A Ric Crowley Anecdote About Early Supported Employment:

It All Began With...

...a simple conversation in the early 1970s based on the notion of "what if?" Then the discussion began in earnest between Tom Bellamy (Specialized Training Program (STP) University of Oregon), Dan Close, Ph.D. (Research and Training Center, University of Oregon) and Ric Crowley M.Ed. (Division of MR/DD, Salem, Oregon). What if twelve volunteers (patients) with "significant disabilities":

  • left the confines of Eastern Oregon Hospital and Training Center in Pendleton, Oregon and
  • moved to two homes in Eugene, Oregon and
  • worked at the Specialized Training Program (STP) earning at least minimum wage and
  • the criteria to participate was mmmmmm? (in jest—"they need to know how to hold a spoon").

Would "they" become part of their communities and be contributing wage earners engaged in productive (albeit extremely complicated) tasks. "They did." And so the Tom Bellamy/Mark Gold "one-upsmanship" competition began. Thanks to the efforts of Tom Bellamy and his staff, and Dan Close and his staff, the outcomes confirmed the unpopular belief that anyone, given appropriate supports, could live and work and thrive in typical communities.

The state, university and federal government collaborated with funding and staff to ensure this initiative received the necessary support. The "STP participants" would not have to be abandoned in state run or private ICF's simply because of a preconceived notion of "incompetence" based on typical medical model assessments that focused on disability rather than ability.

This effort was one of the earliest documented approaches to community inclusion combining some traditional (applied behavior analysis) and visionary (inclusion, freedom, self-direction, choice) approaches. Simply stated—it worked! It worked in spite of the medical model and segregated "programs."

Ric Crowley is a long time professional in the field who has helped pioneer changes in employment, living, and self determination. He currently lives in Louisiana.