Education and educating a developmentally disabled adult requires a lot of time and patience. It doesn’t happen over night. I worked in a sheltered workshop for ten years teaching job training skills. With the necessary skills they learned, socialization was a huge part of it. We are talking about individuals who are stigmatized and thrown into a category of retarded. I choose not to use that word as it is very harmful and hurtful to a population who simply want to be accepted into society. Many of these individuals are quick and eager to learn. They want to earn a paycheck just like you and I. These are people who love to dress up in their finest clothing and go out to dinner or proms or weddings. When I got married, I invited all of the citizens I worked with, and they looked fabulous. They were aware of good social behavior, and really enjoyed it. They were so amazed I invited them. Well why not? I treated them like family. They really knew their place because of the socialization skills I taught them.
They are a population who desire to be just like normal people. They are people, they have real feelings and they want to be accepted and feel accepted. My heart is very big and all of them have a very special place there. This is a very rewarding experience for both. They are basically children trapped inside adult bodies, but they are teachable and yearn to be taught. Many people over the years asked me “How can you do that kind of work”? I reply because I love it and love the population, and my greatest wish is to see them successful. Successful is what they wish to be. They ask nothing else, just to learn.
Special Olympics is another rewarding experience. I did that because I believe we are all athletes in what we achieve. There is nothing more special than seeing a face lit up with excitement when they are presented with their metals. Many of my peers were selected to go to Japan to compete with others from around the world. My joy was very great seeing them come to work wearing the medals. That is quite the achievement indeed. When you help people out with unconditional love, they return it back. I did this work for 15 years, until I became disabled myself. So if you are looking for work in helping others, I would highly recommend this field of work. The gift of unconditional love and having the ability to do that is a very beautiful gift.