One Year I was in charge of a camping experience for the Retarded. (this won’t upset anyone, I am sure)

You have no idea how difficult and gross this was. It was also incredibly rewarding and also a bit sad.
I need to credit the great Gweenbrick here. He has given me the courage to post this. Do not blame him though. He writes about his work with the less gifted. (and other hilarious stuff. He also has fantastic comics. Go check him out and say hi. )
I worked with the DD (developmentally disabled)  and Old Folks for many years before I had kids, and (strangely) hope to again someday. Or maybe Dementia. Or Fostering. Nothing has ever been so hard and awful, but, somehow? Rewarding in a way that…what am I saying? That was years ago so I must just have blanked out everything and be remembering it fondly like a bad acid trip or a toddler.
So, I signed up for four weeks of *volunteer* camping ‘experience’ to help further my career, and because i wanted to see my people in the great outdoors.
Six adults and two carers. In wooden platformed tents. With port-a-loos. And Poison ivy. And swimming and canoeing. I would like to remind you that I signed up with no pay.
Week one was awesome. We had your usual DD and one Downs and one GIANT man who looked like Shrek. They were awesome. They loved making fires (GASP!) and singing and even eventually went to sleep. They ate foods and we wiped butts and they were weirdly making ‘boy/girl friends” and it was totally OK. (omg so not ok)
We had also reserved a Christian Camp for this. This means it was extra weird at ‘vespers’ and meal times.

Believe it or not, it gets weirder.
The second week was…i kid you not..’Clown Camp Week’. We all dressed as clowns, did makeup, juggled (bwahaha..i still have the scars) and basically consoled the extremely confused retarded campers who had just been thrown into one of the seven circles of hell as far as they were concerned. I agreed.
The third week we got a lot of high functioning Downs and a few elderly DD. This week went well. Except my male counterpart was from Nigeria and spoke ‘only some’ English. We had a  lot of sing-alongs at the fire and no one got poison ivy that week because My Nigerian Boo was All About Fels-Naptha on the hands. I had to explain foxfire to some of them, got to stargaze with the weirdest of them and no one fell out of a canoe.
The fourth week was when we got the ‘rest of them’ from the group home. I felt so bad for these kids. Kids are the only way to describe these folks. I can remember one young-ish manboy in a chair that used to slap and drool furiously when we sang koombyya (or whatever it is called, i have had to have wine to even type this out loud to other humans so whatever)
It is a weird thing, working with persons with no verbal skills. One never knows how we are affecting the non-verbals. Maybe they had fun! Maybe this was awesome to them! Maybe they wanted us to all just shut up! Maybe they wanted to go home, but judging on how much they flapped at the fire? They had some clue that this was different and interesting. One hopes.
But six of them? CAMPING? Drooling and shitting themselves? Being sprayed with chemicals to keep the mosquitoes off? Shoveling food into them then lowering them into a pool? Taking EVEN ONE of them in a canoe? FIRE MAKING?
I don’t know if you know what these folks are like.  I hope you can look on them with respect and humor, because they are awesome.  But, can I just repeat, six non-verbals, two of them in chairs camping in the woods with port-a-loos and fire. Sleeping in cots, in tents, with only two caretakers. .
I remember one boy, Paul, who was profoundly handicapped. He had such dark hair and such a horse like, almost noble face. He used to slap his arms together in an awful way whenever we started a fire. One time He somehow gestured to me in a way that made me think he wanted the marshmallow that I was roasting out of desperation.
I cooled it off and attempted to let him have a bit in his ever drooling mouth. *I think* what he really wanted was the burning stick which he grabbed in one of his malformed and *not functioning* hands and then burned me with it. I have never heard a laugh so guttural, so visceral, so cruel and well deserved EVER.
I imagine he was thinking  ‘BITCH P00ned you ya’cunt!’
After the four weeks were over the staff had a get together where we made fun of, and laughed at every one of these poor son-o-bitches and defragged ourselves.
Sometimes you just have to laugh.
Look, I gave you a story about compassion and kindness and laughing at the retarded. I must be insane.
Ready for the hate mail but if you have never been related to them, worked with them and BEYOND ALL never camped with these fuckers,,,just laugh and do not judge. We are all funny and retarded in our own way.
comment anything, you guys?

10 thoughts on “One Year I was in charge of a camping experience for the Retarded. (this won’t upset anyone, I am sure)

  1. I worked with people with Prada Willi Syndrome once. You may need to google that. One of my jobs was to take them to Tesco to help with the weekly shop. Taking two people shopping that have an insatiable desire to eat so bad that they will eat carpet or themselves? Take them shopping to a place full of food and expect them to not stuff their faces on the way round or steal it all? It was a nightmare. Then there was the night one of them shut herself in her wardrobe and declared Dr Who was out to get her. She stayed in there two days utterly terrified and I could do nothing to convince her that she was safe.
    Oh and it was my job to get them active. My only chance was music so I took the house stereo into the garden and declared it a disco day. Six morbidly obese people in a garden freaking out to very loud music. It worked. I swear they were actually happy but I got a right bollocking for it. They had to go back to more ‘suitable’ activities like long walks and making stuff. I hate to say this but I took them to the pub. It was the only way to get them to walk without major hassle / violence / tantrums. Me bad. I just wasn’t cut out to be a carer. x

    • Honestly, we must have got off on the wrong foot because you and I need to just chill one of these days. Going into town tomorrow to look for those tic-tacs in cinnamon.

    • You would be the perfect carer. Could use one right now as Manboy is outside starting fires. Also, could not find the tic-tacs.

  2. I love you. I just love you. I too had a camping experience with 2 disabled and non verbal adults. Luckily, we were 1 state away from the group home so nobody ever found out about the assaults on civilians in the grocery store and the pee soaked mattresses. Or the beer.

    • RIGHT? I love you too. Must hear about the beer. I have a pretty good idea about the assaults (lol @ civilians) and the wee’d mattresses. Who got the beers? How? I hope you got at least one!

      • I was such a paranoid goody two shoes that I barely wet my lips-it was Mary Lou, my coworker, who drank most of the case of beer.

      • Well bless her heart. I was a goodie at the time as well. Have you blogged this? Will you? that would be ‘sqwasome’ (my kids ‘cool speak’ for irritate the mummy)

      • I should. I have some excellent stories, although I still work in Human Services and my husband is a bit of a big wig in my agency. I always fear the human resources department is going to bust me for writing about our clients in the wrong light. But I bet I could think of a way to do it tactfully..

    • DO blog about it! I would love to read it! I am sure you have some fantastic stories. Please let me know when you do! Only by sharing these things does the world get better,,,,Oh, and we also get a good laugh and 10 internet cuddles.

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