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Community involvement of persons with severe retardation living in community residences.

ABSTRACT.- A national survey was conducted with 294 community residential facilities CRFs) serving adults with severe retardation, Respondents were asked to rate 38 community-based activities twice: one rating representing the activity involvement of the residents living in the CRFs, and one rating representing the perceived activity involvement of "average," well-integrated community members. Nonhandicapped community members were perceived to have significantly more involvement in 30 activities than adults living in CRFs. Group home and foster home residents were perceived to be more involved in employment or day activities outside the residence, use of health care services, walking or wheelchair strolling for pleasure, and use of parks or zoos than nonhandicapped community members.

Deinstitutionalization has resulted in the transfer of residents who are mentally retarded from numerous central institutions to community residential facilities CRFs, Braddock & Heller, 1985a). Both positive and negative results of placement in CRFs have been reported in the areas of adaptive behavior, health problems, and activity level (Braddock & Heller, 1985b; Carsrud, Carsrud, Henderson, Alisch, & Fowler, 1979; Close, 1977; Cohen, Conroy, Frazer, Snelbecker, & Spreat, 1977; Conroy, Efthimiou, & Lemanowicz, 1982; Heller 1982). In their review of adaptive behavior studies, Crapps, Langone, and Swain (1985) concluded that reports of improved adaptive behavior resulting from placement in CRFs referred to improvement in home behavior, not in community behavior.

Several studies have shown that children who are retarded and living in foster homes interact little, if at all, with other individuals in their communities and do not use community facilities often (Browder, Ellis, & Neal, 1974; Murphy, Penner, & Luchins, 1972). Even when some degree of social integration does occur with residents of community homes, little involves interactions with nonhandicapped members of the community outside the residential facility (Gollay, 1976; O'Connor, 1976).

Crapps et al. (1985) assessed the quality and amount of community interaction experienced by 15 adults living in CRFs. No levels of retardation were reported for the subjects; two subjects used wheelchairs. Since subject interviews were employed as one means of data collection, subjects were presumed to be verbal. Only a small amount of the subjects' time was spent outside of the home: 36% for men and 18% for women. And, when in the community, the subjects were found to use a limited range of environments.

Crapps et al. stated that while their study provides educators with information about where persons who are retarded and living in community residences spend their time, "it is impossible to conclude whether or not this amount of time spent in the community is like other people... (p. 128). The current investigation was conducted to assess the degree to which adults who are severely retarded and living in community residences are involved in community-based activities, and to compare their level of activity involvement with the perceived involvement of other, well-integrated community members. METHOD Survey Thirty-eight community-based activities were listed as part of a larger survey form: 5 community mobility activities, I I consumer services, and employment or involvement in a regular day activities program outside of the residence, 18 leisure activities, and 3 personal interactions. Survey respondents were asked to rate each activity twice on a 4-point Likert scale. One rating indicated the frequency or degree to which the residents who were living in that home engaged in each activity. The second rating indicated the respondent's perceptions of the frequency or degree to which average," well-integrated members of that community engaged in each activity. A "frequency" rating scale was used for leisure activities and consumer services; a "skill need" scale was used for all other skills. Sample A national random sample of CRFs serving up to 15 residents was generated from a 1982 national census list (Hill, Bruininks, Lakin, Hauber, & McGuire, 1985). The sample included foster homes and group homes serving at least 50% adults (age 19 and over), with at least 50% of the residents functioning in the severe retardation range. The first 294 survey respondents (out of 678 meeting the study criteria) provided two ratings on the survey form as described in the previous paragraph. The remaining respondents were asked to provide one rating only and are not included in this study. Data Analysis T tests of statistical significance were utilized at the x = .05 level to compare the two ratings for each activity. The Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (Nie, Hall, Jenkins, Steinbrenner, & Brent, 1975) was used for the analyses. RESULTS Seventy-six foster homes and 218 group homes completed surveys. Respondents represented 31 states and 3 community types: rural areas 38%,), urban areas (50%), and large cities, that is, more than 250,000 people (12%).

Of those homes, 25% served six residents, 60% housed both male and female residents, and 20% housed only males or only females. Seventy-eight percent of the homes were in residential urban or rural neighborhoods; 13% were in rural, nonresidential settings; and 9% were in some combination of residential, commercial, and industrial settings.

In 63% of the homes all residents were severely retarded. Secondary handicaps exhibited in addition to retardation are displayed in Figure 1. Average resident age was 30-39 years, and resident ages within each facility spanned more than 20 years in 65% of the homes. Survey respondents most often held a bachelor's degree and had 5 to 10 years of experience with individuals with severe handicaps.

For 30 out of 38 activities, perceived involvement of well-integrated community members was rated significantly higher than that of the group home and foster home residents. For four activities, ratings indicated that residents had more involvement than did other community members. No rating differences were found for swimming, bowling, attendance at parties or dances, or use of social services. Table I illustrates a summary of activity ratings comparisons.

Mean response ratings were used to generate a list of: (a) 15 activities most frequently engaged in by residents, and (b) 15 activities perceived to be most frequently engaged in by well-integrated community members. Those lists are presented in Figure 2. DISCUSSION Well-integrated community members were perceived to be more involved in 79% of the 38 common community activities than CRF residents. This difference in the level of community involvement may be attributable to: (a) lower expectations for handicapped community members; (b) community management or supervision problems; (c) lack of adequate skills among handicapped persons required for normalized community use; and (d) social pressure exerted by the general public on nonhandicapped companions of individuals with handicaps.

Persons with severe handicaps have had little opportunity or expectations to perform in the community until the rather recent deinstitutionalization movement when large numbers of individuals with severe handicaps, who previously might have lived in large institutions, were placed in CRFs (Hill, B. K., et al., 1985). Community living provides easier access to community facilities and, in theory at least, provides opportunities to use these facilities. it is also only during the last decade that substantial evidence has been amassed demonstrating that persons with severe handicaps can successfully learn skills that allow them to use a variety of community facilities (Certo, Schwartz, & Brown, 1977; Gaule, Nietupski, & Certo, 1985; Hill, Wehman, & Horst, 1982; Horner, Jones, & Williams, 1985; Storey, Bates, & Hanson, 1984).

The adult residents currently living in the CRFs surveyed in this study are not likely to have had the benefit of positive expectations for participation in normalized community activities when they were growing up, the advantages of 16 years of legally mandated education, or skilled trainers who used systematic instructional techniques for community skill acquisition and effective behavior management

9 procedures. These is no reason, however, for positive expectations for community integration and for qualitative skill acquisition and behavior management programs to be lacking for students with severe handicaps who are currently being educated---provided a sound, effective mechanism of preservice and in-service training is available to educators of this population. less stressful to avoid the community than to use it. This social pressure is likely to be minimized only through a comprehensive community education program. Although several programs have been conducted to promote acceptance arid positive attitudes toward persons with severe handicaps among staff and nonhandicapped peers in school enVironments (Moon, 1983; Voeltz, 1980), no systematic investigation of this type has been reported to date which involves community members. Public education is needed to dispel stereotypes and their consequent fears and destructive biases, and to encourage community support of normalized involvement of persons with severe handicaps in community activities.
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Author:Aveno, Arlene
Publication:Exceptional Children
Date:Jan 1, 1989
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