At my last job, a board member asked me a profound question, “What would you create if you had a blank slate?” If you don’t have any existing systems, didn’t have to worry about any disruptions of staff or must transition anything. After he asked me that question, I had a moment of panic because I am a naturally creative person. Still, I imagine that even a painter occasionally stares at a blank canvas and says, now what?
If I had a blank slate, here’s what I would create:
- I would extend Early Intervention from birth to kindergarten. That way, the parent and child would have one provider to work with until the child got to school. There would be no handoff from one system to another at age 3.
- I would provide a service navigator across the lifespan so there would be no handoffs from one age or system to another. There would be no need to learn another system’s requirements, go online, fill out forms, transfer records, and wait. These navigators would provide the LifeCourse framework uniformly to inspire the proper support and achievements. Family-centric options would emerge across the lifespan, like family co-ops for respite and family learning onsite and virtual.
- I would make our schools partner with specialized intervention agencies so that each intervention agency would have the full range of clinical services: nursing, PT, OT, Speech, Special Education, and Mental Health. The intervention agency would also have SWIFT coaches that would work with teachers to include children alongside typically developing children and identify the extraordinary needs of the children. Residential schools would be replaced with partnerships between KenCrest and the district, so KenCrest branded support would be in that district. We would compete with other organizations to be chosen, which would keep us on our toes!
- Teens would have various opportunities to explore work and post-graduation decisions, including living, working, and serving. The cliff between 21 and adult supports would be gone along with the categorical waivers system. So regardless of your needs, a matching set of supports would be available.
- New variations and models would emerge in this new world. With the support of the navigators, families would create more things like shared housing and efficiency apartments. In those models, people would be supported by their families and some paid support.
- All people who serve or work in this field would be credentialed somehow. They allow people to live well with one job and not depend on two jobs or overtime to pay the bills. Career ladders and lattices would allow for upward and lateral moves so that you could either do something different or be more skilled. Multiple options would be available for non-degreed positions; for example, a person could exit high school with the credential and a decent-paying job! A high school student would say I want to be a DSP when I graduate.
- I would make it so that health and social services college debt would be reduced every year you served in the capacity you were trained for! So, the loans would be forgiven every year rather than you carrying the load.
What would you create if you could start over with a blank slate?