I’m looking at the ILRU website hoping to find an existing training on Boundaries … topics like doing things for consumers rather than empowering them, stepping on consumers’ toes, respecting consumer privacy, etc.

I’ve been having some difficulty with peer advocates maintaining appropriate boundaries, so I’m going to do an advanced training with the group. Before creating training materials, I’m seeking on your website hoping something is there as I know you provide high-quality trainings.

I like to start with some philosophy, because the Rehabilitation Act, the first paragraph of Title VII begins with that.  It reads: The purpose of title VII of the Actis to promote a philosophy of independent living (IL), including a philosophyof consumer control, peer support, self-help, self-determination, equal access,and individual and system advocacy, in order to maximize the leadership, empowerment,  independence and productivity of individuals with disabilities,and to promote the integration and full inclusion of individuals with disabilities into the mainstream of American society…

That language – “a philosophy of consumer control, self-help,self-determination … in order to maximize leadership, empowerment, independence and productivity” – state our goal clearly in terms that emphasize the individual’s control of their life and decisions.

We also have a four-part series of videos around the history and how that philosophy came to be. Each is about 20 minutes and works well as part of a staff meeting. You can find these at

As you move from philosophy to action,  an Introduction to Consumer Service Records, IL Plans and Service Coordination is always a good foundational piece

You might help them think about scenarios in their own lives, or give sample situations for discussion and learning. A scenario promotes discussion and gets everyone’s thoughts as you address a hypothetical situation. Keep them open-ended so that your discussion can cover multiple possibilities. Here are a couple of examples:

Sue is 31 years old and living at home with her parents. She would like to move out on her own, and you have worked with her to develop a budget to make that possible. “I don’t know how to tell my mom,” she confides. “Will you talk to her?”

You are giving a couple of consumers a ride home from your annual dinner. They ask you to drop them off at a local bar. And then they ask you to join them. What do you do? How do you separate your activities as staff from your activities as a friend?

Dad calls you about his adult son, Joshua. “Josh has been coming over there every week for a couple of months now. Is he making any progress?” What do you say?

I am sure you can think of other examples. Your own written policies and procedures should then mirror your philosophy and specifically state that the individual is in charge of their decisions. When it comes to helping staff understand boundaries, no tool is greater than their own experience as people with disabilities. 

Those things should get you started. Reach out again when you are ready for more.

Staff that do too much?

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