What is considered normal? Normal is defined as conforming with or constituting an accepted standard, model, or pattern. Normalization is a key ingredient for active treatment. Normalization is the utilization of means which are as normative as possible to establish or maintain personal behaviors and characteristics.
Although many people appreciate individualism, people with mental retardation are often considered different in a negative way to the general public. Unfortunately, some of the general public is still uncomfortable and even afraid of those with developmental disabilities. The principle of normalization provides a vehicle for reversing this pattern of discrimination by minimizing the perceived differences of people with mental retardation.
It often takes more time, energy and work to take lower functioning or physically disabled individuals through the steps of providing them with a more normal life style.
Aspect of Normalization includes improving physical appearance in culturally appropriate ways. (For example: Encouraging or providing up-to-date and/or modern hairstyles and clothing). Using appropriate hair care products, wearing stylish clothing (with no rips, holes or stains), which fit correctly and were purchased with the resident present are also important. Sexy or over exposed clothing should be avoided in favor of clean, neat and tidy, and fashionable clothing. Encouraging the use of appropriate jewelry and make-up is also a consideration and can include: lipstick, blush, or eye shadow. Residents also need to wear their glasses, hearing aids, etc. to get the full sensory experience of their daily activities. Most importantly, the staff needs to be sure that wheelchairs if used are clean and in good repair.
Improving a resident's skills in self-care is an important aspect of achieving normalization. This also includes, preparing and eating breakfast, brushing teeth, bathing, etc. The staff can help by making sure that each resident smell and look their best. (For example: Training programs specifically designed to encourage residents to take care of their own needs as much as possible. Toileting and appropriate dining skills).
Regular daily schedules provides for a more normalized situation that automatically results in Normalization. Most of us generally get up in the morning and get dressed for work (school), go to work (school) and come home. Additionally, we may go to stores, restaurants and places of entertainment.
Improving community integration and participation skills includes involvement in day programs, workshops, and jobs within the community. More and more all-day program activities include at least some community exposure in public places. Visiting new places can be an excellent opportunity to work on improving socially appropriate behavior skills, money management, and interactions that can't be found at home.
I have personally found many restaurants, movie theaters, and fast food places that will do whatever they can to cut up and serve food, as much as possible to suit specialized diets and textures.
Normalization also includes daily routines which are not self-care in nature. How would we dress at night or on weekends if we lived with six or more roommates? We might wear our older more comfortable clothes (although no holes or stains on cloths are acceptable). On weekends we might not get dressed in day clothes until after breakfast. We might also sleep in an extra hour. It is important that the staff keep in mind that meal schedules may need to be individually altered to maintain appropriate meal times in accordance with the regulations. Weekends and nights need to be even more casual and relaxed for the residents. Hair should be brushed, but not necessarily styled and make-up does not need to be applied unless there are plans to go out in public that day.
It has been demonstrated over and over again that the more exposure to culturally normal living patterns and exposure to the community results in a more culturally normal life. It also allows for the public to be exposed creating familiarly that results in everyone being more comfortable.