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God has blessed me tremendously with an amazing husband, Doug, and two gorgeous little boys, Gavin and Joey. It has always been a dream of mine to have a large family but God may have other plans. I had a series of 6 consecutive early miscarriages when trying for baby #2. We are currently trying for baby #3 after our 7th miscarriage. I am faithful that God's plan is perfect, even when I am not happy about it. I love comments and meeting new followers so please don't be shy!

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Being Retarded

I am not sure what it was when I was in high school that led me to pursue a career in Special Education.  Maybe it was because, compared to most of my classmates, I felt like a special needs kid.  I was a smart kid.  Don't get me wrong.  I was just plopped down in the middle of a few hundred of the smartest teenagers around, and spent 4 years of my life trying to keep my head above water.  I had to find ways to help myself learn the things that the other kids would read once and have committed to memory.  So, either way, I was sure that I wanted to work with people with special needs.

IDSC for LifeWhen I finished school, I worked at a couple of different schools and enjoyed my work, but I just knew that teaching wasn't going to be my gig.  It was a nice way to pass the time until I found my true calling.  Then, after a few other short term jobs working with juvenile delinquents (now THAT was a rough couple of years!) I landed the best job ever.

I was hired at the local county board of MR/DD (Mental Retardation/Developmental Disabilities) with the Adult Services department.  While there were plenty of jobs that I had my eye on, one of the catches to this awesome place of employment was that I had to start at the bottom.  And by bottom... I mean bottom.  I spent several months at an entry level job that was only a substitute basis and the joyous days I was called in to work meant spoon feeding pureed spaghetti to hungry mouths of adults with mental retardation.  Then, there was the twice a day toileting of all of the individuals in my care.  It was always nice when they were capable sitting on a toilet, since otherwise that meant using the worlds largest changing table.  Considering I had no children of my own at that point, my first solo diaper change was on a 45 year old man.  Not many can say that.

Those first months were tough but so rewarding.  It was an opportunity to remind myself how blessed I am.  That I could eat spaghetti hot and in noodle form.  To go to the bathroom all by myself without anyone needing to assist me.  The very basic things that so many of us take for granted. 

I learned so much about people.  Not just the clients that I worked with, but humans in general.  What I learned most often was how the majority of individuals with MR/DD would get something in their head and they would keep trying to get "it."  The "it" would change from person to person and day to day, but they would keep at it (often to the staff's dismay) until they got "it."

IDSC for Life
The staff and the "normal" population would be handed a task, an "it," if you will, and would get frustrated, annoyed, and disheartened when "it" didn't come easy.  They would throw their hands up, march right up to someone with ears, and would complain and explain why on earth this "it" made no sense, how they couldn't do "it", and how hard "it" was.

When I was taking Gavin to his first day of preschool this year, the parents were invited to spend a little bit of time helping the kids get adjusted to the room by participating in activities.  They were typical preschool crafts, so the kids were having fun with stickers and stringing beads.  Then, we got to the activity where the kids were making door hangers that had foam stickers that went on to make a design of a horse, wearing a bandana and hat, bearing a lasso.  As I helped Gavin look at the instructions and decide which sticker to put on first, a woman sitting with her daughter caught my glance and spoke to me.

She asked, "This makes no sense to me.  Am I retarded or something?"

I am only pretty sure that I contorted my face and asked her with my eyes, "Did you really just say that?"

If I could have found the words, this is what I would have said.

"No.  Because from my experience, if you were retarded you would try to figure out what was being asked of you.  If you still didn't understand, you would have asked for more information.  If you were retarded, you would have tried before you threw your hands up in the air insisting that this was just too challenging.  So... no.  You aren't retarded, because you clearly lack the drive that someone with mental retardation has.  But, I will tell you the same thing I would tell someone who is 'retarded.'  I think you should read the very clearly illustrated directions and see if that helps you figure out this very advanced foamie sticker project.  Good luck."

But I didn't.  I just looked at her and shoved my copy of the directions in front of her.

What would you have said to that mom? 

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