We had our last day at the Nesbitt center. In order to have a full understanding of the center’s functionality, Michelle took the three of us on a trip to the social enterprises that the low support members take part in running. We first headed to a coffee shop by the name of The Nest at St. John’s Cathedral. It was a small and quaint little store and the daughter of the Nesbitt Center’s founder was working there. She was very talkative and was very willing to engage her customers into idle chat as they waited for their coffee, and greeted us all as we walked into the store. Although it was just a short visit, the atmosphere of the cafe was both calming and endearing, a place that we would visit again if we could. Then we headed towards the pier to Cafe 8, a restaurant also run by the members above the Hong Kong Maritime Museum. After settling down for a drink and a quick snack, we heard an interesting story about one of the members from Michelle. A female member who was dating another member broke up with him by sending him a photo with her new boyfriend! Her story even extends to a point where she was apparently “engaged” with another member who was about to move to Australia. The way that the members continue to enjoy their life with their learning disabilities showcases a person’s need for community and place where they can trust and feel accepted.
After the tour of the social enterprises, we spent our last afternoon back at the center. We took part in a drumming session where members were allowed to play the drums while singing and making loud noise. A few of the members preferred to sit by the side and listen, but the excitement in the room was overflowing. They all couldn’t wait to rush to the center and have their turn in performing solo, and some of their moves was quite a funny sight. It was interesting to see one of the members, Liam, who usually sits by the side stoic and still actually bobbing his head and waving his arms to the sounds with a smile on his face.
Most likely because people with learning disabilities are limited in their capacity to form ideas and express themselves verbally, they tend to communicate more through their bodily gestures and simple words or actions of happiness or anger. From this we can see the importance of interactive and sensory activities for the members, as it allows them to express their suppressed emotions in ways that they couldn’t before. Although we had a laugh during the drumming session, the elation in the eyes of some of the members in such a simple activity couldn’t be ignored. After this experience at the Nesbitt Center, the three of us sincerely hope that one day the world can be both a safe and accepting place for all those with learning disabilities.
By: Fideron, Hilary, Isaia
Around 10 of the members present went on an outing to the Kowloon Wall City park. All three of us travelled with the group to the park to supervise and walk with members. The walk was slow and relaxing as we strolled in the cool breeze, for some, this was the highlight. We saw members Kim and Debra holding hands walking along, so it was only natural for the “ships” to sail. But for Jeffrey, a member, his focus was on the “Siu Mai” snack he was promised by a Nesbitt teacher. All through the walk, lunch and ice cream dessert, he chanted “siu mai” ceaselessly, diligently reminding the supervisors of his demands. When the facilitator finally ordered the food he was promised, he finally fell silent. This was a great day for Jeffery, after lunch teachers at the Nesbitt center even purchased a toy for him!
Although members behaved when in the mall, they caught the eyes of other shoppers. At many occasions Jeffery would loudly yell in the restaurant. We weren’t able to calm him down and so decided to keep him occupied so he wouldn’t do so. He ate like a kid. After served food, he devoured his fish cutlet, leaving only rice and curry for the rest of the meal. He also asked for Coca Cola despite ordering lemon tea! When we got back to the Nesbitt Center, Jeffery was rewarded a KitKat for his good behaviour. This highlights the many similarities between adults with learning disabilities and children. They are driven by the same incentives, share the same food preferences and must also be distracted to control their behaviour. Caring for a child is a task known to be difficult. Hence it is hard to imagine the challenge which parents of these children face.
By: Fideron, Hilary, Isaia
I (Hilary) travelled to the residential area at Wan Chai with a mixed group of male and female members to participate in a session on life skills while Fideron and Isaia stayed at the center. For the session the members were asked to prepare and bake a pasta dish with cheese, sausages and bacon. As many of the members understood instructions and were fully functional, they were only guided by simple instructions and were asked to fetch materials and assemble the dish on their own. There were many activities focused on helping the members to remember the tools and ingredients used, and visual and tactile learning techniques such as matching photo cards to the actual items helped to enforce the ideas.
There were a total of 7 members and 3 staff including myself, and I assisted in helping the members who required a larger amount of help to complete their tasks. It was interesting to see the varying degrees of severity in the learning disabilities of the members, where one member could fully converse while another could only use sign language. However it is important to note that their disabilities do not impact their ability to interpret or understand things whatsoever as long as you communicate to them in a way that they can understand.
I mostly worked with two of the members, Jeffrey and Adam, and assisted them in preparing the ingredients. And while working with these members for the day, I learned that by observing the behavior of the members closely, you can begin to understand how different members react to different stimuli and help to calm them down. For example throughout the preparation process, Jeffrey was constantly asking to head to the toilet, and continued to repeat his demands whenever he lost his focus. The demands grow in intensity when he’s left alone and can sometimes escalate into him shouting loudly all of a sudden. From my observations, Jeffrey is definitely calmer when he has something to concentrate on and thus I constantly prepared things for him to do. From helping him with cutting up the bacon to asking him to help wash the dishes, he started to calm down throughout the session and was well behaved for the rest of the process.
The two staff members I worked with were also very inspirational. They had an unending amount of patience for he members and when members misbehave, they were able to be both forceful and gentle at the same time, careful to avoid scaring the members but still staying in control. They’ve also got the body language and behavior of the members down to perfection, giving a quick massage to a member who they noticed was shaking their hand at a faster pace than usual (a sign of working himself to a fit, they had explained to me after) all while continuing to assist the other members and cook the pasta. The way that the staff members can so visible calm down the members and stay in control is very dependent on their emotional awareness and ability to communicate is something that I have learned from this experience and hope to implement myself in the following days. My day at the residential area with the members was both relaxing and enjoyable, and is a worthwhile experience that I look forward to doing again.
Isaia and I (Fideron) travelled to Wan Chai with the high support group for a session of residential education and sensory baking, whilst Hilary stayed at the Nesbitt Centre. During the residential session, the group was guided in baking a loaf of “chocolate marble bread”. Members were encouraged and assisted to touch, smell and listen to each ingredient, serving as a “sensory experience” for members, to initiate a more expansive understanding as to how they can utilise their senses to identify specific things. They were also challenged with the task of differentiating between pictures of different ingredients as a way for them to learn how to recognize ingredients. It was clear that even within this group, there are large differences in cognitive and ability. In my view, this is a big challenge for planning classes for members as each require highly individualized learning and care.
One member was unable to verbally nor communicate through sign. His method of expression was by “vibrating” his leg through rapid muscle contractions. Intuitively, I would’ve judge this person to be unable to communicate. However it was surprising when instructors asked him yes/no questions, telling him to vibrate his leg as an answer. This makes me wonder to what extent are the apparently uncommunicative, in fact perceptive and communicative, and if their “strange” actions are in fact with intention.
As this is the second day, I have gotten more accustomed to the “random” loud sounds which members make. It is also quite apparent that their behaviour is quite childlike. You can speak to them as if any other, but you must just learn to respond to other responses.
In the end, with heavy guidance the group successfully baked the cake. It was quite presentable! The loaf had risen properly, and the cross section showed the intended “marble” pattern of chocolate and butter flavored bread. The challenges posed to the lower support members by basic life activities became more apparent to me through observing this activity. This allows me personally to be more empathetic and to better understand those with learning disabilities. In all, the day was slow paced and enjoyable, a stark contrast to our school days.
I (Isaia) was gifted with the opportunity of joining the Nesbitt Centre during the Prestige Fair in the Conrad Hotel in Pacific Place. The Prestige Fair was a way for me to discover the latest best of jewellery, fashion, accessories, gourmet food, homewares, children’s products – while selling Nesbitt’s own homemade products created by the members in it. As the Prestige Fair started at 10 in the morning and ended at 8 in the evening, I stumbled upon the challenge of continuously selling our products to passers-by and other custumers for that long amount of time. It truly was an experience that I have not encountered in a long time. Regardless, I found so much joy in advertising the products alongside the fellow members of Nesbitt whom I’ve become very close with. Altogether, we counted on each others’ backs to be able to eloquently sell the products to the customers, to which I thought was a challenge for the members as well as they have a hard time with communicating their ideas. Because of this, I took the initiative to help them out and get their words by giving them confidence in what they say. I thought that this was a great access of practicing my communication and verbal skills, and to be able to persuade people to buy our products. All in all, I was so happy to find out that we sold more than $3000’s worth of products by the end of the night and I was extremely proud (and exhausted).