Some say a smile is worth a thousand words–to Rani Maggard it is. When caregivers see the smiles that spread across their clients faces, it means the world. It means their work is worth it. It means they are making a difference in their clients lives.
“Those moments when you see their smiles or those moments when they’re just laughing and giggling with you–it makes up for all their behaviors,” says Dylan Allen, a caregiver for those with special needs.
Caregivers go through ups and downs, but find motivation and see results, regardless of challenges that arise.
Maggard stumbled upon caregiving by chance. A facebook advertisement popped up on her computer screen offering a chance for work.
With money running low, she desperately replied to the ad in hopes of making her situation better.
When she received a call for the interview, she wondered what exactly it was that she responded to. Little did she know, she would end up falling in love with the job she applied for.
With joys, there are struggles.
A burden is paced upon her shoulders as she tries to understand the behaviors in the clients she cares for and why they happen. Sometimes it almost feels as if the weight of the world is on her shoulders.
“Why? Why is this happening?” It’s a question that lingers at the back her mind.
Different behaviors happen because different clients react in different ways.
A boy with special needs is curled up in the corner. The look of worry on her face as she spent time trying to comfort him. She made a phone call to his support line, as the worry set in deeper.
The boy got up and swiftly moved across the room. He walked inside a room and slammed the door. Once the door slammed shut, he opened the door and peeked his head outside to observe if anyone paid attention. This is the only way he knows how to express himself.
Some have mild behaviors, but some are more intense. They can be physically aggressive, requiring her to restrain them in order in protect herself.
She sat patiently on a patch of grass off a highway for two hours. Her client wasn’t co-operating. They lifted their arm swung over and over and over, colliding with the back of her head.
She was driving a van. She wanted to be safe.
There they sat in the grass. The behavior had to end.
Behaviors can seem like an eternity. At times, a single thought entered her mind: “I don’t want to do this job anymore.” She doesn’t want to experience physical pain at work.
Thoughts pushed aside, she lifts her up and carries on.
According to eXtension.org, we need to recognize each child’s uniqueness. A child with autism has different challenges than a child with cerebral palsy. A 3-year-old child with autism has different challenges than a 6-year-old with the same disability. The severity of the challenges that each disability presents is different for each child. In some situations, modifications to the caregivers technique may be necessary.
Maggard carries on because she loves the people she cares for. She carries on because she understands that behaviors are not directed at her. She carries on because they need her love. She carries on because she believes in them and can see their progress.
As she stands, a client approaches her to give her a hug. A huge smile is spread across his face. Drool begins to roll down her neck, yet she carries on because he needs her love too.
She is with them from morning until night teaching them skills that bring smile to their faces.
Careful observation allows her to see what they need. She gently teaches them each step over and over again until it solidifies.
She helped her visually impaired client learn to dress herself by carefully laying out her clothes each morning. She shifted her client from dependence to independence. It was something so simple as learning to dress herself, yet to them it meant the world to her client.
Results are slow, but she understands these special individuals and their needs.
She has become a part of their family, through constantly being there for them. These individuals need people to surround them, who will consistently be there.
According to eXtension.org, it is important to recognize children with special needs have the same human needs as any normal person. They have a desire to feel loved and secure. They need activities that will allow them to be successful. They need opportunities to play and learn.
Those with disabilities make take longer to learn and to grasp certain concepts. They need more encouragement, praise, and certain adaptations along the way, but in many ways they are like normal children. Children with disabilities benefit greatly from being around other people and constantly having an adult there to care for them.
Earl Gordon used to run KFC’s long before becoming engrossed with his love for caring for those with disabilities. A friend called him up begging to help him to help out with the special olympics. A long day spent coaching the special olympics resulted in a love formed for the people he worked with.
Months passed and he still continued to volunteer at the special olympics. Before long, that very same friend convinced him to work at a special needs group home part time. He fell in love with the job almost instantly.
He quit his job at KFC and pursued this job full time.
He makes a list of individuals he’s worked with. The list he makes includes people suffering from down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, schizophrenia, and individuals with TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury).
What drives him to carry on is the the simple fact the despite the many difficulties these individuals have, they are not bad people. They are human beings that rise above what the capabilities are.
“It drives me to know I’m helping someone,” said Gordon, “At KFC, it’s all about hitting numbers, but here I see personal growth and enjoy my job.”
Some jobs are merely jobs at the end of the day, but for Gordon he comes home having enjoyed every part of his job. For him he knows everyday means something to his clients–that he’s making a change in someone’s life. He see’s their slight smiles communicating words they can’t speak on their own.
He has come to know the importance of the role he plays in his clients lives. He loves to converse with them and joke around, bringing smiles to their faces.
But everyday is not a walk in the park.
He hold up his arm to show a scar from being stabbed in the arm. He remembers a time being hit over the head with a lamp, losing consciousness. He often asks himself, “Are you going to go to work and be happy?”
Gordon understands that how well of a mood you’re in determines the outcome of your day. He understands that if he tackles the day with a bad mood, his day is going to result in the same mood he started with. He understands that if he start the day in a good mood, the results with be greater and he will leave more satisfied with the work he has done.
The individuals with disabilities that he cares for need him to be happy. His mood communicates to them that they are cared about, they are important, they have meaning to him. When days of tiredness or being overwhelmed come, he has to forget himself and make the choice to be happy.
Gordon says that it is tough sometimes to understand clients. Yet understanding does not always have to be there–sometimes you just loves them and let them know they are important. One of his clients sleeps most of the time, but she knows she’s important.
According to autism-aspergers.info, there are different ways to express love to those with special needs and disabilities. It starts with trial and error. You experiment with different ways of affection that work best. Sometimes a hug can be too much at first.
Different moods are required to tackle different clients and situations. Group homes can be handled with a more relaxed attitudes while, residential homes require you to be more alert.
Gordon at a residential home caring for a guy with TBI. The client was once a normal person and he knows right from wrong. The client knows how to anger him and knows how to hurt him. It is not like others, where they just know they are angry and attacking–this particular clients know where to aim.
Yet, progress can be made.
Gordon says a particular boy would hardly speak when he first met him. As time went on, you wouldn’t recognize the boy he is today. He loves to jabber away. He loves being around people. Gordon was astonished by the change that has come about in this young boy.
“The best thing is to see them do things people didn’t think they were capable of,” said Gordon, “Once you see them accomplish something nobody thought was possible, it is a joy for you and a blessing for them.”
He has cared for this young boy from the time he was little. To see him grow up has made Gordon feel as if this boy is one of his own. A loved has formed between them.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re male, female, transgender or whatever,” said Gordon, “I think if you love them, that’s all that matters.”
To Gordon, the clients just need people to love them and treat them with respect. We wish to be treated with respect, so they should receive it as well.
What do smiles communicate to you?