Friday, March 25, 2011

"Different, Not Less."

A class that I'm taking requires me to spend at least 20 hours volunteering with a social worker. I chose to help out at a facility that works with adults that struggle with mental illness. I find these people incredibly fascinating. Some would talk all day if they could and some are very private but I've been amazed at how supportive they are of each other. The program encourages socialization and gives them somewhere to be, which is something everyone needs. The social workers there are all more than happy to answer all of my many questions. It's been great.

The first day I was there I sat in on a group therapy session and they all took a turn introducing themselves to me. One little elderly man spoke up and said:

"Do you spell your name with an E?"
"Yes, I do."
"That's good because boys spell it the other way and you're not a boy."
"No, I'm not a boy."

The next time I went I sat in on a Schizophrenia group therapy session. The social worker took a few minutes to let each of them do what they called "checking in" and share how their week was. I noticed that most of them measured their week in terms of "loud" or "quiet." It was interesting. A few said their week had been bad because everything was loud and confusing with a lot of delusions. Others said it was a good week because it had been very quiet. We then played a round of charades, which turned out to be a terrible idea. Afterwards, I listened as they talked about anger, which has been their theme for the week.

Today everyone met together and we watched this movie:

which I loved and most of the clients ended up being really fascinated by. Most of the adults there do not have autism, but I think they liked seeing someone as unconventional as themselves and what she was able to accomplish. They asked a lot of questions about it afterwards and the social workers started a group discussion about autism and what we know about it. There was a lady that kept saying "different, not less" over and over again to anyone that would listen. It was a good day.

"Some people might think if I could snap my fingers I'd choose to be "normal." But, I wouldn't want to give up my ability to see in beautiful, precise pictures. I believe in them."
- Temple Grandin, This I Believe

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