Gentle Readers, I am taking the day off from blogging today because I want to share this letter with you, the writer did not want to be identified other that as a 'loyal reader' and I appreciate her need for privacy and am thankful that she gave me permission to go ahead and print it. I love getting mail like this (versus the not so nice kind where some people tell me what I should write - if I truly cared - and what I should think - if I truly cared). Anyways, here's the letter, thanks Loyal Reader (LR) for the day off and for sharing your insight.
I work in the disabilities field. Because I only have just over five years experience in this field in a professional capacity, I feel a bit awkward about sharing my experience, almost as though I would be preaching to the choir. The lesson I learned this week is probably one that many other very worthy disability workers have learned before me. But, I am so excited at having learned this lesson that I just feel the need to share it.
In our service, as in any service for the disabled, there are many people with varying, complex needs. The woman I am writing about is perhaps one of the most challenging due to her complexities. Sometimes passive, sometimes aggressive, and often passive/aggressive, she is also sometimes verbal and articulate, sometimes non-verbal, and often only moderately verbal speaking only short, pat phrases as she determines. Nobody can make her switch from one mode to the other. It is all solely within her own control, based on a system that only she understands most of the time.
That is when her life and health are stable. But, recently, she has come upon a period of extreme instability. Her meds stopped working, so they were changed. The med change was a huge upheaval for her, bringing about all sorts of odd behaviours that after much investigation were found to be from the side effects. A residential change was also part of the equation, making this a most trying and difficult time for her.
So, one day this week when she passed by me in rather close quarters, and her right hand flew up to her face and back down again, all in a very jerky motion, I was concerned. I determined that I would observe a little more to see if this was some sort of a tic, or maybe a small seizure. It could be that it was only a one time event that would never be explained.
But, another worker came up to me a little while later, and asked me if I had noticed this behaviour in the woman over the past couple of days. I told her I had seen it once, while she told me she had seen it several times over two days. We decided that it was imperative to take this issue to management right away, in case she was having even more ill effects from her meds. So, my co-worker did just that.
Yesterday, it was explained to me why this woman was making these jerky movements. She was practicing her Wii technique! Sweet relief is what I felt at hearing this, and I enjoyed a good chuckle at the situation.
Then I got to thinking. Do we get so immersed in our work, take our roles so seriously, that we miss out on some very important elements of the personalities of those we serve? Are we so busy advocating and serving and making sure to 'be there' for our clients that we begin to only see disability around us? When a behaviour occurs, are we guilty of pinning that behaviour on the person's disability and looking for a cause for it? And if so, does that make us so very different from the people we try to inform? If we see 'disability' too much in our daily work, how can we preach to the general public to look beyond the disability?
That was my take home lesson for this week. Sometimes, it's just about who the person is.