Freedom of Expression
It’s been nearly five years since Greg, age 46 and diagnosed with intellectual disability, began attending a UCP Adult Day Program. At that time he was far from comfortable interacting with other people, but things have changed since then.
Greg and Lori Jean, the manager of his UCP Adult Day Program, sat down recently with the UCP Development Team to talk about his personal growth, interests, and why it’s important that services like UCP’s Adult Day Programs exist.
Lori Jean remembers that when Greg first started coming to UCP’s Orange Grove campus, every day he arrived and went straight to the computer. He avoided talking with others and spent his entire time at the program playing computer games and surfing the web.
But after a year or two of attending the UCP Adult Day Program, Greg began to try new activities, became more comfortable interacting with others, and gained confidence.
Today, he is in the UCP Players Group, which puts on musical performances, and Greg performs with them regularly. His favorite songs to perform with the group are “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and “Lean on Me”.
Greg enjoys expressing himself in his paintings, and has become more talkative and social, sharing “I have two sisters, both younger. I like being the oldest”.
A big fan of the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) universe, Greg also enjoys sharing his interest in the men and women who perform in WWE matches and reality shows. He listed some the wrestlers he follows: “Tyson Kidd, the Bella twins, the Juggernaut, the Hart family, and John Cena”. Last year, he even went with his mom to see some of them at a live WWE performance at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento.
With his improved self-confidence and increased interest in socializing with others, Greg has also joined Special Olympics basketball and bowling teams. All that Greg needed to move forward in this journey was support from community, the opportunity to try new things, and a little bit of courage. Now Greg is spending more time every day engaging with people and the world around him.
According to Lori Jean, Greg’s story shows why UCP makes respecting the personal choices of clients a high priority, and believes it is an important factor in improving quality of life for people with developmental disabilities.
“Although society has made progress in treating people with developmental disabilities with respect, they still face bias and prejudice today. Too often, people are dismissive in their attitudes towards people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, or will treat them like children in spite of the fact that they are adults,” Lori Jean commented.
“Just like you, or me, they need to have freedom of choice in how they live and how they are treated to be happy. Imagine if you were living in an institution, and every day, all day, the only real interaction you had with other people was them telling you what to do, and when to do it.
To be happy, our clients need to have freedom of expression. It used to be that the golden rule was ‘Treat people how you would want to be treated’, but now we say the platinum rule is ‘Treat people the way they want to be treated’. Our clients choose what they want to do at our programs.”
Given the opportunity to try new activities at his own pace, Greg has become an artist, a musician, and an athlete. Perhaps even more importantly, today he can confidently sit down, look you in the eye, and tell you about who he is.