Thursday, October 6, 2011

The R-Word

(A picture drawn for me by the client I currently job coach- he heard me talking that day about how much I love pumpkins)

As I've mentioned before, I work with adults with mental retardation and developmental delays (henceforth, MR/DD). I teach my clients job skills so that they can go out into the community and find jobs. I also "job coach," meaning that I take a client out to his/her job in the community and help them perform the job, either by making sure that he/she completes duties as necessary or just to make sure everyone interacts with each other appropriately (meaning no one picks on my client). My job is difficult and requires a level of patience that some days I'm shocked I have. And yet, I can't imagine working with any other population.
My clients have become a sort of family to me; as much as I hate being at work at 7:30am, seeing them really makes my day.
One client and I discuss Glee, our favorite tv show. Another one comes in full of piss and vinegar, one minute telling you to leave her the hell alone, the next giving you a hug and telling you she loves you; her favorite holiday is Halloween and it's hilarious to talk with her about it. There's one that I took to his job for several months before I had to temporarily leave; he and I make bunny noises at each other and joke about the food he sneaks in to work each day. The client I take to work now reminds me so much of my brother, with his fart jokes and quirky sense of humor.
And so, when I hear people use the word "retard" or "retarded" to describe something or someone stupid, I get furious.
My clients may have mental retardation, but they are absolutely not stupid. Some of my clients remember sports facts better than any announcer. Some of my clients can complete a puzzle by themselves that took me weeks. Some of my clients can do math better than some people I know (myself included). My clients are good, solid workers that would make any employer proud. My clients care more about each other and their staff than some people who say they care about each other.
So don't you dare call them stupid.
Don't call someone else "retarded" just because they're acting like a fool. Call them a fool, call them stupid- just call them what they are acting like.
Because, honestly, if they were acting "retarded," then they'd be acting like someone who's grateful for the job he/she has, no matter how menial. If they were acting "retarded," they'd be willing to love someone who's making fun of them and give them a second chance. If they were acting "retarded," they'd have amazing insights into the world around them. If they were acting "retarded," their willingness to try again and again each day would amaze you.
Don't use the word "retarded," then get offended when I tell you that word is NOT appropriate.
And, most importantly, don't insult the clients I love.

Please enjoy some of the wonderful artwork my clients have done for me:

This one was drawn by the client I used to job coach. The top picture is of me driving my car to where he works. In the bottom picture is Santa Claus and a bunny.

This one was colored for me by the client who loves Glee. It was such a surprise when she came up to my table and said "Here, I did this for your birthday!"- I had no clue she even knew it was my birthday!

Drawn for me by the brother of the client who drew the very first picture shown. They both love cars (especially Dodges) and cats.

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