Venture Outside Your Comfort Zone

My job involves working with people who are Developmentally Disabled. Their IQ is lower than average, they often have physical differences and speech problems. Sometimes they cannot enunciate as clearly as someone who is not developmentally disabled. There are levels of DD and I work with people who are able to do most things for themselves-bathing, dressing, and simple household tasks. They go to school at a community college and several have outside jobs. They are responsible for maintaining their rooms, laundry and helping prepare meals. They do these things every day, and most of the time need only prompts from those of us who supervise the home we all share.

Something has been tugging at my conscious for a few weeks. I want to say something to the world at large. Venture outside your comfort zone! Do something with people who don’t look like you, don’t have the same lifestyle, don’t live in the same neighborhood or go to the same school or work in the same building. Turn off the TV, the computer, your Notebook and interact in a way that takes some effort.

People with developmental disabilities aren’t as pretty, sometimes have trouble enunciating, move differently and often with difficulty. Get past that (and it doesn’t take long) and you’ll get to know the individuals. You’ll see how radiantly they respond to music, to each other, to having fun, to living. My group is in a bowling league every Monday night. The bowling alley is filled with other DD groups and the laughter, shouts of joy (you’d be amazed how many strikes happen on those Mondays) and bright shining faces. Everyone has his own style. After I watched and clapped the first night, I could hardly wait for the next Monday. They have a banquet in a couple of weeks to celebrate the end of the league, and there will be awards for everyone. We are looking for the next activity and I’m as excited about opportunities as everyone else. I wasn’t bowling, but I was watching, clapping and shouting encouragement. I felt joy. Actual joy. I’m not happy because they did something for me, I’m happy because they were having such fun, because they were happy. It is indeed an infectious emotion. We need more of it.

I’ve read lots of articles about how rewarding it can be to work with people who are disabled. It’s true. I’m glad I’m working with them. It’s an interaction. We help each other.

Get out of your comfort zone. Get involved with people who welcome your presence, regardless of your age, your looks, and your belief system. Experience this very real connection between human beings.

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6 responses to “Venture Outside Your Comfort Zone

  1. Beautiful post, Kate! I work in education, and the movement here in the last few decades has been full inclusion. Whereas when I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, students with DD were grouped together in the classroom at the end of the hall, nowadays they are placed in the mainstream classroom, most often with a teaching assistant. So children with Downs Syndrome, autism, CP, and a range of learning disabilities are included in the “regular” classroom. It’s difficult to know if the pendulum will swing back in the other direction in years to come, but what I know is this: today’s children are growing up with a much more open mind toward people with disabilities. While they know they are “different,” they also realize it’s nothing to fear.

  2. katiewritesagain

    Let’s hope nothing will ever happen to set us back in time. The more varied the types of people our children grow up with, the less fearful we will all be, Different just means different, not “less than,” “more than.” or “threatening.”
    Thanks for the reassuring comment!

  3. Kate, I’m nominating you for the Liebster blogger. Look for a post during the week of 25th March!

  4. katiewritesagain

    Wow. Thanks for your support and encouragement. I hope to post more regularly after this series of training days at work-your nomination is a big hunk of motivation. Thanks!

  5. I’m all for the inclusion! It’s amazing how much things have changed in the recent past. These individuals used to be looked down upon, hidden, or segregated. The change for the better is truly phenomenal! Now there’s understanding in the place of staring; there’s tolerance in the place of shame. I’m sure we won’t go back to middle-ages attitudes! It’s our job to spread awareness, encourage integration, and promote independence! Go for it!

  6. katiewritesagain

    Thank you, rebspry, and thanks for reading.
    During my long life I’ve seen that when people get to know each other, the fear and bigotry fade, sometimes disappear altogether. The more cultures and individuals we have regular contact with in our daily lives, the more we realize we are all people…simply people.

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