Are you pursing a Human Services or Special Ed career?
This article explores two major events that led to me obtaining a degree in Special Ed, however, this type of degree isn’t necessary when working with adults with disabilities after high school.
Have you ever had that moment in your childhood or adolescent stage of life where you were really good at something and even enjoyed doing it?
Most people give up this interest once they enter into college to pursue a degree and forget about it. Worst case scenario, that person ends up working in a field for 5 or 10 years, quits, then pursues something else in their life.
This happened to me. Thankfully, I found that Special Ed career during college…
It all started back in my junior year at high school where I worked at a Stop and Shop grocery store. My position? Cart pusher.
It wasn’t a bad job, but it required a lot of walking and I was a couch potato at the time.
I remember that this store had all sorts of diverse personalities as customers and employees. This included me. However we were tolerant and got along.
There was one person on the cart pushing team named Steve. He was a friendly, middle aged guy that worked the weekend shifts. He always preferred the southern parking lot and did a great job at it. Something that I noticed about him was that he would hold conversations with himself.
Most days he was quiet. However there were days when he would continuously shout “#@!#@!# New Jersey!” multiple times. On these days he would also pound his fists in the sky in dismay. Customers would stare. The strange thing is, if you approached him during this, he would click out of it and engage in a conversation like nothing happened.
Steve was a good guy. He would even play hacky sack with us during our 15 minute breaks. When we talked about music, he told us to listen to the Real McCoys. He would even dance to Run Away!
Later that month, Steve was not having a good day and was shouting to himself and drawing attention. Some of the customers even asked why he was shadow boxing. I approached Steve and started talking to him about the yelling. He smiled, waved, and slowly backed up.
I don’t know what I was thinking at that time but I asked him to dance like he is dancing to the Real McCoys. He was thrilled about this. While I was pushing carts on the northern side of the parking lot, I occasionally noticed Steve dancing towards a cart carrel. The screaming stopped.
Now let’s fast forward to my sophomore year at college, before pursing a career in Special Ed.
I attended a university in the Midwest and pursued a degree in history. Quite frankly, I had no idea what I was going to do with it!
That fall, I was running out of money and needed to work again. I found an ad in the local newspaper talking about a position called a Community Supports Instructor (now called Direct Support Professional).
I vaguely remember the job description mention how I will be supporting people to live in their community. I applied, was interviewed, and got the job.
After a few weeks of training, I went to house I was scheduled to work at. I remember sitting in the parked car thinking how weird today was going to be; going into someone’s home and helping them live seemed strange to me. I got out, walked up the dive-way and knocked on the door.
*Direct Support Professionals might find themselves helping people live in group homes.*
The door opened and a man who appeared to have Downs Syndrome answered. He welcomed me and right next to him was a young lady who told me that she was staff. I was invited in and we exchanged names. The man who answered the door showed me around the house and introduced me to his two other roommates. One was a tiny framed guy rocking in a chair who raised both hands up and said hi. The other was a tall, stocky man who was sitting at the kitchen table. He just looked at me and nodded his head.
Next I sat down with the female staff where I was shown the communication book (a notebook that contained staff communication and the persons’ routines for the nights) She mentioned that there was an amateur wrestling event at the downtown bar this evening, and the person who answered the door had two tickets to go. “Hey did you want to go with me?” The man said while standing in the living room. I was van certified, so why not? We left to go watch this cheesy wrestling show and laughed a lot. The mad drank a beer while telling me what he did for a living. After wrestling, we went to a pizza parlor. This was one of the coolest nights ever.
Looking back at these were two powerful events in my life. The second was so powerful that it convinced me to change my major from History to Elementary and Special Education.
Whether you are pursing a Human Services or Special Ed career, if you are working with people with disabilities at an agency, then you are helping them to live independently, pursue a career education, work in the community, or even plan for a meaningful retirement. These are all areas I’ve been pursing to help people live their lives. A great reference for any agencies looking for ideas is the book Make the Day Matter!: Promoting Typical Lifestyles for Adults with Significant Disabilities.
This article covered working with natural supports and the importance of living and being engaged in the community. These are huge outcomes for Special Ed and Human Services careers.
Do you have similar stories about a Special Ed career? Please share below!