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.

By: Fideron