My Experience Working With The Developmentally Disabled
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Health and Wellness

My Experience Working With The Developmentally Disabled

When working with developmentally disabled adolescents and adults, one comes upon experiences that can make them feel both uncomfortable and completely happy at the same time.

My Experience Working With The Developmentally Disabled
Care Giver Alliance

I was fired my first day on the job as a caregiver/personal assistant. It wasn't by my boss or even the LPN on duty, but by one of the residents. He called me over saying, "Hey new girl," before continuing to tell me, "You're fired!" and laughing as I stood there awkwardly, unsure as to what that meant for me.

The same day, I watched as a co-worker changed and dressed several residents, a little horrified by the amount of poop that they were dealing with in such a calm fashion. I remember thinking, "Is this really where I want to work and what I want to do?"

A few of my co-workers started telling me of the many times in which they were fired by him as well and of their many stories they have from working there. They told me that I would soon come to enjoy working there too. They were right.

I can honestly say that I love my job. Having the privilege to take care of and spend time with those that are unable to take care of themselves and need 24/7 care is an extremely humbling experience. I could have had the worst day up until the time I clock in to work, but as soon as I start working with the residents, I am reminded of the fact that: yes, I am there to provide care for them, but that in turn, I am constantly learning about myself. My patience levels and my abilities to look past the end of my own nose to those around me are all tested.

Making them smile, whether it be through singing or simply ringing a little bell for them always brightens my day. They look at me with big eyes, taking in my facial expressions as I contort my face in different ways to make it funnier or more interesting to look at. A few will pull my face toward theirs, sometimes using my hair or cheeks as something to grab onto, getting it as close to theirs as possible. And then, they just look into my eyes, staring. A few will stare for a while, completely content with just watching me blink and stare back. Others will copy my expression, nodding their heads or clapping in my face, babbling and making kissing noises while patting my arm or leg and saying, "Mama." After a while, I’ll wrap them up in a big hug and remind them that I love them, knowing that too many of them never hear those words from anyone in their lives. Caregiving can be very difficult at times in knowing that we are their world in a sense–our love may be the only love they are ever shown.

There’s a big difference between taking care of people who can respond to you while you’re working with them and in taking care of people who simply gaze at you for a longer amount of time than you are sometimes comfortable with. As I speak to the residents at my work, some around age ten and others as old as 55, I can’t help but put myself in their shoes, wondering if they can understand me. I offer them toys or a book, sometimes sitting with them and flipping through a magazine. A few of them like when we fix their hair or put makeup on their faces, loving that we're spending time just with them. Others show their happiness by knocking over fans or biting your arm, unable to control themselves or their behaviors. There's never a dull moment.

It's not so much the long hours of lifting and positioning them, but the times in which I walk past their bedrooms after we've put them in bed to see one of them laughing hysterically at absolutely nothing that I remember even for days after and that keeps me going.

I have been fired several times since then by the same resident and have cleaned up and dealt with my fair share of poop, but I can honestly say that I love my job, and I wish that so many more people could experience what it's like to work with the people that I do.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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