Monday, September 29, 2014

The Class Reunion

Everyone becomes anxious about attending a high school reunion, but not Shelly. Graduation 1989 was the last time she saw her classmates. Thanks to Shelly’s active involvement in the Wendell Foster’s Campus No R Word campaign, Shelly got that chance.

“On our way to a school presentation, Shelly and I talked about her high school days, and she told me she had never attended a class reunion,” Carolyn Ferber, Community Education Coordinator, explains. When they figured out 2014 marked her 25th reunion, Shelly decided she wanted to make sure she went this year. They called her alma mater, Hancock County High School, asking if they knew of any plans for a reunion. The school suggested they check the local paper. Shelly put her family on alert to watch for reunion notices.
A few weeks later, Carolyn received an email from Michelle Gregory, a teacher at North Hancock Elementary School in Hawesville, and participant in the No R Word program. Gregory also happened to be Shelly’s classmate. “We couldn’t believe it!  She asked me to pass along to Shelly info about their class reunion on May 24.” Shelly made arrangements with her staff for her to go.

“I had the best time!” Shelly shares. “I remembered faces, but not everyone’s names. Everyone came over to talk to me. Many had seen me in the newspaper or heard about my work with Wendell Foster.” Michelle agreed the reunion was good for Shelly, but thought it was even better for their classmates. “It was good for our classmates to see Shelly, because they saw her in a different light, as a real person. Any walls created in people’s mind about Shelly’s disability disappeared when she started cutting up with them, laughing, and sharing what all she’d been doing for twenty-five years.”
Reconnecting with high school friends was important to Shelly. “They were very accepting of me during high school. Some even helped me get to and from classes. Now we stay connected on Facebook. If it was not for my work with the No R Word campaign, I might not have had the opportunity to reconnect with my high school friends. Just another way Wendell Foster continues to open up a whole new world for me.”

Friday, July 18, 2014

Aligning Body & Spirit

Every Catholic remembers his or her First Communion, a rite of passage when at six- and seven-years old, you join your church community in becoming one with the body and blood of Christ. Nicholas needed help from his physical and speech therapists at Wendell Foster’s Campus to overcome two challenges for this life-changing spiritual event.

In physical therapy (PT), he and Miss Sue practiced the mechanics of receiving communion. They focused on his approach to the priest, the proper positioning of his hands to receive the “body of Christ,” in this case, pieces of torn paper, then his turn to receive the cup of wine. For two PT sessions, they focused on his body movement to ensure a smooth transition between these two simple tasks. One of his two challenges down.

Nicholas experiences extensor tone, a movement pattern causing his body to jerk backwards when anything approaches his face. He also has dysphagia that interferes with his ability to swallow easily food or water. Using practice communion wafers and grape juice in speech therapy, Nicholas actually rehearsed with Miss Michele receiving the bread and wine. His first goal: eat the communion wafer in thirty seconds or less so he could drink the wine. His second goal:  simply taste the holy wine to his lips, which is required for first communion, but optional after that. Drinking the wine was Nicholas’ biggest challenge for a few reasons. First, he has to keep his head from recoiling when taking the wine goblet to his mouth. Second, he must concentrate on closing his lips around the goblet rim so he can get the taste of the wine without spilling it. Finally, he had to overcome his distaste for the fermented grape juice!
With practice and support from both his therapists, his efforts paid off! Nicholas received his first communion at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church on May 4th without any problems. He and his family appreciate the time and effort that Sue and Michele took to help make this special day a success for Nicholas.