Today at Central Utah Enterprises (CUE), I discussed the Circles of Intimacy with the staff and how it is being used with middle-school kids with the same or stronger disabilities than the clients/trainees in laundry and assembly.
I love the guys at CUE. In spite of their disabilities, they are some of the most authentic, wonderful people I know. Even the guy whose discipline problems are so severe he spends almost all his time with me with I work at CUE. The reason is when I walk in every morning, I get greeted by a chorus of hellos and hugs from almost everyone. Even the autistic men who normally do not like any physical contact will come over for a hug. The problem is this should not be happening.
None of the clients/trainees at CUE is a good decision maker or problem solver. They lack the skills to separate someone who cares for them or some one who would prey on them. Many of them are repeated victims and still they treat everyone innocently. While in a perfect world there is nothing wrong with this, we do not live in a perfect world. Far from it. To even become a person who works with the disabled, one must go through a serious background check and even then, there are predators.
The circles of intimacy is not a cure all, but it at least provides barriers. When the Pepsi guy shows up, some of these folks go up to him and give him a hug. They don’t even know his name, but they like him because he brings in the pop. In the circles of intimacy, he would be in the orange or wave circle. Someone you know, but not well who it might be best to keep away from. I would be in the yellow or handshake circle. The middle-schools have an in depth program and video series that over a period of months helps their students understand how the circles of intimacy works. If the staff at CUE could do it, they might be able to teach the same program to at least cut down on some cases of victimization.
There is a good argument against the program. Many of these guys do not have families. Many who do have families, only see their families once a year. A few still live at home, but all eventually move into institutional living. The concern is they would then never have physical contact if the staff at CUE stopped hugging them. The hug or blue circle is for family. Instilling these restrictions would eventually be heartbreaking for both the staff and the clients/trainees.
One of my best friends at CUE has no family that visits him. He is a middle-aged man who has serious issues, but is very kind and is a hard, hard worker. He is also very funny. He has been victimized by people who claimed to be his friends. He has only given me a hug twice, but both times I can tell he needed one. He was troubled because of something or the other or was telling a story about his time in jail or his prison tattoos. If he was restricted from all physical contact, he would be hurt, but if he had learned the skills the circles of intimacy program teaches, he might never have gotten into such serious problems.
While I recognize, this program would not address family members that would take advantage of the state-funds they receive (I know of two these cases at CUE), it would at least begin to help.