Friday, January 18, 2013

Brad’s Big Ride

As Wendell Foster’s Campus (WFC) prepared to introduce a culture shift that focuses efforts towards greater person-centered service, the staff in Brad's Cottage got together to discuss how they could improve the quality of Brad’s life in an effort to alleviate his frustrations that often demonstrated as unacceptable behaviors.

Brad’s frustrations were obvious, for example, when he paced for extended amounts of time. Cottage staff met to explore how they can better support Brad in helping him becoming more a part of our community. To do so, they had to consider what was important to him, a challenging task at best since Brad did not communicate verbally with anyone. Staff members began looking at what past activities that seemed to fulfill Brad. For non-communicative individuals, trial and error along with previous experiences, then more trial and error is the typical approach in figuring out what is important to someone.

One activity staff knew Brad enjoyed was bike riding. In 2010 during physical therapy (PT), Brad began riding an Amtryke, a three-wheeled bicycle designed to accommodate riders with varying degrees of physical limitations. Brad can walk with assistance but depends on a wheelchair for mobility because of weakened muscular strength and endurance. PT recognizes the therapeutic benefits of the AmTryke, including improved motor skills, strength development and self-esteem.  With continued therapy and “spins” around Campus, Brad’s strength gradually increased so he could pedal with only a little help from the PT aide. Brad was not fast but he was steady in his effort. WFC staffers would often see Brad riding along the long corridors of our Campus main buildings, or outside when weather permitted along the sidewalks or Cottage driveways. Brad seemed most content when riding on his bike.
Then Brad’s Big Riding Adventure came in the spring of 2011. Word about Brad’s biking interest generated a call from a member of the Owensboro Bicycling Club (OBC) inviting Brad to join their group on their next ride. Excited at the prospect of getting Brad involved in the community, Cottage staff equipped Brad with all the required gear: helmet, gloves, a reflective vest and shirt. They borrowed an AmTryke from the PT department, and two staff members accompanied Brad for the ride, one of whom was Wes Gaynor, Cottage assistant program director at the time.
Was Brad up for his ride! In fact, WFC staff members had no idea what they were in for! After meeting the OBC at their gathering point, the ride began. With the varied cycling skills of the group, the OBC pretty much moved ahead with Brad lagging behind since he was slower and more leisurely in his rides. Both WFC staff members walked alongside Brad to ensure safety when crossing the street, assist with uphill pedaling challenges, and to guide him along the designated bike path. Oh, and the path? They started on the frontage road of New Hartford Road in front of Owensboro Christian Church. The threesome traveled to Burlew Boulevard to Byers Avenue to Legion Park at Veach Road then back to OCC where they started. Wes says he and his co-worker were pooped after the hour-long ride, but Brad was ready to keep going if they had let him!
This community bike ride became the springboard for the staff’s efforts in helping Brad “get a life.” All agreed it was a great first start but moving forward from this one community ride would reveal a number of obstacles and challenges. In their efforts to help Brad develop social interests and relationships, the WFC staff would come to realize that they were getting in their own way of supporting and empowering Brad in living a quality life.

In the Next Blog Entry: Failing Brad - "After several months . . . they did not see progress in Brad's participation in swimming, in which he was becoming less cooperative. . . ."

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