They smile regardless of their facial disfigurements. They smile when their bodies are twisted, hurt and broken. They smile when they can’t speak and have no words to say. They also smile when the words they say are incomprehensible to you. So, do you want to know the one thing that never ceases to amaze me? It is that they smile when you stare at them, when you glare at them and when you frown down upon them. They also smile when you make rude comments. I believed I wasn’t cut out to work with this population. Yet, I managed to accidentally fall into it, and I love it.
I work with adults who have disabilities, which may be physical, emotional or mental. I believed I wouldn’t be able to look at them and see them for the beautiful people they are. I was scared that I might judge them or be disgusted, yet I was neither. I fell in love with each and every client. The one thing I believe I will never get past is how people treat them in public. I believe you would prefer to donate to their cause than see them at a restaurant, a movie or at the mall. I believe you don’t want to see them enjoying their life. Because if they can enjoy their life, then they might somehow be like you. The most hurtful thing you do is stare, turn your nose up in disgust, and move away from them. And when we leave, you go back to your normal life and forget about them until they cross your path again.
When your family members die I believe you will mourn them. Our clients die and no one mourns them. They have no family, and I believe without their day programs they would waste away in front of a TV. We had two clients pass away last month in the same week. I truly believe the only people who were devastated included myself and the rest of the staff, and this situation occurs more often than not. We are the only family they know, and when they pass away the world will not shed one tear. My clients aren’t famous, they aren’t geniuses, and most spend the better part of their lives living in a mental institution receiving shock treatments. But this shouldn’t take away from you acknowledging that they are human beings.
I believe my clients are special.
Yes, they drool. They may make loud strange noises, have aggressive behaviors and will try and steal food off your plate. Does this really make their life more or less insignificant than yours? Does that mean you shouldn’t love them, or treat them with respect? I believe their life should be more than life and death. That when my clients say “hi” to you, you should respond instead of frown and walk away. I believe they are forgotten and will continue to be forgotten until people can accept that a person with disabilities is still a person.
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