A few weeks ago, I was at a community event. And there I met Michael Thomas, the executive director of my possibilities. My possibilities is a well known organization and Collin County in the Greater Dallas metroplex area where we live now. And it provides a variety of services to individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, including academic training, life and social skills training, job training, and placing adults with disabilities into community employment. Now, I have volunteered at my possibilities before and I so love the people, the events, they organize the social impact they have, and just everything about it. When I heard Michael on stage, I saw an authentic individual truly dedicated to the cause of providing quality services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities after they leave the school system. I chased him down of course after the event and invited him to be on our podcast, which he graciously accepted. I have to say that Michaels leadership, strategic planning and entrepreneurship is behind the tremendous growth of my possibilities in the past 10 years. They serve at least 600 individuals with disabilities in our community to build their lives and achieve their fullest potential and society. It is an honor to interview Michael, a disabilities advocate, Executive Director and CO innovator, Dallas 40, under 40 TEDx speaker, and a social impact pioneer from my very own community.
Welcome to inclusive occupations, sharing stories of not just being invited to the party, but dancing. I'm your host, Savitha Sundar, I'm a school based occupational therapist. This podcast is a space for OTs and others, who work with children and youth in education, to be informed, inspired, and empowered to create an inclusive community for the students they serve. Hi, Michael, welcome to inclusive occupations. I'm so happy to have you on our show today. I would like to start this interview with a favorite quote of yours that has guided you and your life's journey.
Oh, I have I have one that I love a whole lot. He's the Benjamin Zander is the he was the principal for the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. So he's a conductor. But he's so much more than that. He has a quote that says it is one of the characteristics of a leader that he or she not doubt for one moment, the ability of the people that you're leading to realize whatever they're dreaming. And I just for me is it just kind of keeps centered to the importance of believing in your people and and also having big visions. So that's, it's one of my favorites.
I love it. And I think you embody that quite a bit. You've made it this far. And, and I know how much my possibilities has grown in the past 10 years.
So yeah, thank you.
Yeah. Tell us about my possibilities and how you got involved with this organization?
Sure. I'll start with the second part. First, I graduated college and I went directly into disabilities, organizations. So my entire career has been in this field. I was living in Las Vegas and working for a similar organization. That was about 55 years old at the time, but wanted to move back home to North Texas. And I went online, and I was talking to a friend of mine and said, Hey, I'm moving back looking for work. And she said, Well, what do you do? And when I described to her where I worked and what I did, she said, Oh, it sounds just like a place that my sister goes to school. And I said, Oh, tell me about it. She sent me the link. When I clicked on the website. And my possibilities at the time was about a year old. On the top of the website, it said now hiring executive director. And so I was one of those very fortuitous and probably guided conversations. That's that's how I found the organization. We're we're a continued education program for adults with intellectual developmental disabilities. But we really have become so much more than that. It's not just about daily educational programming. It's also clinical services and we have a variety of therapeutic modalities. We provide job training and job placement support, respite activities, weekend, overnight activities, and moving into the realm of residential services as well. So really doing what we can to become sort of a holistic, you know, supporting individual disabilities in every way possible or is in as many ways as possible. But at the end of the day, we're an org that is promoting the inclusivity of people with disabilities. That's our that's our purpose.
So you shared that my possibilities serves as a comprehensive pathway to inclusion. I heard this in one of your other interviews for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and you call them hipsters, right? Hugely important people. Which I love, it's such a nice thing. And you're helping individuals with intellectual developmental disabilities fit into a society that was that has historically not been designed for them. So as an organization, do you also target the social environment that they will be entering into? And if so how do you do it?
Yeah, it's actually part of the bigger part of the challenge is preparing the community. For them, it's actually quite simple. People with disabilities, when you give them an opportunity to learn, they learn very quickly, they're ready to go. So it's much easier to do that than it is to prepare the community to receive and accept them. So we do that everywhere we go. Every community partner we have, whether they're volunteering, or they're allowing our guys to train on site, or they're hiring people with IDD. We have those conversations at the highest levels to kind of give them some guidance on what it looks like to include this population in in their buildings or their businesses, or the community. You know, 15 years ago, this was a struggle. It's a real struggle. In fact, I remember places saying, Sorry, we can't let you come in, you know, there's all sorts of terrible stories. Today, it's very different, you know, that, I think the world is acknowledging that there's no reason for for people with disabilities not to be included. And that it's okay to be it's okay to come from a place of ignorance and just not know how, and then to say, Can you help us with that? So we do a lot of that help in those conversations, we teach them what it means to include them in the workforce, what it looks like to have them in a classroom. And I find in 2023, it's, I don't wanna say it's easier. It's still a challenge, but it is, it is, at the very least easier to get to that point and have these conversations and it was, you know, 15 years ago,
there's definitely I think people are willing to consider it more with all the the talk about inclusion in the past, say five years, I would say,
So most people think that it is a charitable act to employ people with intellectual disabilities, or other disabilities, but they have proven otherwise. Right? So it actually makes business sense to hire individuals with disabilities, intellectual disabilities and other developmental disabilities. Can you speak to that, from your experience? Any stories you have to share?
Yeah, actually. So that was that's another change over over time. I remember in the earliest days of placing adults in the workforce, when we were working with somebody who really was hiring because it felt right or because it's the right thing to do. We would we would accommodate? And we would say, oh, yeah, absolutely, John is going to be great, he's gonna he's gonna be a great employee. That's not the right reason to do this, you know, in 2023, conversations around diversity, inclusion, equity, belonging, accessibility, you know, there, every corporation in America has a department or a business resource group or, you know, a new focus on ensuring everybody can be included. So it's just taken a little while longer for them to realize that people with IDD should be included in that as well. But the to your comment about it making business sense. You know, most adults with IDD are looking for repetitive task work, or what the rest of the world would look at as kind of like entry level work, right? These are jobs that are for the common American is something that you really only hope to have for six months, nine months, and then you're going to take whatever promotion you can get, or you're going to just leave for more money someplace else, which means they're incredibly high turnover roles. When our guys are accepted into a job, they don't leave, like they just they want to do that job forever, because they've been given the opportunity. And they're on. They're on a team and it means something to them. So if anything, we have to coach them on how to ask for a raise, we have to coach them on how to look for other jobs in the business. I mean, they're they're just unapologetically loyal to the company for giving them the chance to work. So could you imagine having a doing this well and finding roles and every department that brings on somebody with IDD and or multiple people in each department, and they stay For three years, five years, seven years, 10 years, the cost savings, right from the business and standpoint of not having to replace those positions and having really efficient and effective talent and those roles. Yeah, that's a really, really good game plan, and companies are finally starting to figure it out. So it's not, you know, it used to just be the local grocery store. Or, you know, maybe the library had somebody that was kind of walking around saying, Hi, now it's banks. And, you know, Microsoft, Google, Apple. Amazon now has an autism program, SAP IE, why JPMorgan Chase, like these companies have figured out, oh, crap, we need to do this. Because it's actually, you know, we're moving from it being the right thing to do to being competitive advantage. And I absolutely love that transition. Because they could, they could not be farther apart from each other. But really, companies are looking at it going, Oh, my gosh, if we could hire someone like John, and put them in each department, but each one of our locations, and we never have to re staff from them, they can they can crunch those numbers, and saves a ton of time. Now let's get to the cultural side of it. And it's going to feel amazing. And you're going to have a wonderful human being on your team and their co workers like, that's, that should be, that should be the beautiful byproduct, we shouldn't start with well, we want to hire John, because we think we're all going to feel better about ourselves if he works here. And then maybe he does a good job. Now we want to place our adults in good work, we want to make sure they're trained. And we want to make sure it makes business sense for the company. And then we'll feel good about the fact that everybody's happy. And they're like, Wow, we've never worked with someone like John before. He just, he's just so wonderful to be around. Yeah, that's the byproduct of bringing these guys into the workforce.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I this is, I think, at some point, they made the effort to just invite them in to see the benefits. So just opening the doors is probably the first step. I would, I would think. Yeah, and we think can take that effort and open doors.
Absolutely. And you're right, you're right on the money there. You know, our, our game plan is to do internships, so we call them academies. So a company that's kind of that's entertaining, the idea will say, Listen, we'll bring a group of five in will help identify all the work, they'll have a coach with them on site the entire time, and they'll work for you for 12 to 13 weeks, and you'll get to see them hands on, you'll get to see them in the building and to watch them do the work that that has to be done by the company to begin with. And our hope is that you're going to see somebody in that group that you want to hire. And so let us help demonstrate that this works, we'll manage it will do all the work will the whole thing and then get you to the point where you feel comfortable saying you know what, we are ready to do this. And, and then by the way, once you've hired, that person will still be there for coaching support. What we don't want to do is place somebody in the job and disappear. Because if anything changes in that job, or if those co workers of the individual haven't been given a chance to learn and be trained, the likelihood that that job is going to last long term is pretty small. So we don't just play some disappear, we play some stay. And that's not something any other staffing agency does. You know, they they play some they go they play somebody collect their money and disappear. We play somebody and ensure that their long term security men job is there. And we have we coach people for years beyond placement. So but there's it's more complicated than just placing somebody and then you know, heading off to the next one,
for sure. And this is such a huge service that you're providing to the community and to different organizations, I'm sure
thank you. Yeah.
So I understand that this is like a college style program right. So once they go school system and they come into my possibilities and they kind of pursuing a higher education and then finding employment. So there are many individuals with significant support needs who may take much longer to make it out there to become gainfully employed. And sure they're getting them the trainings. So when I say gainfully, I mean not just receiving a paycheck but feeling belonged and wanting to be in that community out there. To do all hipsters find a place in the community where they belong. Which is you face in that aspect? I mean, I don't know. I think it would be very naive of me to say that they fit in and then the world is nice and rosy for them. I'm sure there are situations that you really have to navigate. So
yeah, it's a challenging question, I think I would start from a different place and acknowledging that people are diverse period, people are different period, there is no magical line, where at this point or below, everyone has the same path, or this point or above, everyone has the same path. You know, the learning and the journey, the journey and being human and finding connectivity and finding purpose and meaning like that is a challenge for all of us. So for adults with disabilities, based off of their interest and level of need, some, some may be some may see employment as like the way that they want to be fulfilled. And the things that they need to be a part of the world is to feel it is to be working as a part of a team. So for them, that's going to be the pathway that we craft. And so through this college style model, they may be taking classes that are explicitly focused on going to get a job. But for other adults that come into the program, employment may not be on the radar right now, we may for them, it may be social connectivity, and might be establishing some relationships, and maybe becoming more comfortable being in the community. Not everybody wants to go out into the workforce, the community every day. In fact, there's a lot of people without disabilities who don't want to go out into the community every day or go to the workforce every day. So you know, our goal is when someone comes in, regardless of their diagnosis, regardless of their ability level, or their goals at that time, we want to meet them where they're at, we want to try and craft a pathway for them. That may include it might include job training, it might include therapy, it might include an increased number of social activities, but it needs to fit them. So it's it's a really long answer to the question.
Yeah, I see. I see. It's not it's not an easy question at all. It's a monster. And I'm, I'm guessing when they come in you have them identify what their goals are? Where do they want to head in life after this? What about people who are not able to articulate that? Do you?
Yeah, now you've now you've added a whole patient? Yes. So you know, when when somebody may not be able to communicate their needs, then the we work with, we work with support, we work with advocates, we work with guardians and parents, a provider whose job is to look after their best interest we do. We bring in as much information as possible to ensure we can craft an experience for them as well. This gets back to my like the my soapbox about ability level. And full disclosure, like MP is not all things for everybody. And we we have crafted a predominantly educational experience for people with disabilities. And that means that there are people who, who may need more medical need, or are not interested in the educational process at all, but they need a place to be calm and quiet. Like those are things that we don't provide very well right now. And so the challenge is, it's almost impossible for any one organization to holistically support any person that comes in the door. And a good example would be you know, if somebody comes in with a with no cognitive disability, and they come to me like we're not able to serve them, we don't provide programming that would support them either. So I think the challenge that we have is making sure that that pathway that I was talking about early earlier, where we meet somebody where they are provided with that pathway to inclusivity inclusivity is relative to the individual a good job is relative to the individual. And so we need to make sure we can provide to as many adults with disabilities as possible without becoming so stretched in every capacity that we can't serve everybody at the highest level. It is really challenging and uncomplicated. But
I liked the fact that you guys just landed and expanded you you found an area where you can be successful, take the lessons from there and then move on to the next step. So do you see potential for you expanding to more diverse
100% And full disclosure, it's been not only something that's been on my my to do list really since the day I joined in He 13 years ago, but also one of the biggest, I don't wanna say black eyes, but really one of the biggest criticisms of the organization is that at will, you know, they can't serve my child. And that is a gut punch to to not be able to support every single person that comes through the door. But the challenge we have right now is there are certain supports and certain needs that people have that we're not good at, that we're not capable of providing yet. Long term. Absolutely, the game plan is to expand, our third building is focused on supporting those with higher communication and behavioral support needs. There's a huge group of unserved people there, and we have to do better at supporting them. And that's absolutely a part of the plan.
Okay, so my next question, actually, whatever you said, kind of my segues into my next question, which is about sheltered workshops. This has become kind of a passe concept now.
They still exist, though, still exists.
Yeah, that's true. And but we are also trying to have more workplaces open up opportunities, opportunities for individuals with disabilities. And sometimes I think, you know, just doing the right thing is important for workplaces too. It may be hard, but if you do the right thing, you'll find the right supports when you have made that decision to go forward. So and same with universities, too, we're trying to make higher education possible for people with disabilities and but somehow this population of individuals with intellectual developmental disabilities, severe disabilities, they all kind of are ignored by placing them in the bigger umbrella of disabilities, companies that claim to hire individuals with disability, these often hire those with lesser needs. And when we offer services, such as specialized university programs, for people with IBD, how do you keep from becoming exclusive? Or do you think we have to become exclusive before we become inclusive?
Yeah, so I see, we're, excuse me, I see where you say that some of our last question conversation kind of danced around some of that. I'll speak to the sheltered workshop, workshop concepts and the university concepts, because those are two things that are changing, right now, for different reasons, and some good, some bad, I think that so I were the organization I was, without in Las Vegas runs what would be known as a sheltered workshop model. And so the, for those that are listening, the general concept is you the company, that is the sheltered workshop will have 50 to 100 adults with disabilities in a space, and then they will contract with the company to do work. And then they will pay people with disabilities to do that work, instead of placing them out in jobs, they are the job. So in theory, sounds fine. Couple of challenges with that. Number one is it's not an inclusive workforce, usually, number two is the way they paid people with something called 14 C, which was sub minimum wage. And instead of paying every single, all 50 to 100 of those adults $7.50 An hour or whatever made minimum wages in that area. They were allowed through a federal certificate to pay them per piece wage, or a time steady wage, which says, if I was going to pay this person $15 an hour to do this work. And these three adults with disabilities can accomplish the same amount of work in an hour, but it takes three of them instead of one. I can pay each of them $5 an hour, which is sub minimum wage. So first glance, that kind of sounds a little funky. But the reality is there was a there was an assumption built into this program, where if those three people got faster and faster and faster if their job, they should constantly be reassessing the time, and they should pay them more. That's where this went to hell in a handbasket. They didn't do that work. They just hired a bunch of people with disabilities paid them. You know, for every item they completed, they got five cents, and if they completed five in the day, they got 25 cents. They did 10 times that they got you know, $2.50 but they never they never readjusted to see. Oh, wow, he's actually doing this 10 times faster than he was a year ago. He should make 10 times more money. So federally sheltered workshops are going away. The challenge here I'm going to I'm going to and by the way I'm in favor of the concept if applied correctly. I am morally opposed to the concept if abused, I need to say that
I love that. I love that statement you just made
and and so Oh, it is going away. And the downside to this is that means there are a lot of Americans with IDD who have been receiving some form of a paycheck for 510 1520 years of their lives doing some sort of work, who will never receive a paycheck again. Because the if you don't have that experience, the only other alternative is community job placement. And now you're talking about all of those Americans have to go find community jobs, they're going to pay the minimum wage for their speed of work, not going to happen. So unfortunately, the 90% of terrible sheltered workshops across the country have ruined it for the 10% that were doing a really good job, and who were moving people through those programs and placing them in the community. Philosophically impede doesn't do sheltered workshop reporting. See, we like I believe the best possible places for our guys to work is that your company is in the community. And that's how you also demonstrate inclusive inclusiveness in general, is when other people at that company and other people working with that company experience working with an adult with IDD, those people get no value if they're working in my building, they never see them. So I think it's headed in the right direction, the college thing real quickly, we're working our way down the totem pole. So the absolute most brilliant in the world, we know, we focus on supporting them, and we're really good at supporting them, then you have the next level, which is a college students. So those that are able to go to like a high level colleges, we support them really, really well, then you've got the ones that can't quite get to those levels, but maybe they go to public university or community college, we support them pretty darn well to, then you get into vocational training programs, people who didn't want to go to college, but they wanted to learn a skill, we support them pretty well. We're working our way down the list. And now what you have at the collegiate level is colleges all over the country, who are willing to take better starting disability programs, and are willing to take in really high functioning adults with disabilities. I mean, like, in our world, the cream of the crop, right that no behaviors totally independent, minimally delayed, like these are the things that they're there, and they need support to, I wish the colleges would just find a way to allow them into their normal programming. But instead, we've created these little programs for them. They're typically one to two years, a few of them are doing four year, very few of them offer degrees. But almost all of them cost the same amount of money. As a traditional college student. I have huge beef. With that, bravo, that is not right. And my my hope is that, you know, the this university should be doing this anyway, they're openly acknowledging they're not very good at it. This is not a profit center should not be a place where we make money, I understand its business, and you got to figure out a way to pay for it. But if you have a program with 10, students just figure out a way to pay for it. Like there's plenty of dollars there to make it work. So there's a weird bridge where, you know, we have modeled ourselves after the college experience, because adults with disabilities say that's what they want to experience. They want to go to college, they have siblings that went to when they graduated high school, they had been friends that went to college, they had siblings and went to college. And they want that experience as well. And not just the highest functioning people with young adults with disabilities, adults with IQs of 4550 5560. These are still people that want that experience. And that's not something that university world is capable of providing. It's not theirs, it's not their space. They don't know how. So the my hope is, this is something that instead of universities, only doing 10 to 12 Person programs for the highest functioning in the disability world. partner with organizations who are doing the work like in my life, my possibilities, and find a way to work together. So more people have the ability to experience college. The thing that's irritating about this is that's that's not hard. But the MPs of the world, like if colleges open
already, they just have to support you. Really just
saying, hey, instead of us doing this work in our building, how about we do it in yours and was named staff, same ratio, same support, and you guys just have to find a couple of ways of adapting to different types of students. That's it. We're not asking for a whole bunch, but it's an
Totally underlining under underlining the fact that there is a long way to go in this journey towards inclusion. And I'm thinking there will be a time very soon, hopefully, where teachers are equipped to teach all kinds of students, all kinds of learners. That's where we ideally want to go. And exposure is really important for that. So universities partnering with organizations like yours, and seeing what you do, will actually open so many more creative educators to think of ways they can really authentically include all learners.
Absolutely, yeah, it's, you know, it's kind of like, I'm trying to find the right analogy, like if you have if you're having your car worked on by an auto mechanic, and then you also want your car to be painted really, really well, like you want it, you're not going to ask the auto mechanic. To do the painting, you're going to find a specialist who knows how to paint. Now they're in the same field, they both work on cars, but you're going to need to find another specialist. The colleges understand how to teach your traditional the hot like high performing students without disabilities, they're really great at that. We know how to teach adults that have intellectual developmental disabilities, we're really good at that. There's no reason to ask either one to become the other one, we both work in the educational space, we're both supporting the education of students. You know, this is where a partnership between the two makes more sense than one trying to become the other and, and I cannot wait for the world to have a beautiful blend between, you know, maybe they come to us first, and they do this program, and then they're ready to enroll. That sounds amazing. Like I can't wait for that. But right now you've got a giant divide. And despite the fact that the college collegiate world is, is encroaching a little bit closer into our space, there really, for as many programs that are out there, they're scratching the absolute top surface of the disability world, the point 00 1% of those who can be served.
So what would be your top three recommendations for K to 12 schools to do better in education, so our young adults with disabilities can be included. Now, this fourth podcast has a focus on educators and related service providers.
And I'm gonna do this in a way I'm gonna I'm gonna provide a, a safety net for myself up front. School districts are incredibly diverse in and of themselves. So when I speak to some of the things they need to do better, I'm fully aware that some districts do these things. But if it's on this list, it's not a thing that they're all doing, or it's not a thing that they're all doing well. Okay, so that first, first and foremost, if anybody hears and goes, I can't believe he says that I do those things. I love you. You're amazing, thank you. But, but they're not all doing it. So first and foremost, the second that a young adult, that a kid a child with disabilities enters the school system. And I'm speaking to the state of Texas first, but really across the country period, they should be communicating to that family, that there are funding systems that exist for them in the future that they have to get on right now. Our waitlist in Texas is pushing 20 years before somebody sees funding. And so if a child enters the school system at four or five, it's expected that they will not see that support until their child is 24 or 25. Well, the last year that they can be supported by the public school system is the year they turned 22. So there's already a gap. Now Now imagine what happens if that family doesn't know the funding existence other kid is 14. Now we have a huge problem. So I I know that the school district's job is to educate and that the school districts job is not to provide pathways and understanding state Medicaid programs. I get it 100% understand it. But dang it, the schools need to understand how important it is for them to be the person that tells that family because I have experienced. I don't know how many times at least 20 where a family comes to us and their child was getting ready to graduate out of the public school system. They've lived in Texas their entire lives. And I get to the question where I say, Well, can you talk to me about your funding? Do you have funding support yet? Or do you know where you are on the list? And they'll look at me they're like, what list? What funding are you talking about? And no one ever told them. And so now here's their their child was 20 years old getting ready to get to age out of the school district. And I get to be the one to tell them. Here's where you go to get on the list. And by the way, you're going Have to wait 20 years for support. The only other alternative is to leave the state. And I have had several families that I have given that advice to. And that's what they've had to do, they've left the state of Texas and moved to a state with a better support. Like that's tragic. So to keep great people here, school systems, please for the love of all but a sacred and holy Tell, tell families about the state Medicaid waiver list. And the way to go about that is simply to tell them to connect with their local authority. And by all by the way, you can send them to me, I will send them the NP will tell them how to get on the list too. So that's one and if there's another item that I would acknowledge is is crucial. When When young adults transition out of the school system, our world looks drastically different than the public school system. For a student in school, I think, what $10,000 A year in the state of Texas goes to support personnel per student. And that's for 100. And what is it 180 days a year I forget the numbers, but $10,000 for 180 days in our world, I get about $30 a day period. And so funding drops off a cliff. So what that means is the same kind of supports that exist in the school system, do not exist in our world. And so anything that the school system is doing, let's say that this is John, John's a pretty good kid. But you know, he's got these three behaviors. And it's, instead of having an ABA therapists work with them, or really dig in or make sure that they're a part of the bigger classroom, we just hire a paraprofessional to work with John directly. Well, we know that you can afford that. But when John graduates know programming exists, that supports one on one support. And so the challenge there, my feedback would be do everything in your power years in advance, you know, 16 1718, we really, really have to get our young adults as mainstreamed or as as open higher ratio programming as possible. If that means ramping up ABA therapy, excellent or speech therapy, whatever those things are, do not put a bandaid on supporting somebody with a paraprofessional or with a one on one support. Because when they graduate, that support is gone. So we pick up a lot of and we see improvements too. So I don't want to say it doesn't, it doesn't get better. But I find incredibly capable young adults with disabilities come to us who with better with with better support or focus or goals, probably could have transitioned straight in as opposed to needing a lot of additional therapeutic support to get some of those things sort of addressed before they graduate. So those are the those are the big two. All, I'll leave it at that and go back to my disclaimer that I know a lot of the people that hear this are already doing those things. And thank you so much for being that person. If you don't, you know everyone's doing it.
I think you did pointed two really important things and weaning paraeducator support is something that every school district has to be aware of, because it really does. It's so different from each kid. So having that idea and having that as a top priority early on, is often forgotten. Yep, that's too late.
So yeah, and then when it's too late. And this is the other thing, too. If you take those two items, and you double up the worst possible scenario, it is that the family doesn't have funding, and they their child wasn't supported to be independent outside of the school district. Now for that family to find comparable support the cost privately for them to receive one on one support is exorbitant. I mean, it's just it's not feasible for the average family. And so that's why those two are so crucial. And, you know, it's one of those things where I hear it a lot that the district's job is not to, to educate on some of these things. But it's also not our we don't have the ability of going into the public school system and teaching every single family that's there about these systems. So somebody has to do it and the school district is in the best position to be that early educator. Yeah, and you know, or similar to the university conversation use us as a partner. You don't want to be the one to become the expert on a state Medicaid waiver programming. I get it I totally understand it's not super exciting.
You have a resource I can put on the show notes.
You know, we depends on who we're talking to. We don't have a one stop shop for all resources, there are some while there are websites that exist that have this information, the challenge is finding those websites to begin with. So you have to either way for most families that starts with Google, the the reality is no matter what county that you live in, you're looking for your local authority. A local authority, for example, in Collin County, that would be Lifepath systems in Dallas County, that's Dallas Metro care. Every county in the state has a local authority. And that's where you start. If that's if all we had was a list of the counties and the local authority name and the phone number, and that was going out to families, and to call here to get on the list, that would be a huge step forward.
It has to happen at age three,
immediately, in a walk in 357 14, whatever the first day they spend in that school district, and the hope is, if someone transfers in at nine, and they say, Hey, we have your IEP, we're excited Your son is going to be a part of our class. By the way, do you know about the state Medicaid waiver programs? Are you on the list yet? You want to hear a family say yeah, we train we moved here from Austin, we got on the list when he was five. Now you never have to talk about it again.
So what is the future you ambition for the hipsters?
Oh, man, so many things. I, you know, I live I have my utopian state, right, the where people are accepted because of who they are. I mean, nobody, nobody was, was being born and got to choose their gender or their race or their religion or their ability level or, you know, so it's ridiculous to build systems and to build a community around supporting someone, not others. So for me, the future is full inclusivity. As far as the, you know, the reality in the immediate future. I do, I do foresee probably not too far off in the distant future that I would like to get away from companies having disability programs. And just get to where hiring people with IDD as a part of the company's culture. It just, you know, no offense to the companies that have gone that route. Because if that's what it takes to do it, excellent. Like, I'm all but similar to a dei department. Like, to some degree, and this is going to upset a lot of dei professionals. Having a dei department as a way of, of expressing, we have to have this as a as a visible function, because our culture is it's not obvious that we include that everybody's included and that we, you know, so so we're gonna have a team over here that focuses on that. I think all those companies would say our goal is to not have to have one anymore. Because we just have a completely inclusive environment. And all of our practices are demonstrate that. So that's the same for me in these these employment programs. If you have to start an autism at Work program or a disability team. You know, we'll we'll help set that up. And we'll we'll but it's going to be pointing towards you maybe you don't need to actually have a team, right. You just know how to hire people. It's ridiculous to say it that way. I don't think we're to
definitely a possibility in the future for sure. Yeah, I don't think we're doing now is towards that so? Absolutely. Wonderful. So okay, I have a few rapid fire questions before we end.
Okay, daddy. Yeah, I'm ready. Okay.
acceptance, almost what I said a little while ago, inclusion is acceptance of people regardless of what they look like, where they came from, or or how they communicate.
A person who would recommend to be on the enclosed occupations podcast
Hmm. So many. So she's, she's out in Las Vegas. Her name is Linda Smith. She's been an advocate for 45 plus years, she had a son with Down syndrome. And she has raised over half a billion dollars to support disability organizations in her time she's a big a big reason why so many organizations across the country, how are where they are today. She would be she'd be a lot of fun to have on
would love to reach out to her. Okay, so a great book you've read
out See, this isn't going to help anybody because I read fantasy books. A recent book that would that would relate, I recently reread. I'm rereading a bunch of old books from my youth when you know how they you ever required reading when you're a kid. And then I've looked back and realized I was not old enough to understand the things that came across the desk back in the day. So I've reread things like Brave New World and 1984 and Cat's Cradle was the one that I recently reread that was Kurt Vonnegut. It's a simple read. And really good message too. So yeah, I'll put that one out there.
Yeah, we always read the books that our kids read, because we read it when we were kids. And that makes a little bit more sense now.
Like, oh, wow, I cannot believe I missed that one.
So best life advice.
Um, something I've been saying a lot lately, and it's been sort of an internal mantra, I think, but it's starting to become advice. We're not on this earth long enough to not be happy. And I can't, I can't fathom committing a big part of my life to something that I don't wake up and get excited about. So if you if you're not happy, if you're working to work, and you're finding happiness, and some other little thing on the side, that little other thing on the side should be where you spend most of your time.
So love it. I tried to do it that way. It's hard, very hard. I'm just kind of thing someone did to you.
Man, I all of my all of my highly emotional, happy, thankful moments come from NP. So I'm trying to think through something that was done. I was they've recognized me half a dozen times over the last 13 years and really special ways. And you know, they're a year ago, my team got together and they made a pair of shoes, and it sounds silly, but they took a pair of shoes, and they branded them with NPS colors and the m&p shield. And then they presented them to me on a little box that all the hipsters signed around the outside. And my goodness. Yeah, super, super cool. I actually wore those shoes for the first time ever on Saturday. Wow, I
saw that. I saw that picture. Pretty amazing. So what is your favorite wellness activity?
Oh, God, I can't even pretend to be somebody who's doing a good job of taking care of myself. I, I used to play soccer a lot and run. I'm not I'm not doing a good job of that. You get old and all of a sudden. That's just not as doesn't sound as appealing. You know, to be honest, it's I don't I know what my I know what all my answers should be. And I'm not actively very good at any of them. But my wife is a yoga instructor and mindfulness and experience. So like I should be saying things like my yoga practice, but it's not. I'll get better. That's my commitment to everybody. I want to do better.
We want you healthy and strong for a long time. Michael, thank you. So best restaurant you will recommend in the DFW area.
Oh my gosh. Okay, I'm giving you three because I'm not I'm not going to be able to give one. One is called Greek Isles to Verna grill into Varna. It's in Dallas. Owned by a Greek family. I've been friends with them for 30 years. And it's just it's as much about the food as much as it is the family and the experience. It's just such a beautiful place to be. So Greek Isles would be one Desperados which is also in Dallas. It's a Mexican food restaurants been there since like 1976. And it looks like the Alamo on the front. Mike and Jake, the guys that run the it's just they haven't even changed their menu and like 30 years they don't have to. It's amazing. And then one that I learned about through through my wife she was the general manager for a number of years is in Roanoke. So you have to drive. It's not good to like 45 minutes away for all of us, but it's called the clock sick and I will put the classic up against any fine dining restaurant Dallas Fort Worth. And I mean literally, any of them as the best the best food I've ever had in the region. So Greek Isles bessborough desperadoes, the classic.
Thank you Michael was lovely having you on the show today.