08 November, 2011

disabled staff person no. 03847101

disabled staff person stuff is really weird

because I barely had a staff person.

I've had doctors and I guess therapists in the resource room when I was in middle school, but the truth is I don't really know what it is to have a staff person like some people do.

on the disabled vs. staff lines, I can't say exactly I have been on both sides.

as a staff person, I do sometimes feel scared. like this summer, when this guy kept saying disabled people who get upset need strict control and he wished he could hit them. and when I told my boss she told me I should have talked to him about why it upset me.

"it upsets me that you want to hit disabled people, because I'm disabled."

stuff lodges in me. I am not staff even though I'm staff. things happen and they stick in my throat.

other staff are like chameleons. if you're taught to be respectful to disabled people, you more or less are. if you're taught that "this is the real world" and you shouldn't ask them what they want because it takes time, you will enter THE REAL WORLD. and you talk like this:

"people with cerebral palsy are depressed and angry that someone has to do stuff for them, but fortunately these people have MR so they don't understand and they're happy."

staff person: "oh yeah, I guess that's true."

"I feel like some people talk to disabled people like they're children."

staff person: "yeah! they're just people and should be treated normally."

"he looks normal but you can see his elevator doesn't go all the way to the top."

staff person: "hahaha! that's such a funny way to say it!"

will the real staff person please stand up? probably not.

I'm not like this (I think)

cause I'm a real disabled person and I get to have weird conversations like this:

"I think it would be fun to work in a group home but I'd feel bad that people have to live there."

my aunt (who is in a care profession and was giving me advice on jobs): "well, for some people it might be more convenient. they chose to do it after all."

"actually, a lot of people aren't given the choice."

my dad: "amanda means the disabled people not staff who live at the group home. see, look how much she cares about the feelings of disabled people! isn't she caring?"

yeah, so caring. unable to enter THE REAL WORLD and see a bunch of objects or problems in the place of humans. unable to see these things that shimmer in and out of different meanings--are they cute? do we love them? do we respect them? do we think they'd be better off dead? are we too good for this job or is it inspiring?

but I am not a disabled person, I'm staff.

I'm not being bitter even though I am. I hate that some of my friends see me as the enemy sometimes because I am staff. I also think it's fair.

like, if it's really difficult for me to get a job because disability limits my options, and I get this job, and I don't report/identify abuse because I know they all think I'm weird and incompetent, and people won't believe me and I might lose my job and not get a reference

I still let abuse happen.

remember The School that I interned at, that I got my start blogging about? like, with the aversives and the anti-stimming and the crackdown on language that sounds too old or too young for your age. you'd better believe I kept my mouth shut at The School entirely and never told anyone there what I thought. it's probably been less than a year since I last used them as a reference.

other staff think I am a bad staff person. because I don't know what I'm doing. because I'm shy. because I don't have experience. because I'm scared of/intimidated by disabled people.

because I say:

"I'm sorry"

"wow I'm sorry, I spaced, I didn't realize what you had asked me to do"

"I'm sorry" (when someone has yelled at me)

"well, what do you want to do?"

to disabled people.

one time I called a disabled person by the wrong name, started to walk away, realized what I'd done and came back to apologize. "wow, you're so POLITE!" said the staff person.

I don't live in the real world. I don't live in the real world.

but I do.

all this niceness/incompetence means I find it almost impossible to speak up about anything. I love my people really hard and I'd like to pretend that love illuminates me and makes me brave, but that's a total lie. I can't even suggest to people that when a mobility impaired kid who can't talk starts trying to go somewhere, you should probably let him actually accomplish that instead of obstructing every single desire he slowly and painfully tries to act on.

this kid was pointing at the door, looking at me, and making noises. he never made noises. a very old lady pointed at me this weekend, in the nursing home. another lady said, "help me, get me away from that woman, I'm afraid of her, she's going to hurt me, I want to kick her in the ass, I want her to die."

my excuse is I didn't know that woman's name. also found it too easy to tell myself I was wrong. she was just tired. the stuff she was saying to old and disabled people, and the way she was handling their bodies...she was just tired.

anyway, I know that's what everyone else would say, if I said something.

I am not disabled.

I want to be. got mad at you because I make myself sick.

still kind of believe in doing good in bad places, that because I am not a chameleon I would be better suited to bad places than the rest of them are. also worried that life would become an endless supply of things stuck in my throat--this constant reminder--

I'll die in this room if you die in this room?

--that I both am disabled, and don't deserve to be.


  1. Hello Amanda. There is a lot of angst in this post, the positing of 'staff' and 'disabled person' against each other, improving the life of someone you are caring for versus keeping your employment. I'm autistic, severely depressed, have speech and sensory processing issues, and I'm a teacher at a day program. It's also difficult for me to keep work, and I've been there for about a year. It's an ABA program, and it leans heavily towards the displinary end, as in, let's eliminate as many visible autistic traits as possible. Though I was apprehensive of speaking up for months for some of the reasons you mentioned, I felt that ultimately, if I really cared for my students, it was the least I could do. I always frame my commentary in the terms of, you're interfering with his/her bodily agency, s/he is attempting to express something, let them speak; always in an ethical, or human rights context. I am never asked 'how I would know' such information, perhaps because I used an assertive tone of voice that the other staff were 'frightened' into complying immediately. If I were asked, I would probably say something like, the trainings, the employee manuals all say we are to treat our clients with dignity, which includes this. Hopefully this helps, best of luck to you.

  2. thanks Whitney. I think I'm especially depressed about this lately because in my nurse aide class the textbooks and lectures really emphasized respect and dignity for people in nursing homes, but when we actually had our clinicals at the nursing home, it wasn't like that at all. It wasn't like the staff hadn't been exposed to those ideas because you have to be to get certified to work there. They just didn't consider them to be important.

    So I guess I'm scared of saying things like, "The employee manuals told us to do this," in case people just don't care...but thank you for suggesting it, maybe it would work.