Living the Way WE Want – Distance Learning

Living the Way WE Want is a basic level course that empowers people with intellectual disabilities to consider and speak up for what they want in their lives. The twelve one-hour sessions in Living the Way WE Want to help your group members:

  • build personal power,
  • learn about the rights movement for disability equality and how it applies to them, and
  • act together to contribute to the community.

These participatory, fun exercises will continue to strengthen your members’ identity as “self-advocates. This course is an  essential part in the movement for person-centered planning–empowering the person in the center.

Living the Way WE Want

Session 1a:
Title: Session Openers.

Description: This is your four-part formula for starting each of the 12 sessions in this course.

• participants build comfort with one another as a learning group
• participants see the big picture, where this course is going

Session 1b:
Title: Values Collage.

Description: Each participant makes a collage, using a variety of art supplies and their own photo, to show their values.

• participants show their values using art
• participants consider how those values can hyelp themn in daily life


Session 2a:
Title: Decision-Making.

Description: Participants practice noticing decisions they are making, considering whether they are big decisions or small ones, and how to approach each.

• participants can recognize difference between big and small decisions
• participants experience a process for making a big decision, what goes into it

Session 2b:
Title: Guess What I’m Good At.

Description: Participants consider their skills, then pantomime one for others to guess.

•build self esteem
•practice using non-verbal communication


Session 3a:
Title: Don’t Fence Me In.

Description: All sing a song and talk about our desire to be free, and what gets in the way.

Objective: Develop an awareness of barriers that are getting in the way of living the way we want.

Session 3b:
Title: My Goal.

Description: Participants use a worksheet to name one goal in their life, what factors help them reach it, and what stands in the way.

Objective: participants start to build the ability to assess their goals, and how to work toward them.


Session 4:
Title: What’s Working?

Description: Participants work in teams to fill in a worksheet, and use their answers to talk about things that are working well, and things that are not working so well.

• To identify what things are currently working well in your life
• To identify what things are not working well in your life
• Brainstorm things that should stay the same and things that should change.


Session 5a:
Title: History of Power.

Description: Participant teams each study a small slice of history, and present that information to each other, noticing the shift over time toward the right to Live the Way We Want.

• participants notice the historical shift from experts having all the power over lives of people with disabilities to people having power over their own lives.
• participants begin to notice who has the power in their lives, and understand that a shift to having more control over their own lives is possible.

Session 5b:
Title: If I Could Learn Anything.

Description: Participants listen to sentence starters and decide how they would finish the sentence.

• participants get some low-risk practice in talking about their deep hopes and dreams.


Session 6a:
Title: Old versus New Way of Planning.

Description: Pairs study a series of realistic statements to decide if what’s happening is “Living the Way WE Want” or if it is not, then share thoughts with the large group.

• participants practice noticing when experts take power over people with disabilities, and when they actually help people get what they want.

Session 6b:
Title: Practice Being Proud–Guided Relaxation.

Description: Participants relax and listen as facilitator reads an uplifting poem that says if we want to be proud of ourselves, we have to practice being proud.

• lift the spirits of the participants, give them some empowering phrases to remember


Session 7a:
Title: What’s Integration? A Right!

Description: Participants rearrange colored sticky-notes from a segregated pattern to a pattern that demonstrates what integration looks like.

• become familiar with the concepts of segregation and integration

Session 7b:
Title: My Integrated Life.

Description: Participants use a worksheet to notice integration to their own life, naming where they have integration, and where they don’t.

• notice the right of integration in your life
• notice segregation in your life
• see common experiences you have with others


Session 8a:
Title: Art Project: Living the Way WE Want.

Description: Participants each take a phrase from the “Living the Way WE Want” poster and create a new artistic poster showing what that means, and what it means to them.

• participants deepen their understanding of the central premise of this course, Living the Way WE Want, connecting it to their lives and their creativity

Session 8b:
Title: Come to the Center.

Description: All gather in a circle. Facilitator read a series of statements. After each, participants come to the center of the circle if it’s true for them.

• low risk method to get folks talking
• non-verbal activity maximizes full inclusion of all abilities


Session 9
Title: Assertiveness Training.

Description: Volunteers take turns role-playing simple situations three times: once passively, once aggressively, and once assertively.

• Understand the difference between communicating passively, aggressively, and assertively
• Experience which communication method is most effective


Session 10:
Title: Take Action on What’s Not Working.

Description: Use role-play as a way to practice taking action in their own “not working” situations, in order to get closer to having more of what you want.

• participants wrestle with an issue they’d like to change, and practice ways to get around roadblocks.


Session 11:
Title: We Give Back (Field Trip).

Description: Participants all go together to volunteer at a neighborhood event or organization to help out for an hour, and to be visible in the community.

Objectives: Participants experience the pride and power of helping others.


Session 12:
Title: Closing Ceremony.

Description: Event to review the new learnings and to recognize graduates with ritual and certificates.

• Celebrate the completion of this 12-session course
• Raise community awareness of what we are doing