“Hey there, Monkey Butt!” Although the majority of us would see this as an odd way to greet a friend, it makes me smile every time I hear it. See, I have worked with the mentally handicapped since Spring of 2005 in the residential group home setting and one of the very first guys I worked with greets me with that and a giant hug every time I see him. We have had many enjoyable experiences between Special Olympics two years, going to Reggie Miller’s last Pacer game, riding roller coasters at amusement parks and completing daily tasks. Working with the mentally handicapped hasn’t always been a bed of roses, but with a desire to learn and taking action, I have gained indispensable knowledge and perspectives on life.
I began working for Bona Vista in March of 2005. I was unsure of what to expect since the only other experience I had with the mentally handicapped was in elementary school. I listened closely to my supervisors and those I worked with to learn how to communicate effectively with the guys in the home. Each individual is very unique in their needs and ways to help them. I had the motivation and desire to learn about the people I would serve. I tolerated ambiguity and asked many questions at the beginning. I was a detective trying to discover what would benefit them the most. I came with an open mind and was able to connect past experience and knowledge to the group home setting. Previously studying Early Childhood Education became useful as I utilized ways to teach reading a clock and playing games that were fitting to their developmental needs. I read books and went to all training to better serve those placed in my care.
They became my adopted family. We worked on helping the guys become more self efficient by learning daily living skills, but we also worked on building relationships and social skills. A few had families that weren’t able to visit. Each Sunday, a different resident and I would go to church and then to my parent’s house for lunch which allowed them to build healthy relationships with people outside the group home. I have always made an effort to help build connections within the communities whether it is a Wednesday night Bible study specifically for the mentally handicapped or joining the cheerleading team. The smiles of pure joy as they partake in something that makes them feel worthy and like an individual softens my heart.
Since Spring of 2005, I have been transferred to five group homes to help share my knowledge and to inspire others working in such a difficult field. I have been kicked, bit, yelled at, and when others would have given up, I stuck with it for I know the difference someone who shows compassion towards others can make in the lives of individuals. Each time I hear “Hey there, Monkey Butt!” I am reminded of such.