I have a great deal of respect for anyone who chooses to focus their career on working with the disabled…it’s not something people do for the high salary or the glamour. For the most part, folks who work with the developmentally disabled have big hearts and genuine desire to make a difference in the lives of others. However, all the good intentions in the world will not replace proper training.
Proper training isn’t just about the use of adaptive equipment, medical equipment, or administering meds, but must also include disability awareness and sensitivity. I have noticed that often this seems to be lacking. Caregivers, be it therapists, teachers, personal care attendants or even therapeutic recreation instructors must create trust with those that they work with…they must learn how to create and protect that trust. Children who cannot communicate or use their bodies to protect or control themselves must feel completely safe in the hands of those they rely on. If you betray that trust you will have broken a bond that may never be repaired.
I have seen Quincy shut down on people quicker than you can flip a light switch. As soon as she is put in a situation that scares her or hurts her she is simply finished. More than once over the years we have had to replace therapists because we know once Quincy has lost trust in someone she simply will not work for them.
Quincy skis during the winter with the use of adaptive ski equipment. This winter an adaptive ski instructor took a young client down a particularly difficult run at our ski resort and dumped him. The instructor’s general attitude was that of a typical, healthy young man…no pain, no gain. It’s not fun if you don’t push the envelope. I wonder if that instructor has ever experienced being buckled into a bi-ski, arms strapped down so he couldn’t use them, put entirely at the mercy of some hot-shot instructor who thought it would be cool to jump into a black diamond run and possibly dump him. I doubt it.
The developmentally disabled process experiences differently than the rest of us. Their trust is built differently, their fear is felt differently, and their ability to recover from something frightening is different. You must understand that sometimes trust is all they have and it should not be taken lightly…it must be protected and respected.