Terri found her first tour of the Developmental Activity Program (DAP) a little overwhelming. With no previous experience working with the handicapped, she wondered if she would be suited to the work. Her second visit convinced her to try and she is happy with her decision.
One of the first challenges Terri had to overcome was learning to deal with some clients’ concept of personal space. Sometimes she just walks away or “runs around the couch” to have a moment to herself and “get her clothes back in order.” Terri sees the constant attention the clients give her as a way for them to let her know that they enjoy her company. They just want to be close.
The sense of humour and individuality of the clients is something she says interests her very much. Terri tries to treat all the clients the same way and to find something good in everyone she works with.
Outings are suited to the client’s interests and capabilities. The best outcome is to have the clients accepted and welcomed. Working with the handicapped has “opened her eyes” and exposed her to new ideas.
I knew nothing of this field. I would see the people and think ‘those poor people’ and walk away. Somebody else is looking after them. And now I see that they are really individuals, once you get to know them.
Terri completed the Teaching Assistant course at Grande Prairie Regional College. She has also taken the courses and seminars offered through the Association. She regards her co-workers as a great resource and considers “hands-on” experience to be the best teacher.
Terri has discovered that dealing with non-verbal clients requires attentiveness to their expressions and motions. Pictures help a lot. As time goes by, communication gets easier and easier. For the most part, the clients understand more than you might think.
Terri has two boys. When they are with the clients, she says they are mostly concerned with issues like who is sitting in their seats, rather than that the clients are different in any way.
I think it’s a good opportunity for me to teach them and for my children to realize that just because somebody can’t talk to them, they’re not bad people.
Terri would tell anyone new to the field that it is important to keep an open mind and really listen to the clients. “Spend some time with them.”