Bryan C

Today was my last visit to the Camp Hill Childrens’ Center, and it was supposed to be another interactive day in the classroom. However, the room which I was scheduled to be in, which was the four, five, and six-year-old classroom, was on a field trip of some kind. So, I was unable to participate with them. Also, Gina, my contact person at the childrens’ center, was not in today. This was an issue as it was my last day there. So, I placed myself in the three-year-old classroom for about a half an hour. The room was packed with about twenty-five children and four teachers. I had a lot of trouble finding the proper way to interact, because there was barely enough room to sit down with any particular group of kids. It was nothing short of chaotic. So, I decided to gracefully and silently step out of the classroom and wander around the building, reading posters, posted notes, students’ artwork, etc. which were posted along the walls. I spent about an hour doing this before I left.
I was a little upset that I had not been told that my classroom would not be unavailable for my coming today, especially since I had scheduled my coming a week earlier, and my contact person, Gina, was not available. However, I did make the best of the situation. The classroom with the four, five, and six-year-olds was simply chaotic. I felt that the teachers were overwhelmed. Nothing bad happened while I was there, however it was clear that they were unable to control all of the children. Usually, the class sizes are much smaller, around eight to twelve children at the most. Also, it would seem to me that even in a facility like the Camp Hill Childrens’ Center where all children work and play together without separating the disabled from the normates, that the class size would be smaller. This way the the teachers would be able to pay more attention to the children. The fact that they are all working and playing together is great, but they are only four, five, and six years old, and are still extremely capable of getting into trouble or hurting someone.
My wandering around the school was not wasted time. I picked up several pamphlets and brochures from the offices for my final Wiki page, which describe the types of children who attend the center, letters to parents about tuition and attendence, the center’s mission statement, proper language within the center, and several other interesting facts. I also got to view all the childrens’ artwork, which was displayed around the walls of the entire building. Two nights ago they held an artshow for parents and friends. The center takes pride in the childrens’ ability to perform artistically. They spend a great deal of money to have the artwork framed and presented with great effort.
(As this was my last day at the center and nothing really happened that is necessary for relating to class, I am leaving this section out. )

From what I have come to understand of the children at the Camp Hill Children’s Center is that there is a wide variety of abilities and disabilities. There are children with disabilities ranging from Down Syndrome to a common speech impairment. While I was not allowed to be involved with any specific disabled individual and learn about his/herself, I did get to observe them. Children with physical disabilities would go to the “gym”, which was a small room designated to allow children to run around, climb a rope up to the ceiling, throw balls, etc. When the disabled children went to the gym, so did the healthy children. This allowed everyone to feel like equals. They all felt as though they fit in. Children who have mental or speech disabilities would also get treatment while participating with the rest of the class. Speech disabilities would simply be treated by a teacher reading a book with the child, or having conversations with them. The importance of allowign the children to interact together is so that they can function in the real world. As the children grow and develop, they will not feel distracted or put off by disabled children in high school, college, jobs, etc; and the disabled children themselves will know their abilities and strengths.
The Camp Hill Children’s Center is a place for parents to drop their children off before work, it is a learning environment, a playground, and a day care center. It is not equipped however, to deal with medical emergencies. All of the teachers/instructors are aware of all the childrens’ disabilities and know the types of treatments they require, but they are not doctors and the center is not a hospital. The center’s main benefit to the community is allowing the children to all fit together.
I was allowed to interact on three different occasions and each one was somewhat different. The children seem to love having new bodies present. They welcomed me with hugs and smiles and invited me into their groups to play and read. Teachers were not so talkative however. As long as the children were occupied and cooperating they seemed satisfied. Only two teachers acknowledged my presense in the room during my times there. I was incouraged, during my interactions to not talk about one’s disability. There was a poster hanging in the teachers’ lounge of the correct verbage to use when around the children at the center, so as not to offend anyone or make them feel separated from the rest of the children. I found it easy to talk to the children. They didn’t ask me many questions. They just handed me game pieces or action figures and started playing. I did a lot of observing of the walls in the classrooms. I took in all the students’ artwork and pictures. It would seem to be a normal day school.
The biggest question is whether or not the children are treated the same way at home or in other camps, schools, etc. At their young age, getting mixed signales between the center and their homes might be an issue. It did not seem to be a relevant topic in either of the rooms I witnessed, because the children didn’t want their parents to leave, but once they did leave the children went right into playing with friends and had no problem conversing with teachers. The reality is that the Camp Hill Childrens’ Center has limited space available, and not all childrens’ centers in this country have the same policies as they do. So once the children have outgrown the center, they could face some harsh realities about themselves, depending on where they go in life. (i.e. Some jobs will not allow certain disabilities on site for liability reasons, even if the person has the skill and knowledge.)
The Camp Hill Childrens’ Center is a center for day care, physical and mental treatment, and as an (attempted) preporatory program for getting children used to their own and others’ disabilities. In being such a program, it bipasses several of Douglas’ theories on ways society deals with disabilities. They do not segregate or eliminate the disability from society. Instead, they attempt to make society used to it and learn to accomodate. They also attempt to make the disabled body find its niche in society. The center is not a freak show. You would be able to distinguish between a disabled child and a healthy child without asking one of the teachers. The children are not on display. They are praised for thier abilities and advances in treatments. In the seven hours I spent at the center, I never saw a single child separate themself from the group, or seem unable to participate. It is difficult to connect the children there to any character we have discussed thus far this semester. They children at the center seem to be opposites of any character we have read about. If they were any more involved with the center they would be close to unaware of their disablility.

Today was my first day interacting with the children of the Camp Hill Children’s Center. The teachers/instructors were two or three per room with about twelve. I was in a room with three-year-olds. Since I am only able to attend the children’s center in the morning at eight o’clock, I interacted in the morning as the children were first arriving. Several parents walked into the classroom with their children and stayed until their child was settled. A couple of the parents seemed slightly uneasy out my presense in the room as they did not know me or why I was there. I introduced myself to them and told them that I was observing/interacting as part of a service learning project, and they quickly understood.
During my hour and a half there the children played with blocks and action figures and read books. Without asking one of the center’s employees, one would not know who the disabled children were. All of the kids interacted together as if there were no difference at all. After 45 minutes, I was moved into another classroom with four and five-year-olds. They were a little louder and more active. The only time during the entire time I was there that I saw a teacher get involved was when an act of violence occured. One student hit another student in the head with a toy and the teacher put him in the time out corner. Otherwise, the students were on their own. They were not told to clean up messes that they made unless it was really out of hand; it was up to the children to know that they had to clean up.

I really like that the children interact together. They seemed more friendly and open to eachother, and there were no problems with children being omitted from any group. It reminded me of a kid in my primary school class who only had one finger on one hand. He was omitted from almost every group he tried to play with, because our teachers were not equipped with the proper training to know how to intermingle the children. The one thing that frightened me slightly was the time out corner in the four and five-year-olds’ room. It was a corner designated by a dark tapestry (like a tent). The child sat under the dark tapestry for twenty minutes crying before either of the teachers came to talk to him. It seemed a bit harsh and sort of disturbing to just throw a kid in the dark.

Another way to view the punishment that took place as a result of the violence, is that it doesn’t matter whether a child is disabled or not, they will still know that an act of violence was wrong. And as long as ALL of the children receive that same punishment it should be alright.

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