Thu 14 Apr 2005
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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.