Assembly: Grey Foam

I substitute taught the highest production team in Assembly today since their boss had her last day yesterday. Assembly is a day-program/transition department for cognitively-disabled adults for the Provo School District. The people I work with are called clients or trainees. This group is higher functioning than many and most of them love to work, but their disabilities interfere with their chances to find work except for here. They work on it though.

Today, we had work. For the last two weeks, there wasn’t any work and so everyone was excited. Grey foam is packaging material for an air-bag manufacturer here in town. Today’s foam was two inches thick with quarter-inch holes punched through. Each foam piece is four by three inches and has fifty holes cut through. Assembly has to pull each little bit of foam out of the holes. The job is quite simple and because it is simple, “foam” is the perfect work for Assembly.

There are two teams of higher functioning workers. The team I was working with is very efficient, but also very emotional. Think of mixed middle school drama and put that into the minds and bodies of adults who are in their twenties, thirties, forties and fifties.

Here are some of the things I did:

  • Reminded someone to stop tattling to me about what happened at home that I heard from her three other times today and repeated several times yesterday.
  • Remind someone to not grumble under her breath.
  • Ask the grumbler and the repeater not to argue.
  • Tell the grumbler to ignore someone on another team who is bugging her.
  • Remind someone to stay awake.
  • Tell someone to not wash his hands every five minutes because the foam is itchy.
  • Negotiate a deal as to when someone can get a snack from her lunch bag.
  • Ask hand washer to pull up his pants, he’s flashing everyone (severe plumber’s crack syndrome).

There is of course more, but this is part of it. Not everyone has problems like this. There are other extreme problems, but none of those exhibit when the team is working because they love working. Everything I listed happened while we were working.

Each of the six teams in Assembly have different problems. The group I was with does not have any one who drools. There are no wheel chair bound people. There are no people who say “no” to any request and run and hide in the bathroom. On the other days of this week I worked with those groups and I loved it as much as I loved working with this group.

When there is no work, we do activities, chores and classes. The trainees would rather work. They get paid to work, not to do the other stuff, so when we are working there is a lot of fun and between some of them light competition to see who can do the most.


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