BB Squared: Beautiful Brains, Bold Bodies

Starting and Celebrating Conversations About Differences

Guest Post: Lauren Pink August 2, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — beautifulbrainsboldbodies @ 7:18 am

Hi Guys, today you are in for a treat! Today, my lovely unique friend and Personal Support Worker (PSW), Lauren is going to give you a look at what it’s like to work for yours truly. I hope you enjoy these words and you get a sense of what an amazing joy it is to work with Lauren

Two years ago, in my third year of university as an Honours English Literature and Rhetoric student, I came across two opportunities to work and befriend individuals with differences.  These opportunities were the catalyst of me picking up a minor in Social Development Studies (which may lead to a Masters in Social Work, who knows

While going to a presentation about the opportunity with Elmira District Community Living, a friend of the family who works at Renison University College, handed me a sheet about a family looking for a Personal Support Worker for their adult daughter – the one and only, Carmen.  Yep – the Carmen that’s mentioned on the BB Squared People page and writes a good number of these blog entries.  The flyer, really a piece of paper, stated that the job opportunity was for a Personal Care Assistant.  I thought it was another great opportunity like the one in the Elmira District Community Living (EDCL) presentation, but, didn’t want to go for both at the same time and have to choose between the two (as they would definitely conflict with each other) if I, somehow, got lucky and was offered both, so I made a choice and applied for the EDCL one as I could work, help, and take part in four individual’s lives, not just one.

But, alas, that path didn’t pan out the way I was hoping to, and I’m glad it didn’t.  Though disappointed, it opened the door for the other opportunity, even though I didn’t know it at the time.  I thought that going to a University College that is the center for Social Work, the job would be snatched up like the Signal for Mr. Universe (I’m a Geek and a Nerd if you haven’t noticed, and that was a Firefly/Serenity reference.  Means very, very, fast.).  Well, imagine my surprise when my dad comes home from a meeting at Renison (he’s on the Board of Governors) telling me I need to send an email to Carmen’s dad who posted that flyer because NO ONE, yes no one, applied.  I was surprised, flabbergasted and, using another quote from both Firefly and Russian proverb, thinking “Eto kuram na smekh!” (translates to “That’s ridiculous!”).

So, I took the business card my dad had procured from Carm’s dad, went upstairs to my laptop, opened my email, and sent an email.  I got a response quickly and set up a time to meet the family later that same week. (Is it weird that I still have the flyer in my possession?)

My first meeting, looking back at it, was and probably will be one of the most informal ones I’ll ever have.  I pulled up to Carm’s house and honestly, my first thought was “I live in a shack.”  Her house is HUGE!  After gawking at the house, I went in (I can’t remember if I rang the doorbell or if her dad saw me first and let me in), and I met Carm’s mom and dad, her two dogs, and her all at her kitchen table while rubbing the one dog’s head who decided I was there just to be her personal head masseuse.  We talked about what I would need to do, when I could come over to do some training with another PSW and her family, depending on who was there, and the like.  Everything thing they told me didn’t sound too hard.  That first meeting (interview?) flew by and when I left I realized that they never even asked to see my résumé.

Everything seemed to be smooth flying from there.  I learned what I needed quickly and the fun began.  Yes, fun.  Carm and I found we have things in common and do lots of fun activities.   We’ve gone shopping, out to games, watched countless episodes of Firefly and Castle, untold Coffee Club gatherings, eaten lots of food both at her home and out, and I’ve even gotten her to do a watercolour painting which is up in her computer room.  Watercolouring is a great fine motor skills activity and fun for kids and adults alike, if anyone would like to try.

But, it’s not all fun and games.  There are things that Carm needs me there for.  Like getting ready for bed or the day, making sure medications are taken at the right time, getting her things around the house or whereever we are, moving her manual wheel chair around her house, sometimes helping her with eating (cutting up food mostly), taking her to places she needs to be and subsequently driving on streets I normally wouldn’t, helping her with computer problems, editing her own résumé every-so-often (I am an English Major) and basically being her slave (note: this is said in good humour if you can’t tell).  And, you know what? I lied.  We have fun doing all that too!

I’ve also learned a lot by working with Carm and her family, and not all if it’s related specifically to being a PSW, but life in general.  For one, I’ve learned how to do life skills from another perspective or even as a parent would for their kid.  For example, I’m used to brushing my own teeth.  I’d never had to brush someone else’s (I don’t think I ever brushed my younger sister’s…) and helping Carm with this was something I learned.  And I always ask specific questions as I do this and I’m sure by now Carm is annoyed by them.

Some of Carm’s activities have also related to things I’ve had to study in my classes, like forming a group in the community and all the stages one goes through in community organizing.  Let me tell you, that was an interesting day for me.  I was doing my own work at this point in time as Carm was with both Jill and Aaron (can you tell I’m talking about the beginnings of BB Squared?) and while doing this I looked up at what they had been doing.  Then down at my work.  Flipped a few pages in my textbook, and looked back up again.  I took my headphones out and informed them that they were following the exact steps laid out in my textbook.  That was surreal.

After working with Carm for two years, I also become privy to some inner thoughts of Carm’s parents.  My dad said that Carm’s dad was a little unnerved with how confidently I walked around their home after a short time and he’s not the first to note that about me.  My neighbour also told me this at my weekend job doing paperwork for truckers, though; his words were more along the lines of creeped-out.  Funny thing about Carm’s dad and this whole thing?  He’s really, really tall.  And me?  Not so much.  Which leads me to Carmen’s mom.

Carm’s mom’s thoughts on the other hand were definitely funny to hear.  When she met me for the first time, her first thought was along the lines of: She’s so tiny! Is she even capable of doing this?!  The answer?  Yes.  Yes I can.  Well, mostly.  The only thing I can’t really do is lift Carmen up in my arms.  If you’ve seen me you’ll understand.  If not, I’ll paint a picture for you.  I may be 24, but people think I’m more around the age of 18 because of how I look.  I’m less than 5 feet and I can’t give blood because I’m ‘too light’ in the weight department (yep, not giving blood anytime soon, if at all).

I’ve learned lots in only two years and made lots of friends, Carmen being the first.   I’ve taken a new perspective of the world around me and seeing things that could be improved for people with differences.  Carmen also called me a genius when I came up with a quicker way of doing something for her.  It takes countless minutes off our evening routine, though we’ll see what she thinks of it when winter hits.

Even though I’ve got a minor in Social Development Studies, which can lead to an MSW and work like a PSW, there’s only so much textbooks can teach you and things that they just can’t prepare you for.  How do you know you’ll be cut out as a PSW before you actually try?  Yes, I had prior experience working with individuals with differences, but, that was at KidsAbility through their school program and during my high school co-op, but I sure didn’t have any experience as a PSW before working as one for the first time.  And working with Carm and others with differences has been a gorram shiny experience that I wouldn’t trade with anything and I’m sure I’ll have many more in the near and far future.

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