What I Learned From Working With People With Disabilities
@Veronique suggested this but then I accidentally published it before I finished. 😳 whoops. Thank you!!!
- •I spent the past three summers at a camp for adults and children with disabilities.It ranged from severe to mild intellectual disabilities, ADD and ADHD, visual impairments, people who are hard of hearing and deaf, and a variety of physical disabilities. Also my little bro has Down Syndrome.
- •Patience!!!Some things my brother does makes no sense and is frustrating. When guiding a person who is blind it will take you longer to get from point A to point B. You walk at their pace not yours. Working with individuals in wheelchairs takes time. There's lots on lifting and transferring. Children, disability or not, test your patience every day. The past two years I fed a camper. Every meal took almost an hour. In some sessions there is lots of crying. Just so much crying.
- •CommunicationThat is, communication beyond speaking and listening. I've worked with quite a few non-verbal individuals. Many can hear so you always talk to them, but only a few know basic sign language. Many don't. At first I was terrified, but once you're with them you know what they want and what they are feeling. You pick up on body language & the noises they make. One camper had almost zero mobility & was non-verbal. I fed him everyday. I knew what he liked, when he was done, & if he was uncomfortable.
- •To be more optimisticI'm a generally optimistic person, but every person I worked with always had a smile on their face. They do get upset. They feel anger and sadness, but generally they are so happy and carefree. It always made me happy seeing them smile.
- •They are just like usI always knew that, but when you work with people with intellectual disabilities it really sinks in. They gossip, they learn, they work, they experience all of the same emotions, and they want to fall in love. They want to be loved.
- •My privilegeWe have two sessions for just the visually impaired. They had no intellectual disabilities and are completely independent. They went to school, they have jobs, they have kids. I sat and talked with many of them a lot. I listened to their stories. They have to fight for what they need. They have to practically jump through hoops. Many people treat them like children. Things they have to buy to make their life easier is always expensive. It is unreal.
- •How to care for peopleAs the oldest of six I knew my way around a baby and small children. Now I know how to care for adults! I have no problem changing and adult brief, showering a person, feeding them, or taking them and helping them in the bathroom. I can lift and transfer people from wheelchairs to just about anything with another person. I can guide a person who is blind if they ask. I'm practically a master wheelchair pusher!
- •That I can do it!My first day of pre-camp 3 years ago I thought I couldn't do it. I thought about quitting. I didn't think I had it in me. How could I be responsible and care for this person properly? I can't even care for myself. Now I absolutely love it. It is so rewarding. I've met so many fabulous people. I talk about them all the time. I have so many great camp memories and stories.