Challenged – A Tribute
by Steve Grieger

"Not only that I was asking people to change their minds about disabilities... but I hoped that we could create a an opportunity by way of disability for others to express their caring, compassion, respect and nobility of manner."

Fresh out of college with a one-size fits-all BA and no particular ambition, Grieger got into the work with mentally retarded adults because it was there. As the story evolves, Steve realizes he has a penchant for working with these folks, who, it seems, are just like "typical" people—He begins to accept the baby talk, the occasional drooling and incontinence, the dysmorphic features, and the mental aberrations that often accompany physical and intellectual limitations, as all in a day's work. A typical incident is a basketball game outing that ends when one of the men he is shepherding has to urinate—before reaching the bathroom; luckily a passing stranger offers a beer cup for the purpose. We learn from Grieger's book that mental deficiencies do not prevent people from having very distinctive personalities, wanting sex, falling in love, carrying grudges, getting married, growing old, and driving their caregivers nuts. Twice the author decides to quit. When he takes a job as a school teacher in a magnet high school, he sees how privilege turns ordinary kids into spoiled brats, contrasting their attitudes with the longing of his disabled clients just to be treated as normal, with basic rights and pleasures. At one point he finds himself burn-out and negatively influenced by a few cynical co-workers. He recovers and, instead of quitting, accepts an administrative job as a Qualified Professional. This oversight has allowed him to address, as he says, not just the "quality of life" (a common buzzword) among his clients, but their "quality of living" (his idea).

Very competently written by someone with intimate knowledge of what it's like to be around grown-ups with mental retardation, this book will surely resonate among those in that difficult field who often feel that they are the ones who are "challenged." The book is highly humorous, which is part of its attraction. When working with these individuals, there are laughs in every day, and these happy moments cover up some of the tears and fears that caregivers feel for their fragile, special charges. Kudos to Mr. Grieger.

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