Delarc innovative programs gaining national attention

By Brian Sweeney
For more than three decades, the ARC of Delaware County (Delarc) has been utilizing a common sense, compassionate approach to dealing with individuals who are exhibiting behavior problems. In recent years, the Delarc philosophy has been gaining attention with organizations across the country.
Delarc Executive Director George Suess told the News in a recent interview that his organization has long recognized the accepted methods of dealing with behavioral problems — including restraints and punishments — are not only inappropriate, but also ineffective.
In response to this problem, Delarc has developed an innovative approach that focuses on determining the cause of behavior problems and utilizing positive reinforcement to bring about constructive change.
“Discipline is not an effective means of bringing about change,” Mr. Suess explained. “The basic system is pretty much focused on ‘Once the behavior occurs, what do we do about it?’”
Mr. Suess added, “In our organization, we look at ways to help Johnny not want to hit someone in the first place. By examining people’s relationships, employing positive teaching techniques and good ways to handle issues — their problems go away. If you truly step back and look, you say there’s got to be a better way.”
As part of its response to such issues, Delarc has published a book titled, Shift Happens. The name refers to a shift away from the traditional means of reacting to individuals with behavior problems.
The methods employed by Delarc have been gaining significant attention — not only from similar organizations but also from schools, BOCES districts and other groups that deal with large numbers of people.
Mr. Suess noted that Delarc has policies geared toward clients ranging from preschool through adult.
He explained that there are approximately 700 providers of similar services across the United States serving individuals with developmental disabilities. “Of these, we’re the only ones with a board policy prohibiting restraining people – physically or pharmacologically. We won’t put hands on people.”
The Delarc director added, “The issue of behavior management is a big and growing concern. We’re getting more requests, from all over the country, from groups that want to learn about what we do. It’s about a proactive philosophy and a positive approach – any fireman will tell you – it’s better to prevent fires, than to put them out quickly.”
As a growing number of organizations have taken an interest in this viewpoint, members of the Delarc staff have expanded their reach across the country to spread the word at assorted workshops.
Mr. Suess said that not only do these other groups contracting with Delarc benefit from the seminars, but the local organization also benefits from the program fees it receives from these groups. He said that in today’s tight financial times, the funds brought in by the seminars help supplement Delarc’s budget.