Voices From the Field

 

Young Disabled Woman in College

VOICES FROM THE FIELD
July 2014
By: Kate Geouge

It’s a sunny summer afternoon in the Reality Ministries game room.  A group of young adults with a variety of diagnoses are relaxing after lunch.  Some talk and socialize, while others choose to be in their own space.  We gather chairs and set up for our session, and everyone moves into the group.

In the typical style of our program, we explore the group’s thoughts and feelings through music. We greet each other, we identify and drum out our emotions, we take turns making silly noises, exploring and celebrating our voices and creativity within the safe, validating structure of the group. Slowly but surely, a bond is formed, trust is gained, and people who were once individuals with some occasional interaction are now a real unit.

In the context of this unit, we move into our weekly topic – a question to be answered by each member of the group. This week’s question is, “What’s hard for you?” I’m touched by the honesty and depth of the answers that are given. “It’s hard when things change.” “It’s hard when people aren’t part of my life anymore.” “It’s hard when I worry too much.” “It’s hard when someone tells me I’m not capable.” “It’s hard when people don’t understand me – or my diagnosis.”

Every day people with disabilities and are ignored, judged, pitied, or ridiculed. People look at the surface of someone with a diagnosis and don’t realize that the thoughts and feelings underneath are just as real and complex as their own. I love creating a space where our clients can come together to explore their feelings, to share them, to practice saying them out loud. Someday, they will have the opportunity to say them to someone who never listened before. And because they’ve practiced within the support and safety of the group, they will be heard.

 


Samantha’s Story

By: Jenna Witcher Lahiff
May 2014

When I first met Samantha in the Fall of 2013, I was instantly captivated by her beautiful voice. But what was even more dramatic was what happened over the course of therapy sessions upon joining a Voices Together in the Community group.

Samantha has autism. The first few weeks of group were hard for Samantha. She would often wear headphones because the outside world was too loud and distracting for her. She found it difficult to make eye contact with others and had to be reminded to sing or respond.

By the third month of therapy, a real transformation began. Samantha learned everyone’s name and even volunteered to lead the group. On week, Samantha stood in front of her peers and sang a song independently and shared a part of herself. As I played the piano and watched her, I began to tear up. It was a powerful moment, to watch her stand in front of her peers and connect with everyone in the room. I looked to the back of the room to see Samantha’s mom with tears in her eyes. Samantha became less isolated.

Based on the success she has experienced throughout therapy so far, I look forward to her becoming an active member of her group and community and working on connecting with others.

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