Working with people with special needs can be challenging at first, but personal assistants said the work experience helps one to learn to be positive and loving.
BYU-Hawaii social work alumna Suet Lai Tang, from Hong Kong, said that the duty of a personal assistant is to individually care for clients who have a mental disability, including helping them with personal hygiene, doing community service, learning how to read and pronounce, greeting others, and performing other daily activities.
About her clients, Li-Ju Yu, a senior from Taiwan studying social work, said, “They are very pure and sincere. They are angels to me.”
Tang said that although she has learned to find time with her client enjoyable, there are different challenges when it comes to her work responsibilities. “Sometimes, the emotions of the client are varied. My client loves to read books. But when we run out of books to read, she could get really upset and just sit down anywhere for an hour or two. I need to be prepared for all types of situations. Now, I carry extra books wherever we go.”
Yu said, “Some of my clients don't really have the ability to express themselves. Sometimes, it's different for me to understand their needs, but through time I have learned to read their body language. It opened up my eyes to different living styles and dealing with things in different ways.”
Wing Yan So, a graphic design alumna from Hong Kong, is currently teaching disabled students at Laie Elementary School. She said the main challenge is teaching several students at the same time.
“Sometimes, my students could be arguing or get very emotional. However, if I am being negative, they would be negative as well, so I have learned to be positive and encouraging. I discovered that different kids have very different needs. I have learned to use different strategies to teach them differently,” said So.
Yu said she has increased her love and patience for others because of her work. “I feel like I have become more like a mother.”
Tang added, “From my client, I understand that happiness can be really simple. I learned to be grateful for simple things I have and to be humble.
“One of the heart-warming experiences I’ve had was when my client had a hard time to get in and out from [their] transportation, other clients would extend their hands to assist her. I felt the love and a special connection there.
“This job is challenging at times, but the process of helping the clients will bring you heartfelt satisfaction.”
Yu also expressed, “I have become more sympathetic to others. I understood a lot more about special needs. This job has also increased my ability to deal with stress. My supervisor always welcomes me to talk to her when I need help.”
So suggested that those who want to work with special needs should “learn life skills such as CPR. I have experienced when my students have choked on things before.”