Third part in a series explores enrichment activities.
Editor's note: Macon County News contributor Harry Taylor is a teacher at Macon Citizens Habilities Inc. (MCH) and is writing a series of articles regarding the operation of MCH. MCH builds lives and gives dignity to citizens who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.
In the first two articles of a three-part feature, emphasis has focused on the history, purpose and financial resources of Macon Citizens Habilities, Inc. (MCH).
The organization has an excellent reputation for outstanding care of the clients entrusted to its residential and day services.
This week will spotlight the retirement program, the fitness center, group homes and the classroom. As with the other areas and activities, the core focus is to guide and teach the clients to function, not only at MCH, but in the larger community of Franklin. By necessity, all the activities are integrated into this central purpose with the clients’ welfare being most important.
The retirement program is designed especially for clients over 50 years old. These “retired” clients are involved in many enrichment activities other than work. Currently, the oldest participant is 80 years old.
Their involvement is in arts and crafts, gardening, picnicking, bingo, field-trips, shopping, eating out, or going to the fitness center. Keeping busy and physically active are key for this program.
Normally, the group has one outside activity scheduled each week. The activity may be simply going out for morning coffee and a biscuit or to eat lunch at a local restaurant. Warm, sunny weather is a good recipe for picnics or field trips to local farms or orchards. A trip to the local bowling lanes comes once a month. Shopping at local businesses is always a big hit, as is going to a live theater production at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts.
Daily, these retired clients participate in supervised physical activities in the MCH fitness center. Three of them still participate in classroom learning each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
The staff plans an in-house social for them each week. Themed socials are common, such as Mexican or some other type of ethnic snacks. Another day, the occasion may call for banana splits. Clients’ birthdays are celebrated with great gusto, resulting in a noisy, happy party time. Each Tuesday is music day and Friday is movie time.
One of the high points of the year for the retired clients is the Macon County Fair. They build and submit an exhibit to the fair each fall. Their exhibits have won numerous ribbons of excellence.
Another integral part of life at Macon Citizens Enterprises (MCE), is visiting the fitness center. The center and the outside recreation area help to keep the clients physically active. A grant from Kate B. Reynolds provided the center for MCH. It is fully equipped with treadmills, stationary bicycles, a weight machine, free weights and even a hot tub. The building also houses a mini indoor walking track.
The fitness center is available to all clients who have approval from a doctor and a program developed by a physical therapist. Supervised activity periods are scheduled for the clients. In keeping with the general policy, the clients do the physical activities they are capable of performing. Emphasis is on accomplishment, not on disabilities.
MCE also has a year-round classroom for academic study. The classroom is currently staffed by two teachers, employed by Southwestern Community College, and has 22 client/students. The class is divided into morning and afternoon sessions, with 11 students in each session. It operates on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday of each week.
It operates pretty much like any other classroom, just in a lower gear. Teaching is low key, with individualized instruction as well as group work. For some of the clients, learning will be simple concepts ?alphabet, letter sounds, number recognition, simple addition and subtraction, etc. For others, it may be reading and discussing simple stories, counting money, playing instructional bingo, or doing word problems and math drills.
From a more practical approach, current weather and forecasts are discussed daily. They watch weather reports and see maps showing current and future weather forecasts. They learn to recognize different foods, local land marks (businesses, churches, schools, government buildings, etc.) and know the importance of these things to their lives.
Each quarter has life skills that are taught. For example, this quarter the class is focusing on “leisure activities using music and entertainment." Clients are exposed to different genres of music and entertainment. Each week, a different type of music is played and talked about. They have briefly covered classical, bluegrass, oldies rock, rhythm and blues, country and several others. Recognition and retention of the music is very good.
During the past year, the clients have begun to use interactive teaching DVDs on the four computers available in the classroom. From some of these DVDs, they learn letter sounds, the five senses, sequencing, and animal habitats.
In keeping with clients’ ability, instruction must be simple, repetitive, and, above all, it must be functional. Patience, love and devotion are part of each day. Success here cannot be measured by conventional day-to-day measurements and tests, but in the weeks, months and years of patient and consistent progress, building precept upon precept.
Success is seeing a client’s eyes light up with new knowledge acquired. It is seeing knowledge applied to life skills that enable them to participate in the society around them. Clients come to MCE from both the community and MCH group homes.
In the group homes social skills must be practiced in order to live together in harmony. Each person must share in the tasks necessary for a properly functioning household. Clients help cook meals, set the table, clean up afterward, and load the dishwasher.
All the normal chores have to be done ? carrying trash out, cleaning house, and the everyday responsibilities necessary to make a household work. The clients have to sort, and wash and dry their own clothing at the times scheduled.
Learning to become more independent is the primary goal. They are allowed to make choices and to accept the consequences of those choices. They may need assistance in spending their money, whether in shopping for clothing, personal items, or recreation. Each client has access to spending money and receives the necessary assistance to shop and spend.
To know that this program for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities exists in this community should be a source of civic pride, because it takes people of determination, dedication and diligence to lead and care for the clients of MCH. The greatest gifts Franklin can give to them are support and donation to the work there.