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Friday, October 7, 2011

my adventures on becoming a volunteer

There exists in my county, the most wonderful center for children
and adults with profound developmental disabilities. It is
known as the Hattie Larlham Foundation, named after a nurse who
began taking in children that everyone else had given up on.
Now the Foundation has massively grown and expanded. But it's
the love and joy that makes it so special. It's a place where
people with disabilities CAN succeed.

I worked there as a teenager, and then again as a college
student. My work area was "Pob B." I helped the Habilitation
Assistants take care of the 24 children who lived there. I
loved to interact with the children. I always felt happy when
they reacted to me... especially when the reaction was a smile.

Back then, I was hard-of-hearing with low vision. My central
vision was good, but I had no peripheral vision. The staff knew
I was hearing impaired. I didn't tell them about my vision
problems. I think they figured that out on their own when I
bumped into things.

I always felt self-conscious and shy. I was trying so hard to
pass for normal. I ended up being so stressed and uptight,
because I wasn't normal. I just hadn't accepted that fact yet.

Regardless, I liked my work there and loved those kids. I never
forgot them. I find myself wondering... "Where does she live
now?" or "How old would he be now?" or "Does she still laugh an
sounds and music?"

If I was "normal," I'd apply for a job there again. But look
at me now... I'm totally deaf-blind and physically impaired?
What could I possibly have to offer?

After five years, I decided to find out. Today I started as a
volunteer at the Hattie Larlham Foundation. My specialist from
Ohio Deaf-Blind Outreach will be serving as my interpreter and
SSP. I guess you could say it's her job to help me help the

I'll be working in a classroom with adults in there 20's and
30's. Some of them lived in Pod B during my old days there. It
was great to meet one of the kids I knew back then. She's not a
kid anymore, but she's still the same sweet soul. I told her
that I remember how much she used to like music. The staff
member said, "She still does."

Many of the staff from before, are still working there now. I
met two who remember me. It made me feel a little nervous,
because I'm far more disabled now. But the one woman said she's
impressed by me. Whatever that means....

We talked most of the session about what they do in this class
and how I can contribute. I offered to do anything tactile,
including messing crafts and Play-Doh and clay. They told me
that will be perfect.

I got the chance to begin by reading a couple of me
braille-print picture books to one of the residents. She looked
at me with big eyes as I read and liked touching the tactile
pictures. She smiled at the sticky dog tongue on one page. I
laughed too. I have the feeling this is going to be the start of
something precious.

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