Social Work Graduate Student Wants to Improve Perceptions of Life with a Disability

Andrea Hannaford, a second-year Master of Social Work student at the University of Mississippi, is on a mission to dispel myths about people living with disabilities.

Hannaford, far left, presented her findings in working with the Baddour Center during a presentation for her Master of Social Work course. Submitted photo
Through her undergraduate internship in the Department of Social Work, Hannaford worked in the case management department at Baddour Center, a residential community in her hometown of Senatobia, designed for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Enrolled in the MSW program at Ole Miss, Hannaford continues her work at the center as a recreation staff member, accompanying residents on field trips and engaging with them in daily recreational activities.

“Some of the best people I’ve met in my life live at the Baddour Center,” Hannaford said. “I feel like people often dehumanize those with intellectual disabilities, and that it’s common for people not to see them as someone who can contribute to society.

“I learned that they are huge contributions to society, and they will support and love you more than an average person.”

A community focused on inclusion through activities and employment options, the Baddour Center offers a variety of work opportunities that suit residents’ particular interests and talents through their garden center and custom packaging services divisions.

The center is also well known for its residents’ traveling choir, The Miracles, a group that Hannaford served as travel assistant for while they toured Mississippi this summer.

During her undergraduate experience, Hannaford completed a macro project with Baddour Center. Macro projects give social work students the experience of initiating change at larger system level, within an agency or community, said Desiree Watson, director of the Bachelor of Social Work program.

“The projects are expected to contribute to the functioning of the agency,” Watson said. “The aim is to move beyond the individual or family and impact the institution or community in a positive way.”

Hannaford used her social work training in case management, under the supervision of a licensed social worker on staff, to educate the direct support professionals, or DSPs, within the homes that provide daily support for the residents with activities such as cooking, cleaning, hygiene and emotional support.

“It is so important for our social workers at Baddour to have a connection with the DSPs to understand what our residents need,” Hannaford said. “For my macro project, I educated them on various types of intellectual disabilities and ways to support residents who have these diagnoses.

“When working on it from a macro perspective, I aimed to educate the DSPs so they would be able to have a better understanding of whom they were serving. My thought was that by educating, I could promote positive support in the home, which would then affect how the residents behaved and would trickle to every area of the center.”

As Hannaford works to complete her master’s degree, she still enjoys working at Baddour Center – this time in a new capacity.

“I fell in love with it, so I had to stick around,” she said. “My primary role is to transport residents to and from various activities and have fun doing it. I also spend a lot of time at the recreation center interacting with residents who do not go to off-campus activities.

“I get to spend a lot of time building relationships with the residents. A lot of times, I will say I’m on the payroll to have fun with residents. My job is so rewarding, and I get to be surrounded by individuals who I love dearly.”

Hannaford loves joining residents for excursions and off-campus activities, including a recent trip to the new safari park in nearby Como that allowed residents to feed and interact with the animals.

“The residents had a blast, and so did I,” Hannaford said. “Every week, there is something different for the residents to enjoy. We go to plays, and we take residents to the Orpheum. We take them to basketball games, wrestling and shopping at Target.

“They also love dining out, so we will take them to Applebee’s or the Mexican restaurant in town. Some of my coworkers actually just took a group of residents to meet Ole Miss football players and Coach Matt Luke.”

Hannaford said she looks forward to her clinical internship next semester to explore other areas of social work, but she will always find a way to visit her friends at Baddour Center and watch as the center continues to thrive in the future.

To learn more about becoming a social worker, visit http://sw.olemiss.edu/.

The School of Applied Sciences, home to the Department of Social Work, offers professional preparation programs that integrate academic study, clinical training, creative research, service-learning and community outreach, leading to the development of leaders whose professional endeavors will improve health and well-being.


By Sarah Sapp and Jessica Shipp/University of Mississippi 

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