Madeleine Ka.

My second trip to the Carlisle House on December 6, was a much more enjoyable experience. The weather was gorgeous and the walk there with Ellen and Jackie was a very pleasurable one. When I arrived at the Carlisle House I was immediately greeted by Ron, who was sitting over by the arts a crafts table. I broke off from Ellen and Jackie effortlessly, I was not at all apprehensive or nervous. Ron and I immediately started talking about race car driving and other various sports; he seemed very happy that I had arrived. Suddenly, however, a very tiny woman seemed to come out of nowhere and abruptly pulled me, Ellen and Jackie into the side room. The woman introduced herself as Peanut and seemed in a desperate hurry to get us to help her make a crown for the new Karaoke Queen. We all agreed to help her out when we got back from Christmas break and she was very thankful. She gave us all big hugs and told us how much she loved teenagers. I then went back into the main room and talked to Ron with Jackie for another half an hour and then helped Peanut and Christy decorate the Christmas tree for the remaining hour. All in all, it was a very rewarding, magical experience that I enjoyed immensely.

There was something about Ron’s demeanor that drew me to him. He seemed like the nicest most honest person I had ever met. When I arrived at the Carlisle House, Ron was just sitting at the arts and crafts table watching a woman named Brenda paint wooden Christmas stockings. Ron seemed so content with himself, just sitting there observing the scenery, it made me very interested in him; I wanted to know what he was thinking. When I spoke to him we primarily talked about cars and sports and typical male dominated things. However, I thought it was interesting the way that, Ron, a person with a cognitive impairment, could be so socially similar to my other guy friends. What I talked about with Ron was pretty similar to what I usually talk about with all my other guy friends who don’t have a cognitive impairment. I have always known not to judge a person based on their appearance, however, Ron looked to be physically normal. It was his cognitive state that deemed him anomalous, and yet, what was so interesting was that we engaged in very similar conversations to ones I might have had with someone without an impairment. Given that there was some difference in the way that Ron interacted and presented himself with me, I think it was really great for me to see just how similar these he was compared to anyone else.

As hard as I tried to stay open-minded at the Carlisle House, I think I still allowed there to be a gap between me and the people who were severely impaired. I was definitely more drawn to those that looked physically “normal.” One of Mary Garland Thomson’s five assumptions about what human beings instinctively do is that we “avoid the anomalous.” I must confess that I did keep towards Ron for most of the time I spent at the Carlisle House because he acted particularly normal compared to some of the other members. However, I think that if I were given more time I would have eventually branched out and befriended those who had more severe cognitive impairments and probably had less in common with me than Ron did.

Maddy Kautz
Service Learning Journal
December 3, 2005

Ellen, Jacky and I all made our way through the pouring rain to the Carlisle House on Tuesday, November 29th. When we first arrived things were a little uncomfortable and we weren’t exactly sure what to do or where to start. Stephanie was in her office and didn’t offer us any help getting settled. Ellen, Jacky and I stood at the doorway for the first few minutes, hesitant to begin our interaction. We eventually broke the ice by introducing ourselves to all the members. Most of the people were not very responsive, but it was nice to go around and say hello to people regardless. The first person we spoke to was a man named Scott. Scott was very sociable and seemed really happy to talk. Initially, we talked to him about sports and race car driving before we moved on to discuss more personal issues. Scott eventually expressed his desires to take a trip to Japan and later to buy an apartment in New York City. We talked to Scott for about forty- five minutes and although I could have talked to him longer, Ellen and Jacky thought it might be a good idea to interact with someone else. We wandered around the facilities for a while before we settled down and started talking to a man named Ron. Although Ron was sitting with three other people, Ron was the only one that really tried to talk to us. When I first looked at Ron I noticed that he had a lot of scaring on his face, I later found out that it was due to a car accident and was most likely the cause of Ron’s cognitive disorder. He had a bad speech impediment and seemed a little unfocused, but for the most part we carried on a fine conversation; even though it was mostly about sports. While talking to Ron, we also introduced ourselves to a man named Terry. We attempted to get Terry involved in our conversation with Ron but he seemed uninterested and began dancing in place to some music that was playing on the radio. Ron had to leave at 2:00 to pick up his mother from work so then we spoke to a woman named Melony. She was a little too absorbed in her computer game to give us much attention; however, we talked for about fifteen minutes about music and how the Carlisle House has a karaoke machine. Before we knew it two hours had passed and we departed from the Carlisle House and back into the rain. All in all I think we had a very successful trip.

My first experience at the Carlisle House was much better than I expected. However, when I first got there things were a little bit awkward and I felt compelled to stay by Ellen and Jacky’s side. It was hard at first to know what to say to people and how to act. Everyone seemed very preoccupied and I did not want to disrupt them. A few people were sleeping. I got the feeling that a lot of people attend the Carlisle House to be around people so they do not have to be by themselves. Although many people did not actually interact with any of the other members, it was nice to know that at the very least these people had somewhere to go during the day so they would not have to be lonely. Scott was one of the more open, interested members at the Carlisle House and therefore we gravitated towards him to talk. While I was listening to Scott tell me about all of his plans for the future I could not help but think of how hard it was going to be for him to accomplish his goals. The sad reality of Scott’s situation was that his only income came from his job at McDonalds which I can not imagine being very much. However, I was still very impressed by his aspirations and, although they were a bit presumptuous, hoped that he would be able to achieve his ambitions. Ron was quite a different character. He seemed very content just sitting on the couch with a few other people not talking. I was surprised to find out that he was able to drive a car and actually had to leave early at two to pick up his mother from work! My most interesting observation from my visit was how fantastic a facility the Carlisle House is for people who have cognitive disorders to go and avoid judgment. Every one was extremely friendly to one another. When Terry got up and randomly started dancing I couldn’t help but find it a little strange; however, Ron didn’t even bat an eyelash about it. I sort of expected him to say something like, “Hey Terry, why don’t you sit down or something,” but instead Ron was accepting of Terry’s behavior. I really liked how all the members of the Carlisle House seemed like one big happy family, it made me feel very happy and content.

Everyday people with disabilities are put on display and judged by the public. They are constantly berated with personal questions and viewed with wide-eyed stares which are utterly disrespectful. Whether it be the little boy on the public bus or the cashier at the drug store, people make remarks or act uncomfortably around those who have anomalous characteristics. Rosemarie Garland Thomson’s book, Extraordinary Bodies, discusses how people act differently around those who have disabilities. Her book works to change peoples’ outlook on disabilities and make them understand that a disability should be viewed no differently than any other type of physical difference such as race, gender, class, ethnicity or sexuality. What I enjoyed most about the Carlisle House was that no one there was being judged. Everyone seemed to feel completely comfortable and could be themselves and feel a sense of belonging.

Maddy Kautz
Pre-Service Reflection
November 20, 2005
After my orientation at the Carlisle House, I will admit that I am a little apprehensive. I am interested in talking and interacting with these people, hearing their stories and getting involved in the arts and crafts program and the cooking facilities. However, I am uneasy about this service learning experience because I know that initially i will feel self-conscious and uncomfortable. However, I am optimistic that this will change after spending time with the members of the Carlisle House.
For the past two summers I have worked with children who have autism, Ashbergers syndrome and anger management difficulties. However, i have never spent time with adults with mental illnesses. Nevertheless, I imagine that I will be able to apply my experience with these children to the adults at the Carlisle House. However, I am aware that people with disabilities often get treated like children and I will be sensitive to that and make sure I treat them like adults. My goal is that after some time working with the members of the Carlisle house I will become more comfortable working with people with mental illnesses. Ideally I would like to be able to act myself and have a good time with the members.
I am particuarly interested in the arts and crafts and the cooking program at the Carlisle House. I have a lot of patience and creative ability which I think would apply nicely to arts and crafts. I have always been an artistic person and I think that I would be a good, enthusiastic component to the arts and crafts agency. I am also looking foward to baking and preparing lunches with the members of the Carlisle House because I enjoy baking and I love food.
In general I think I will be able to contribute a great deal to the overall success of our classes experience at the Carlisle House. I am easy to talk to; I am open and I have a genuine interest in getting to know and understand these people. I am looking foward to hearing their stories and getting to know some of the members. I was happy to hear from Stephanie that many of the Carlisle House members are willing and eager to share their experiences with us. I think that by demonstrating that I am someone who really cares will give these people an important outlet to express themselves.
I know that in the past there has been a lot of negative stereotypes about Dickinson students. The only problems I can imagine occurring during this service learning experience would therefore involve members of the Carlisle House being averse to Dickinson students coming to their facilities. I do not want the Carlisle House members to perceive me as a stuck-up rich kid or someone that is only there because I have to be. I am sure that our class will not perpetuate these stereotypes. Hopefully, we will show compassion, provide support and idealy establish friendships with these people.
In general, I am very excited to participate in this service learning experiment. I think it will be a great experience and I hope that it will enhance my understanding of people with mental illnesses. Although I know I will feel a little uncomfortable at first; I know that over time this project will become increasingly rewarding and enriching.