Methma is a Volunteer Representative for Swearer Tutoring and Enrichment in Math and Sciences (STEMS). As a VR, Methma helps plan weekly meetings for the tutors, which are intended to provide Brown tutors with tools to work more effectively, through tutoring skills, knowledge of current education policy, discussions on the role of a tutor in a classroom, or information about the Providence Public School system. She is currently tutoring in a physics class.
Community Responses to Adults with Developmental Disabilities
Anthony, Sandra, and Dipal are community fellows for Partnership for Adult Learning (PAL), an organization that promotes partnerships between Brown students and adults with developmental disabilities in Rhode Island.
The Swearer Center’s Partnership for Adult Learning (PAL) pairs Brown student tutors with adults with developmental disabilities in Rhode Island. In conjunction with Writers’ Group - another Swearer Center program that provides creative writing workshops to adults with developmental disabilities - we convened a panel on Sunday, November 16th to explore topics related to the lives of adults with developmental disabilities. PAL works primarily in a one-on-one setting, in which the tutor-learner pair explores a topic of interest to the learner. For example, previous pairs have worked on skills such as math, reading, Braille, and computer skills, while others have worked on learning about elections and volcanoes.
However, we have noticed that due to this one-on-one structure, many of us can easily fall into the pattern of meeting with our learners, writing notes about sessions, and preparing sessions in very specific ways. While this set of individual connections is important, we risk losing sight of the broader issues and contexts affecting our learners’ ongoing lives.
We recognize the importance of being aware of the lives of our learners outside the Brown classrooms; this awareness encompasses an understanding of the impact of current medical/community healthcare systems, as well as general societal perspectives and assumptions about adults with developmental disorders. To that end, the panel - which consisted of family members, healthcare professionals, and social workers - addressed topics and questions posed by Brown tutors. These included typical challenges caregivers face while working with adults with developmental disabilities, institutions that exist in Rhode Island to support these adults, and suggestions and advice for us, as tutors.
Through our discussion, we learned that programs such as PAL and Writers’ Group may help address a common issue faced by adults with developmental disabilities - isolation. Many of our panelists stressed how deinstitutionalization (the idea of shifting healthcare out of hospitals to the community) has not been as effective as hoped. Many people with developmental disabilities today are cared for by a small number of professional care workers in group homes or community health centers. Dr. and Mrs. Susa, parents of a son who has a developmental disorder, noted that they and other parents worry about long term care for their adult children with developmental disorders. Because of a high incidence of turnover in the field, group homes and community health centers face a challenge when providing a continuity of care to adults with DD over a long period of time. Thus, one of the most important things that PAL can do is facilitate relationships of friendship and trust with our learners. From the panel, we learned that programs such as PAL and Writers’ Group allow adults to form connections within their community outside of group home settings, encouraging them to meet students, learn new things, and engage in creative activities.
We also learned that there are multiple ways in which stigma can affect how we interact with people with developmental disabilities. For example, Kerri Lynch, an occupational therapist at Butler Hospital, noted that when those without disabilities make mistakes or act out in negative ways, one might attribute such outbursts to a “bad day” or being rude “in the moment.” When someone with a developmental disability has a bad day, that same bad day is translated into that person having a “behavioral” issue directly related to their disability, instead of attributing it to their unique personality. We learned that these attitudes toward adults with developmental disorders can easily be overlooked, and that we should be aware that we may be unconsciously perpetuating these stigmas.
Listening to professionals who have worked with this community for years was an insightful and humbling experience for us. They have reminded us that while our work with adults with developmental disabilities may seem insignificant compared to those who devote their whole lives to it, we are making a valuable contribution within a system that may otherwise not provide enough opportunities for adults to interact with their community.
June 20, 2016
June 13, 2016"I think about opening my mouth to call out goodbye, or to salute her in a traditional sign language farewell. Instead, I stand silently and smile."
Sally Hosokawa is a Community Fellow for Writers’ Group, a Swearer Center Community Program that facilitates creative writing workshops for adults with developmental disabilities. She studies literary translation in the Comparative Literature Department.
May 14, 2016“Club teachers understand us,” she says. “Even though they’re older, they’re not that much older, and so they’re like us and we can identify with them and talk to them about our problems.”
Addy is a volunteer with the Brown Elementary Afterschool Mentoring Program (BEAM), a Swearer Center community partnership that facilitates after-school programing activities and mentorship between Brown volunteers and students at William D’Abate Elementary School in the Olneyville neighborhood.
February 22, 2016
Pia is a junior double-concentrating in Education Studies and Comparative Literature. This is her third year with Writers' Group, a Swearer Center Community Program that offers creative writing workshops for adults with developmental disabilities, and her first year as a Swearer Center Community Fellow.
February 19, 2016I was intrigued by the program, but very intimidated by some of the topics. I’ve never been in the position to talk about gender or sexuality or rape culture.
Tiara came into Brown dead set on studying Neuroscience. After a summer or working with the local Planned Parenthood branch and taking health based classes she realized public health was her real calling. She has been volunteering for the SHAPE (Sexual Health Advocacy through Peer Education) program since sophomore year.
February 16, 2016