Saturday, August 15, 2009

My Other Job

I don't think I've mentioned this earlier but I also have a second job (and at times at a 3rd job but we'll get to that another day). I work with a group of adults (22+) with mental retardation and other developmental disabilities in a social club. I started as an interpreter (sign language) (again something we'll get to another day) and when I'm not interpreting, I'm just a regular staff member. Everyone is fairly high functioning--some members can go off on their own during activities and be back on time and some need or want an adult near to help just in case. There are some group members who do need a staff member with them because they can't handle their own money or because they would get lost but, as I said, most everyone is fairly high functioning.
The group does a lot of different events, such as
  • going to museums in and around the DC area
  • going to amusement parks
  • football watching party at a member's house
  • going to a winter holiday play/show
  • going to local fairs and festival (county, renaissance, farm type)
  • going on trips with the local park authority (We've done a walking tour of NYC and a railroad trip through WVa to see eagles.)
  • going to sporting events (mostly hockey...I always suggest basketball but I'm voted down)

Speaking of being voted down, the members also pick the activities the group does. We have a meeting once a quarter and members bring ideas of things to do, share them, and then we all vote on them. The group leaders are also allowed to contribute. There are also some group favorites/traditions, like Dave and Busters, the Corn Maize, Lunch and Bowling at Fuddruckers, Mini Golf and Summer Picnic, and Winter Holiday Shopping. We meet on Saturdays and typically go out for 4-8 hours at a time.

I've been with the group for 3 years now. I do have to say that there are times when I don't want to go or I don't want to get up that early but once I get there, I have so much fun. I really feel connected to the group members. Very rarely do I actually feel like I'm "working" once I get past the waking up early part. I enjoy being around successful adults--I love hearing about their jobs, their relationships and their other activities. We have adults who have gone to the State level for Special Olympics--that's pretty cool. People in the group range from age 50 something to 23, but we are probably a little more tilted toward 30 and up. We have recently gotten some younger members, which is awesome because now I'm not the youngest person in the group anymore! It's just a really cool group of people.

So, today was Mini Golf and Summer Picnic at a member's house. We had a really good time. The timing was almost perfect and the weather was not too horrible for mid August. We broke into small groups for mini golf and it was pretty fun but I realized it's quite hard to mini golf and interpret at the same time, so I just kept score. We stayed on the course for about an hour and half and everyone adapted the game to their own abilities. Some took the time to line up the shot and some just hit the ball however they felt. But what couldn't be missed was the fun everyone had. We had a group of guys who were cheering and just rocking out!

The picnic was pretty fun. The thing that really struck me and inspired me to write this post was how everyone had a good time and was so social. There are certainly little clicks in our group but not really to the point of exclusion--just people who are friends. But everyone had a good time, talked with people, played games, and ate some good food.

Coming home, I realize how much work must have gone in to getting all these people where they are today. I wonder what their teachers would think of them now! Most of them talk proudly about going to one of the two county career centers--which is an accomplishment, in my mind. Anyways, I guess the point of this post was also to remember that no matter what level you are teaching or what skills you are walking on, they are all important and meaningful and do make a difference in the future of your student. It's worth it. As someone who sees the end product, it's totally worth it! So as school begins again for the 2009-10 year, in this time of lay offs and cutbacks, know that what you are doing is important, meaningful, and worth it for your students!


  1. Wow... Thanks I need to hear that. Sometimes it is hard when the students are treated younger then they are because of the cognitive challenges. I need to remember to look at the larger picture and help families to realize there is a future for their child.

  2. This sounds so great! I realized that when some of my graduates called the next year, that we didn't teach them enough about leisure activities during school. These former students were lost since they were no longer in school and around their peers and support system. Sure, I helped them get a job and work but what about when they were not at work? I'm glad to see that there is something like what you are doing!

  3. That's great! I have a 10 year old son with Down syndrome and I would love if this type of opportunity is available for him in the future. I'm filing this post under things to encourage (or be a part of starting) in our community as my son gets closer to being an adult.

  4. Terri--I think recreation is a great thing for people with disabilities--it is a great equalizer too. While some of our members do talk about HSM or something along those lines, they are also interested in other things too. I know when I taught elementary school and my 4th grader was still interested in Dora and Barbie, I felt a little guilty trying to promote something more adult because at least Dora is fairly wholesome/educational, but sometimes you have to do these things.

    Loonyhiker--I know what you mean! I am such an academics focused teacher--even if it's functional academics but we have to remember to include recreation into everything else we teach. Fortunately, last year I had a great Adapted PE teacher and she taught my kids Wii, modeling clay, arts and crafts as well as PE skills. In our community, it is called Theraputic Recreation, incase you want to try to point your students towards that.

    Monica--We also have programs for Teens and Young Adults (13-22)as well as other programs for younger children but may not take advantage of the community as much. You might want to head the local park authority and ask them what theraputic recreation programs they have available.

  5. We do have a couple of recreation opportunities for children with disabilities in our area but they aren't that great. Right now, my son is in "regular" scouting and gymnastics camps. He also participates in activity day camps during the summer with his peers. I am fortunate as I live in a province that allows me to hire a community support assistant for him on their dollar.

    As for adult programming and recreation, the city I live in has a long way to go but its all do-able. I love reading about places that have good solid programs as it gives me great ideas for the future.

  6. Monica--It sounds like Mikey's assistant is my 3rd and sometimes job! I'm a leisure coach (mostly for one little boy with autism) and I help him stay focused and participate in park authority classes. I'm seeing now how I'm lucky to live in Fairfax County which has enough resources to draw upon to give a lot back to the community.