Living the Way We Want

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 this course 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 help them 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.

–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.

–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.

–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