Brian W

In “The dismodern body” the majority of the curriculum focuses on the differences in people that make us unique. The education tool which facilitates these lessons is the service learning projects we have all been assigned to. As a service learning project, I was lucky enough to work with the Cumberland-Perry association of retarded citizens(C-PARC). This service agency specializes in helping those people who have cognitive impairments. People within the programs offered by C-PARC range from high functioning individuals who can live independently, and low functioning which are people whom need special care, but are still offered the chance of a normal life. When someone has a cognitive impairment, their lives are independent for the most part. They may need help with holding a job, or cooking, but all the people who participated in the program were helped to an extreme. In a home where 6 highly functioning individuals lived, each person held chores just as in the normal family environment. The most valuable asset offered by C-PARC in my mind is the social factor. While we as Dickinsonians may be more tolerant of differences, the people in the real world invoke parochial views when socializing. With C-PARC these people have an opportunity to create friendships with those who may share their disability, as well as chance to fend for themselves and live independently.
The benefits of C-PARC extend beyond those fringe line benefits that are implied by the organizations’ name. Beyond the help it offers to those with cognitive impairments, the organization also aids the community in many facets. A flagship program that they have been touting as an example is daycare. The daycare offered is for people utilizing C-PARC as well as those citizens of the town of Carlisle who need help within their homes. As an agency it also helps to organize social functions between other counties with similar programs. In this manner, people are able to further their social skills, while interacting outside the group homes they live in. As a further benefit it advances social skills where they otherwise may not have been learned.
In the short time I spent at C-PARC, we were unable to truly impact the organization. The actual position filled by the students was very convoluted. I was not a volunteer, nor was I an observer. My time was spent as a new friend. The employees of C-PARC did not allot any actual responsibilities to us, but we also were not silent. The most rewarding moment was when one member gave me a hug after the second visit to the group home. It was amazing that the person had built enough confidence in me in order to show this level of intimacy. We as a society frown upon this, yet we should really embrace it. My position within the organization was well spent, and I went from a stranger in their house to a welcomed friend.
People whom are cognitive impaired face many difficulties in “normative” society. Chores that seem mundane to the “normative” society are indeed an uphill battle to the people of C-PARC. A big goal for all members is to learn money denominations in order to live a more independent life. Balancing checkbooks is another important ritual that must be completed. One set-back that cognitively impaired peoples may face is a lack of reading skills. These people are unable to read for themselves, and thus must rely on someone else’s eyes. To me, this is a very scary thought, yet the members of C-PARC are able to be successful despite their cognitive abilities.
As mentioned before, I feel this experience relates most closely with the story good country folks. Before my time with C-PARC I had been operating under the misguided conclusion that people whom are cognitively impaired have a simpler life. The lives of these people are no less simple than those that you and I uphold. Also, each one of the people I encountered had a prominent skill. This was very much like Lionel in “Motherless Brooklyn.” Lionel had a prominent talent that he used to perfection. The people of C-PARC had much the same personalities. This experience has also correlated with the education of tolerant language. Before this class I had a rather crude vocabulary when referring to people with disabilities. I would like to think that this experience has changed the connotation of my language to be much more positive.

The third visit to C-Parc was again a visit to the group home. During this visit, Eric and I spent an extended period of time speacking with 2 house members. It was a very normal conversation, and my parochialism again took a bruising. The talk was mostly about the day at work, and how easter went. Our conversation had a terriffic flow, and was something I enjoyed. On this trip to the house, we also watched TV with another house member who had invited us to their daily ritual. We all watched the show, while the member kindly pointed out plot notes, and characters that we might not have known. The person was very friendly by inviting us into their room, and just sharing their personal space with myself and Eric. After enjoying the show, we were visiting another person, when their playstation borke. They attempted to fix it, and we attempted to help, and this all led to an amusing 15 minutes as Eric and myself took turns attempting to fix the gaming system for the person, but could not since the person would not stop playing. Finally on our way out, one member of the house was very fond of us, as we made a new friend. The person asked us about where we were from, and we had a generally fluid conversation. At this point it was time for myself, and Eric to leave, and the members to eat dinner.

I feel that this visit was very similar to the previous visit we took to the house. There was much more social interaction this time, and the conversations were not forced. The people that lived in the house were more willing to let myself and Eric in to their world, while treating us like people they had known for many years. I only note one downside of this trip, and that is of the gaming system fiasco. While the situation was amusing, it also made me aware that my earlier thoughts were wrong. Upon leaving, I had assumed this person could remember the buttons, but I was sadly mistaken, as I observed that they could not read, and thus just pushed buttons. It is an unfortunate event, but one that I must come to understand, and be willing to help with.

After last visit I compared the people of the house to Lionel, and that was only part of it. The other part is viewing the people of the house as more people in the story “Good Country People.” In the short story, the bible slaesman is of course assumed to be simple, and is actaully quite ingenius. The people of the house are similar in that they are not as simple as people believe. I was guilty of assuming that the people of the house were simple because C-PARC had given them each different means of entertainment. I was dead wrong. Every resident was as complex a person as one can find. There were boyfriend/girlfriend issues, work issues, home issues, and everything the “normal” person deals with. They are very much like the bible salesman in that they are the antithesis of what one expects.

The third trip to C-Parc was a visit to the cluster home. In the home were 6 people that were members of the C-Parc program. Each person had a different level of functioning, and all lived together. When we first arrived the members of the group home were just arriving home from work. As each entered the house, myself and Eric followed. We entered the house with our host for the day, and he explained to us the function of the group home, as well as introducing us to each member of the house. Following a brief orientation we were given a tour of the house, both upstairs, and downstairs. The members were mostly relaxing since they had all come home from work. We were allowed the privelage of wlaking the halls, and having personal conversations with each house member. The first person was not much older than ourselves, and had just come to the system. He was engaged in a video game, but explained to us his hobbies, and his work assignments. The second room we entered belonged to a person who had been a long tenured house mate. This person was just relaxing and watching a TV show, so after a brief conversation it became obvious that their attention was in other places. Our next meeting was by far the longest. We had an engaging conversation concerning the person’s time with C-Parc, their family, their work, and any aspect of their life they shared with us. The other two members were older people, and while one napped, the other was full of jokes mostly. We did not get to have a very good conversation because of the joking manner. At this point, it was dinner time in the house, as well as time to leave. On the way out we saw one more person who actually had an independent room. We had not seen this room at first, but were able to engage in a high level of conversation with the tenant. It was a lively conversation concerning their goals, and what they had done to this point. The good-bye was a very god ending to our visit as each person gave us some departing words.

The visit to the group house revealed several things that i had not been observant enough about. Members of C-Parc are very much the same as the rest of us. They work, enjoy social lives, and need rest. When I first saw the person playing the video game, I was a little amazed. This person had been at a C-Parc occupation, yet could memorize the intricate controls involved in a playstation. Another person was deeply involved in cross-word puzzles. The people of the house were in fact intelligent. People in the house all got along great, even preventing one person from leaving. They had the opportunity to move into independent housing, but chose to remain with their close friends in the house. The level of closeness observed in this house was unbelievable. Another interesting facet of our visit was that once a month, one member got to make dinner. This was inspiring in that the person worked so hard in order to do a common task that we take for granted. It allows me to take a closer look at how I live my life.

The visit to the group house is best appreciated when you observe the actions of the people versus Lionel of “Motherless Brooklyn”. Lionel had been suffering from Tourettes yet was able to solve an intricate crime that involved many webs. Each of the people in the house were capable of doing things that seemed amazing despite their disability. Where Lionel had a fast mind, is comparable to the person who was playing video games. Each person in their own way demonstarted this sort of characteristic. Besides Lionel, the people of the house share little with the other literature which we have read.

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