Sometimes You Have to Think “start over.”

At my last job, a board member asked me a profound question: “What would you create if you had a blank slate?” You don’t have any existing systems. You don’t have to worry about any staff disruptions; there aren’t any. You don’t have to close or transition anything. I had a moment of panic. I am naturally creative, but I imagine that even a painter occasionally stares at a blank canvas and says, now what?

I tried to put myself in the shoes of the other person. If I could if I had a blank slate, here are my thoughts on what I would create:

1. 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 went to school. There would be no handoff from one system to another at age 3.

2. I would provide a service navigator across the lifespan. Once a lifetime need was identified, there would be no hand-offs from one age, or system, to another. There would be no need to learn another system’s requirements. No need to go online and fill out more forms or transfer records. There would be no more waiting! These navigators would provide the LifeCourse framework uniformly to inspire the right supports and achievements. Family-centric options would emerge across the lifespan, like onsite and virtual family co-ops for respite and family learning opportunities.

3. Schools would partner with specialized intervention agencies. 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. These coaches would work with teachers to include children alongside typically developing children. Residential schools would be replaced with partnerships between organizations like KenCrest and the district. We would compete with other organizations to be chosen, which would keep us on our toes!

4. Teens would have various opportunities to explore work and post-graduation decisions like living, working, and serving. Along with the categorical waivers system, the cliff between 21 and adult supports would be gone. Regardless of your needs, a matching set of supports would be available.

5. 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 these models, people would be supported by their families and some paid support.

6. All people who work in this field would be credentialed in some way. People could live well with one job and would 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 do something different or something more skilled. Multiple options would be available for non-degreed positions; for example, a person could exit high school with a credential and a decent-paying job. High school students would say they want to be a DSP when they graduate.

7. Health and social services college debt would be reduced every year you served in the capacity you were trained for. Every year your loans would be forgiven instead of you carrying the financial weight.

What would you create if you could start over with a blank slate? Let’s compare notes. Click here to send your ideas. I will use them in the Town Hall.