This past summer, I worked at Museum Village during the summer. It was my third year there and in the past, I had an aide to help me with water or to take me for a walk. However, I decided to get some work experience without an aide. I would have more independence without an aide, but as with most changes, there would be some challenges. These challenges that I was up against were things like me getting a drink, taking a break and other things that average people could do themselves. Unfortunately, I would need some assistance with things like this because of my poor hand coordination.
The work itself that I was assigned was not a challenge, but I needed some help with the physical aspect of setting up. I have a keyboard with a guard that I use to type because of my poor hand coordination. Along with that, I use a joystick as a mouse because I can’t work the regular mouse. However, none of that stuff was supplied at Museum Village. So every single day, I had to bring those pieces of equipment to work. That wasn’t a challenge for me. What did challenge me was my inability to set these things up by myself. As a result, somebody else would hook everything up to the USB ports for me. Once everything was hooked up, I was on my own.
Since I was getting experience with working without an aide, I needed to work a system of communication out in case I needed something. There were other volunteers working there, but they mostly worked outside. Therefore, it was hard for me to tell them if I needed a drink of water or something. Usually I would have an aide to help me with things like this, but I was on my own this summer. In response to this, I decided to get their cell phone numbers. That way, I could text them whenever I needed something. It was a good solution and I got time to interact with these people, which would not have happened with an aide.
When I was aided at Museum Village, I felt like somebody was standing over me, watching my every move. Truthfully, it got annoying after awhile. Furthermore, it definitely infringed on my freedom and independence. Aside from that, none of the other volunteers got to know me. Therefore, I feel that the aide factor was a challenge because it built a wall between me and the other volunteers. Once the aide factor was taken away, that peer interaction between me and the other volunteers had increased by a significant amount. As a result, I established many friendships and they said they learned a lot just from assisting me with certain things. So while having an aide might have been a hindrance, taking her away from me was a good way for me to socialize with others. This worked out very well because other people my age have already experienced work with minimal assistance and my experience was just beginning.
I feel that not having an aide at work was better for me. First off, nobody was helping me stay on task. It was either you do the work you have to do or you shouldn’t be here. That’s how it is in the real world. I would have people write down where I was for the next day, but other than that, it was my responsibility to get the job done. Although that created more concerns such as personal needs, the idea of having a communication system in place like texting somebody whenever I needed something worked out great. Other than needing somebody to help me set up equipment and making sure that my DynaVox was in reach, I would say that not having that aide at work was better. It taught me to be more aware of my surroundings as well as making me more responsible for my needs.