Friday, October 24, 2014

Therapeutic Recreation and "Please Just TRY To Fit In..."

I write a lot about Joshua's Therapeutic Recreation (TR) group. It's not job-training. It's not "school." 

*Therapeutic Recreation is a purposeful intervention designed to bring about positive emotional, social, physical or cognitive changes in individuals with disabilities. Indoor and outdoor therapy and interventions are designed to foster independence and develop skills for improved quality of life.

Not all of the FRIENDS who attend this program have Down Syndrome like Joshua...but probably about half of them do. The others have various challenges and abilities. It is so precious to see the FRIENDS interact with and help each other.

*Therapeutic Recreation activities:

  • Teach new skills and knowledge
  • Build strong minds and healthy bodies
  • Enhance self concept, self esteem and confidence
  • Foster peer relationships and community integration
  • Develop life-long leisure skills
  • Improve quality of life
Some of my most favorite things Joshua's TR group does is when they go out and volunteer in the community. They have served lunch to various groups. They've participated in a "clean up" program out at one of the parks. They've helped with the Art Fair. Things like that. 

Some of THEIR favorite activities are Race For The Cure...going to Murry's Dinner Playhouse...working on their annual Christmas play. They LOVED going to one of the local TV stations and learning how all of that worked. They got their pictures made with the news, weather and sports personalities...and had a blast. The TR director and the parents all forgave the newscaster who called the TR group an "adult daycare."

They also love all kinds of celebrations, and they have a few of them each year. The FRIENDS love them a good dance.

I love that the FRIENDS have a place where they can come and hang out and be with each other and just feel...normal. The FRIENDS spend most of their lives waiting on someone to take them work things out; waiting to go...waiting to be picked up...waiting, waiting, waiting.

I love how the FRIENDS love and care for each other. Even with all the "drama" I write about, any one of them would absolutely lay down their life for any one of their TR FRIENDS. They help each other. They understand each other. Even the non-verbal FRIENDS have figured out a way to communicate their needs to each other.

There are times when I just don't feel like making the 35 minute trip (each way) to and from Little Rock...when I try to convince Joshua to stay home or do something different than what his "group" has planned. He says, "they are my FAMILY."

So I say, "get in the car."

Something made me sad this week when I got to the TR Center to drop off Joshua. Several of the FRIENDS, along with a few parents, were hanging out in the foyer. There is one FRIEND who is extremely needy, clingy...and extremely anxious. She comes every day and it's the same every day. The only thing that seems to help is if she can talk to her Mom on the phone. She wants to be on the phone with her even during the activities at TR...and that is a no-no. One of the main points about the TR group being together is for socialization WITH EACH OTHER, and that's really hard to do if everyone has their phones out. I feel really bad for this one FRIEND, because I don't think she is able to enjoy being away from home. (I don't know how she acts at home...I have only seen her at TR)

Her Dad was one of the parents hanging out in the foyer-area. Actually, he wasn't hanging out...he was trying to leave. Typically, the parent or guardian comes in with the FRIEND, and signs them in...and then the FRIENDS go immediately back to the back...because they are excited to be there and see everyone! They put their lunches in the frig and hang out in the great-room and visit, while they wait on everyone to get there. This one FRIEND wanted to stay right by her dad. Now, she wasn't crying or acting upset or anything...she just wouldn't go to the back. And her dad was standing there as parents came and went...and FRIENDS ran up from the back and greeted each other like each FRIEND was a celebrity. And even tho the FRIENDS came up to greet his daughter, too...she would not leave him.

I could tell he was exasperated with her. As I opened the door to leave, I heard him say, "GO BACK to the back with everyone...and PLEASE JUST TRY TO FIT IN."

It made me sad because if there was ever a place where she could fit in...this was the place. This FRIEND...she DOES fit in there. The others? They all know her and they accept her just as she is...just like they accept every other FRIEND at Therapeutic Recreation. Because every one of them has a little quirk of one kind or another.

And it's okay.

My heart breaks for this FRIEND's frustrated and overwhelmed Dad. I'm sure he just wants the best for his daughter. He wants to know that she is okay...and that she will BE okay in the future. Like, when he and her mom aren't around.

There's no perfect program or school or job for our adult children who have challenges. We, as their parents and guardians...we are just doing what we think is best...FOR OUR the time. It might change over the might not. Please don't give us your opinion on our situation if we don't ask you for it. 

One day, years ago, when I was at my local Wal-Marks, a lady came up to me...a STRANGER...and she started telling me about her brother who was "like that," and she nodded over at Joshua, who was with me at the time. Thankfully, he did not hear all that she was saying...I tried to keep him distracted while she talked. 

I try to be an open person. I welcome people coming up to talk to me...about Joshua or whatever. I also welcome questions, because I know that most people mean well.  I am all about education and understanding when it comes to people like Joshua...and I enjoy opportunities where I can attest to God's faithfulness in our lives. 

Yeah...well, all that went out the window with this lady. First of all, I DO NOT KNOW YOU, LADY, SO GET UP OUT MY FACE. 

And second of all...she made Negative Nancy look like Kathie Lee Gifford. Seriously...what a downer (NO PUN INTENDED). 

And she was soooo condescending...that's what really got me.

I know that this all sounds like God was dropping a witnessing opportunity into my lap, and He probably was. Let me just admit: EPIC FAIL on my part. Because this lady? She rubbed me the wrong way right from the start. I could tell that she had been through a lot. She was older (than, basically, she was like a crypt-keeper! Ha!). Things have changed a LOT for people "like that" and I'm so thankful that they have. I mainly tried to just listen to her, because I could tell that it had been a while since she had told her story, and she HAD SOME WORDS. And, you know, sometimes, we all just want someone to HEAR us. When I did comment, I tried to keep it positive and encouraging. She made me so upset that I was shaking by the time our conversation was over.


And, it just reminded me of an elderly family member who told me after Joshua was born...that he had known a neighbor who had a child "like that," and that they KEPT HIM IN THE BACK ROOM.

What I wanted to say (but didn't) to this Wal-Mark woman was, "hey, lady...I'm sorry about your past. I'm sorry about your brother. I'm sure you and your family did the best you knew to do. BUT this is a new age. And this is MY CHILD. I don't judge anyone for the choices they have made or are making with regards to their adult children...because things change and everyone is different and we don't know the future.  We are just winging this, with God's help...BUT DON'T BE ASKING ME WHERE I'M GOING TO "PUT" HIM...what kind of "home." flash...he already has a home...MINE."

"...Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me." Matthew 25:40

*information taken from the Therapeutic Recreation brochure

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