throughout the year the organization hosts programming covering topics such as “How to Get a Job,” “How to Stay Employed,” and “How to Transition from High School to College.” It is imperative that individuals know how to advocate for themselves throughout their adult life and particularly after high school when the structure and network of the school system is no longer available.
The Arc Mid-South works to ensure that individuals with IDD and their families are not alone, especially in times of transition. Through family support services, like respite care in the form of in-home, out-of-home, summer camp, weekend retreats, elder care, personal assistance and community-based day services, families are able to receive assistance from the organization in a multitude of ways. And, when it comes to providing assistance, the community plays a valuable role. Some ways the community can help is through volunteerism, referring individuals in need to the agency, advocacy and championing inclusion, and financial contributions.
Volunteering could be in the form of board or committee service, aiding a classroom, or even serving as an advocate by talking to legislators on behalf of individuals with IDD. For example, The Arc Mid-South is joining with other organizations, like SRVS, to encourage Tennessee legislators to sign a bill in support of $15 wages for Direct Support Professionals. The reason why this bill is important is not only so Direct Support Professionals can provide for their own families, but also so turnover in the industry can be reduced and these professionals can continue to support the families they have already formed a relationship with while serving as source of consistent aid for the loved one with IDD. This example is just one of the many ways the community can advocate for individuals with IDD and support The Arc Mid-South.
To learn more about The Arc Mid-South and ways to get involved visit their website at thearcmidsouth.org or give them a call at 901-327-2473.