Trevor D

The types of impairments that the members of the Stevens Center face are mental and developmental disabilities. When I went in for my orientation, Stephanie Faron told me that the members of the center were basically people who had been in mental health facilities or psychiatric wards. Some examples of disorders that members of the center may have are schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Schizophrenia is characterized by positive and negative symptoms. Some examples of these positive symptoms are delusions, hallucinations, and thought disorder. Some examples of these negative symptoms are lack of emotion, lack of speech, and lack of motivation. Bipolar disorder, which is also know as manic depression, defined by having severe highs and lows. Some examples of these highs are insomnia, elation, euphoria, hyperactivity, hyper imagination, and over-talkativeness. These lows are characterized by slowness to conceive ideas and move, anxiety or sadness, and even suicidal thoughts or actions. I could definitely see some of these symptoms present in some of the members. For example, the first day I went for my orientation, a member came into Stephanie’s office and said that she was afraid that she was going to hurt herself or someone else.

The benefits of the Stevens Center can be realized the second you walk in the door. It basically reminds me of a local community center. There are couches where the members can sit down and relax and talk amongst themselves. Then there are computers, a TV, a game room, kitchen, and various games for the members to play. This environment basically provides a place for all of the members to hang out, and get back into society socially. The members are learning how to interact with each other peacefully. The members have daily chores and tasks that they all have to participate in, and this gives them a chance to participate in tasks necessary for living alone. For the most part, the Stevens Center provides the members with a place to just hang out. The center also provides the members with opportunities to go on field trips to different places; for example, they can go to McDonald’s, the mall, or a bowling alley. This gives the members the chance to experience “normal” activities.

Personally, I feel like I have had somewhat of an impact on the people who utilize the agency. Since I had some one-on-one time with Linda, Jack, and Brenda, they recognize me when I walk in. The person who I feel like I most affected was Peanut. I spent so much time getting to know Peanut and interacting with her. She recognized me every time I walked, and even gave me a hug at the end of my last visit. I even think I am going to visit the Center, even though it is not required anymore, so that I can hang out with Peanut. Honestly, I have fun when I got to hang out with her, because she does a lot of stuff to make me laugh. She is definitely a one of a kind person. She asked me if I would bring them disposable cameras so that they can take pictures of the members, and I said I would bring some by next Wednesday.

The problems that the Stevens Center members face in “normative” society are numerous. I think that the main issue that is going to cause problems is trouble communicating and expressing thoughts. As a result of their disabilities, the members are labeled as “unstable” by normal society. “Normative” society places these stereotypes on people that have disabilities, and thus the members of the Stevens Center are restricted from getting jobs that they are perfectly capable of, just because they are suffering from a mental disability. The Stevens Center provides a base for the members to grow from. They can use their interactions to remember what it was like to be a part of the “normal” community, and get closer to living “normal” lives.

I can definitely see how this work has connected to the readings we have done in class. The Garland-Thomson readings that we have done in class, have theorized about how the disabled are labeled as abnormal, and basically ostracized from “normal” society. In Motherless Brooklyn, we can see how everyone treats Lionel because he has a disability. This is pretty similar to how people just walking on the street would interact with members from the Stevens Center. Almost everyone walks around with these stereotypes, and until they actually spend time and get to know these “abnormal” people, they will continue to think that their stereotypes are true. The readings in this course were well chosen, and they reflect very well on our service learning experiences. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed visiting the Stevens Center, and gaining more experience in breaking down cultural stereotypes.

When I arrived at the Stevens group, I sat down with Sam, and two of the other guys and watched Matlock with them for a little while. After that I sat down with Brenda and asked her what she had done so far today, and she showed me a small cloth change purse that she has made. Then Peanut came in and asked if I wanted to play cards with her. So I said I would, and Peanut, Brenda, and I played cards. First, we played old maid, then crazy eights, and finally war. After that Peanut and I played a game of pool. Then Peanut asked me if I wanted to see their photo project. So she showed me a couple of photo albums with pictures from the center. Then after that she went outside to smoke, and I went out with her, and we just talked about stuff. Then after that it was time to leave, so I said goodbye to Peanut and she gave me a big hug and asked me to come back again next week.

I had no trouble going into the Stevens center today. I felt completely comfortable walking in. Playing cards with Peanut and Brenda was interesting. Brenda didn’t really have any patience. For instance, when it was Peanut’s turn, she would always talk to me in between turns, and she would never realize when it was her turn because we were talking. Brenda would always quickly say, Peanut it’s your turn. Peanut on the other hand was just having fun, talking and playing. I had a really good time playing cards and talking with Brenda and Peanut. Peanut kept asking me about school and my classes and I explained to her that I was a computer science major. She said she didn’t know what science meant, so she asked me to explain what was involved in my major. When I was leaving, Peanut asked me to come back another time, and while I don’t have to go anymore for this class, I was still possibly considering going to hang out with Peanut.

I have had a lot of different service experiences in my life, but this one is far different. It provides for a much more personal, one on one interaction time. In all of the theories that we have had to read, people that have disabilities are seen as outcasts. I cannot think of anyone who could consider Peanut an outcast. While she is definitely not all there mentally, she is one of the nicest and friendliest people that I have ever met. You cannot really know Peanut through descriptions, she is a one of a kind person.

When I arrived at the Stevens Group today, there was a group of Shippensburg girls that had organized a game for the members to participate in. Before the game started, Peanut saw me walk in, and said she wanted to take a picture of me. The members were all supposed to stand in a circle, with name tags on, and pass the ball to someone after they said their name. This was a game so that the members could all get to know eachother’s names better. After that, they took a ball of string and passed it to the other members after they said a good quality about them. The whole point was that they all depend on eachother for friendship. After that, the members all had ice cream. While everyone else was having ice cream, I spent some time with Linda helping her to use a computer. She said she had only used a computer 3 times before, so I walked her through trying to find a new apartment. After that, I spent some time with “Cadillac” Jack. We talked about cars, music, and basically just stuff. After that, it was time for the members to get in the van and go home, so I left as well.

I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to participate in the game that all of the members were playing, but I got there too late. I didn’t feel as nervous walking in this time because I know a lot of the members by name, and a lot of them know me too. It was really nice to spend one on one time with Jack and Linda. It was especially interesting to hear about Jack’s interests, since a lot of them were similar to mine. It was definitely memorable talking to him about cars, because we both love them.

I don’t know why I assumed that Jack’s interests would be much different than mine. I think its that when you are in a different environment, with people that are thought to be “different” than myself, you make assumptions about them. The most important thing to remember when meeting people that may be different than yourself, is to not make assumptions because they are different. They are still people just like I am.

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