Thu 21 Apr 2005
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.