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.

By: Hilary