MSCI – New Definitions And Terms


We avoid using terms that place people in boxes. Labels are harmful and lead to excluding people based upon others’ beliefs about labels. High functioning (HF) or low functioning (LF) are two damaging labels. Individuals labelled with (HF) have much potential, however, they are often misunderstood. Many people assume those who are (HF) should be completely independent in daily living. Allow me to show you how (HF) has little meaning for everyday adaptation. I had a client who was considered genius level. He attended the University of Florida with a full scholarship to study chemistry. Sadly, after six weeks, being misunderstood and without supports, he struggled to adapt to new people or settings. Unfortunately, he returned home.

On the other hand, I had clients who were labelled (LF), which in my opinion is a harmful label. Yet, when providers assumed the individual had too many challenges, the client was often denied employment or community inclusion services. In my opinion this is a dangerous assumption that limits a person’s potential. In reality, many individuals who had strengths and were supported, applied their talents and were effective in self employment or volunteer activities.

We are in a label dominated field. I believe educational systems, services for developmental disabilities and other health impaired could use a little reinvention.

I see that we are all interdependent. We live in a very interdependent world. In reality, no one lives fully independent. When each of us contributes our best strengths, we become greater than if we were performing alone. Being mutually dependent upon each other, together we rise to increased capacities.

I replace the HF and LF terms and prefer to distinguish individuals in these four qualifying supportive ways:

Independent–Completely on one’s own — Individual is capable of: working a job, financial responsibilities (i.e.paying bills), self care, and health related responsibilities.

Interdependent- Independent– Individual may rely upon indirect support, that is, guidance by a mentor, a trusted friend or family member for finding employment, pursuing college, or living interdependently.

Interdependent – Supported Level A — Individual may rely on indirect support or some direct supports for establishing employment, studying at college, making decisions about health or finances, and/or living interdependently.

Interdependent – Supported Level B — Often relies on ongoing direct supports for employment, pursuing interests, or living interdependently.

Interdependent – Participatory Level — Often relies upon full direct support along with with people engagement in order to enjoy leisure, volunteer, or cope within the setting.

Further Explanation of Terms:

1. Interdependent- Independent– May rely upon indirect support and guidance by a mentor, a trusted friend or family member for finding employment or pursuing college .
Individuals in this category may have strengths in cognitive skills and/or self expression through multiple intelligences. They are often very capable in getting employment or pursuing higher education with individualized supports. They may further show independence by driving or using public transportation to get around the community. They often show capability to live independently. However, in order to manage adversity, many become more effective in pursuing their vocational goals by focusing on their preferences, developing emotional strengths, and/or having a mentor to listen and offer advice. We live in a very interdependent world where all of us can offer something valuable by becoming mutually dependent upon each other.

2. Interdependent – Supported Level A — May rely on indirect support and some direct supports such as an employment specialist for accessing work, mentor for college life and studies, and/or a parent or trusted mentor for making decisions about health or finances.

3. Interdependent – Supported Level B — May rely upon ongoing direct supports in order to have employment, pursue interests, or live interdependently connected to others.

Individuals in Supported Level A and B often show strong interests and exceptional talents in particular areas of multiple intelligences and emotional strengths. They become most effective with a daily/weekly structure and routine in areas of personal and vocational interests. Their personal preferences must be considered to reach increased emotional capacities for adaptation. They often rely upon an employment agency or other support to get a job. They may rely on a team of support to design a self employment business in which they can work. These individuals may need assistance to access or participate in the community. They often benefit in using tools to communicate.

4. Interdependent – Participatory Level — These individuals rely significantly upon full direct support that also includes ‘people engagement’ in order to enjoy leisure, volunteer, or cope in the setting.

Participatory levels: Individuals on this level may have specific interests that are very satisfying and enriching. Their personal preferences such as structure and supported environments must be considered in order that they enjoy and take part in an activity. They may rely on tools to enable receptive and expressive communication. They perform best when engaged within a small group or with another during a vocational activity. They are often capable of learning many self help skills. Yet, with supports and exposure to activities in community settings, their physical and emotional adaptation often increase.

Experiential Model: The MSCI is an experiential model. The assessment of a person’s strengths and options for work or career are not the end, rather it is the beginning. This model promotes experiencing the development of strengths and taking simple courageous steps toward a career and movement through life’s adversity.

Power Practices: Power Practices are my tools and activities that I share on my web site, social media posts, blogs, videos, and trainings. I designed them to be a guide to the individual, supporting the use of their strengths, career search, and career effectiveness once employed.

Remarkably Able: Remarkably able is a description of a person beautifully expressing oneself through a specific interest or talent. Through their self expression, others are uplifted and benefit greatly in receiving their gift. These individuals can transform their lives through the expression of their unique gift. The talent may be singing, creating paintings, or being a team member at work. Ironically, the passion or talent they behold isn’t dependent upon the cognitive or independent functioning abilities.

Capability: Ability is the idea that a person can perform a particular task or action at a specific place and time.   Rather… “Capability is the maximum effectiveness a person can attain under optimal conditions [supportive settings, people].” Benjamin Wolman