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.