Monday, April 05, 2010
You Tube 5: Sean - An evening out.
The vote had a clear majority of people who want the videos to continue. 2 people voted that they didn't like the videos in any form, 4 voted to fix the sound problem or eliminate the videos. All the rest voted to continue the videos even though the sound is a problem for most. Well, I have attempted to deal with the sound in this one, let me know if it worked for you. For the two who just don't want videos, I simply suggest you either simply read the text and ignore the video or click away knowing that there will only be one a week at most. Thanks for your input!
(Transcript by Shannon)
My first job in the city of Toronto was working with the school board. I had applied for a couple of jobs working for people with intellectual disabilities but for some reason my interview technique just – failed me and I was unable to get a position that I really wanted.
So I ended up at the school board and I was going to be working as a classroom aide for people with physical disabilities. And let me tell you now as a person with a physical disability I’m really glad I had that experience, because I was in a classroom of all these people with physical disabilities, all of whom were born with those disabilities and by the time they had reached grade 11 and 12, which was the students in that classroom, they were all very well adapted to their disability. But what really surprised me about them as a group was how passive they were. I mean, they were quite ready to complain, but they weren’t really ready to do anything about their complaints, and let me tell you, that changed over the few months that I was there.
But one day they were complaining about the fact that, you know, they never got a chance to get together, you know outside of school the way that other kids did because of transportation and because of a variety of other issues. So I suggested to them, why didn’t we just all get together? So we set a date to go to a burger joint downtown Toronto which at the time was called the Flying Circus which was right beside the Pilot Tavern.
And we all arrived and they – most of them came on WheelTrans – one was brought by their parents, but – there were seven or eight of us around this great huge table and it was just hysterical to look at the looks of people’s faces as there was myself and Joe and a friend of ours named Joan, and then a whack of people in wheelchairs and some were in power chairs and some were in manual chairs and some were in sport chairs and it was a real, real variety. And one of the fellows who came – and it surprised me that he came – was named Sean.
Sean had really heavy duty cerebral palsy and it really affected his speech. He was very very difficult to understand and to a certain degree he had almost given up on communicating or he would only do it when it was really necessary because it was very hard to understand him. And he arrived, and he arrived to do a social event wherein people would be sitting around chatting and talking and I was impressed with him – I was impressed that he was going to give it a go anyway.
Well I had thought that he was arriving to go out with his friends but that wasn’t it at all. He pulled up to the table and when the waitress came over and asked what he wanted – and, of course she was looking at me but she was saying at least ‘him’ – and he made it very clear that the thing that he wanted more than anything else at that moment was a beer. And he looked at me and it was one of those teenage looks of defiance and....he was legal, and as far as I was concerned I wasn’t workin’, I was just out with a bunch of the kids from the school, uh, which was a naïve way of looking at it, I understand, but nonetheless, I wasn’t going to be his parent, I had no determin....uh, desire to be so: so if he wanted to have a beer, let him have a beer.
So he got himself a beer and I think he was really surprised that I hadn’t said anything. So he asked me to get a straw and I said I wasn’t gonna get a straw, one of the other people could do that. So they got a straw and they put it into his glass and he just hit that beer...and he had beer after beer after beer and...he did order food – I don’t think he ate very much of it but he was really into the beer and he was getting progressively drunker.
And I was starting to get worried because even though I was off, and I wasn’t officially a staff at that time, I was the responsible adult and he was, y’know, clearly a teenager unused to alcohol and he was just hammered. Um, he would just start laughing and laughing for absolutely no reason at all except for the fact that he was absolutely piss-drunk. And all the other students they just thought it was hysterical and they made jokes about how he was gonna feel in the morning and so forth. I was just worried about him driving that power chair out of the restaurant. I could imagine him just smashing into tables as he tried to make his way to the door.
But nonetheless none of that happened, he just got himself really good and....toasty drunk and when it was time to leave and for him to go on WheelTrans he – he wheeled his chair around it with a great deal of care – like, drunk people often walk very carefully? Uh, he drove very very carefully and he got himself out of the building and as soon as he was out the door he just leaned back in his chair and he laughed and laughed and laughed.
Well the next day when we went to school, um...I was wondering what was gonna happen. I knew that it was gonna get out and I knew that my boss was gonna find out that one of the students under my “care” had gotten quite drunk.
Well when Sean arrived he was just green, he was just green and I was actually a little surprised ’cause I thought he was probably gonna be off sick for that day.
Around ten o’clock the phone rang and I picked it up and I heard the voice of a woman and she was asking to speak to my boss, whose name was Brenda.
And Brenda took the phone and she was on the phone for a fair bit of time and she kept glancing over at Sean and she kept glancing over at me and I knew immediately who was that, that was on the phone – that was – that was Sean’s mum.
And when my boss hung up she called me over and she said “We need to have a talk,” so she talked to the other classroom assistant – we had two in the class – and, uh, she and I went and had a cup of tea and coffee at the staff lounge. And she told me that Sean’s mum had called and, and she had started to cry midway into the conversation and I immediately felt incredibly guilty. And I....and Brenda said “No, no no, hold on, hold on, let me tell you what happened.”
Well apparently Sean was the youngest of several children and all those other children who had gone to school had all come home at least once during their, their school years absolutely piss-drunk and covered in vomit and...and Sean’s mum thought that he would never have that experience, that he would never get up in the morning drunk and never be yelled at by his mother for, for drinking and never be sent to school just because he-has-to-go-to-school-and-being-drunk-is-no-excuse-for-not-going-to-school, and all those things that parents say.
And then, he had the experience and she was, she was just very thankful and very grateful that he’d had the opportunity to get piss-drunk, um...in a way that was safe.
And I was impressed by her. I was impressed by her for wanting her son to have normal experiences and wanting her son to do the same things that other kids did and just...enjoy it.
And you know it was funny because Sean, after he got himself better, 2 or 3 days later, he kept trying to tell all of us a story. And he could, he could never get through it because he’s get as far as, as gettin’ onto the WheelTrans bus to be driven home that evening and then he’d, he’d strike himself funny and then he’d, he’d start the laugh and...his whole body just went crazy. And for months and months and months I wanted to find out what it was that was so funny and what had happened on the bus. And when I got myself a job which was going to be working with people with intellectual disabilities at a day program for the Association, I really really in my, in my....leaving wanted to find out what had happened and why it was so funny.
So I sat down with Sean and I said Sean, you know, this is maybe the last time we’re ever gonna have to talk and, and I was there that evening, and I watched you get right hammered, and I wanna know what happened on the bus. And he said all right, he would try to tell me one more time. And, and he talked about getting onto the bus and, and getting, getting into place so that he could be strapped down. And then the bus driver said..... and that’s as far as he got. He just started to laugh, and laugh, and laugh, and I’m guessing that maybe even to this very day Sean has never managed to get through that story because it just strikes him as incredibly funny.
And you know, as I left that job, I found, I found it wonderful that I had the opportunity to...give a kid that kind of memory. And it made it very clear to me what my job was, and what my job wasn’t.
My job really is about having people with disabilities experience normal things in normal ways at normal times. And that....the...disability itself might get in the way, but more often structures do, and more often people do, and I’m really glad that I made the decisions that I made there that night, even though I understand that they might have been a little naïve and this whole story could have been very very different if Sean had had a different mother but – he didn’t. He had the mother that he did and for the moment that I was his staff he had me, and that was the right combination at the time.
So I kind of tried to live and work with people with disabilities in such a way that I was there to enhance their experience of being human rather than to supervise, or to constantly parent, someone in my care.