Friday, February 8, 2013

A Fish Called Brad

After assessing what was not working in helping Brad “get a life,” Cottage staff at Wendell Foster’s Campus (WFC) develops a plan to ensure that what is important to Brad does not fall through the cracks.   Brad enjoys being active and on the go, so it was understandable he became restless and frustrated with nothing to do, staff inconsistency, and routine disruption, all of which are important to Brad.  With a plan that addresses transportation challenges, devotes a Direct Support Professional (DSP) to these efforts, and schedules supporting Brad’s weekly swim classes and bike rides, WFC staff begin to quickly witness some remarkable results! Two months after staff implements their new plan, I receive an invitation to tag along with Brad and DSP Tammy Turner to one of Brad’s swim aerobics classes.

On a beautiful May morning, I meet Brad and Tammy at the Cottage, and together we walk a block to catch a bus.  Along the way, Tammy fills me in about Brad’s situation over the last several months, and their past efforts in getting him more involved in activities off Campus, as well as what had not been working.  She explains how Brad initially resisted getting into the water, which was something unusual since Brad loves the water, and how staff figured out that the combination of different DSP’s taking him each time and his sporadic attendance agitated Brad, making him uncooperative and disinterested in the class.  Since Brad now regularly attends twice a week, Tammy notes that his attitude and participation in swim class has greatly improved in two months.  Tammy initially had to coax Brad to get into the water, in which she held his hand, encouragingly talked to him without forcing the issue.  With each visit, Brad more willingly went into the pool until now it is a non-issue.  The city bus arrives and off we go to the Healthpark.  It was clear that Brad enjoys the ride.  Even cooler was the bus drivers knew Brad on sight, one of them greeting him as he boarded in his wheelchair.
At the pool, Tammy’s evaluation of Brad’s improved participation in his swim aerobics class becomes evident.  Brad walks into the water on his own as Tammy walks backwards in front of him.  He obviously felt comfortable, and more importantly, that he belonged there.  Wearing a flotation vest, Brad floats on his stomach in the water while Tammy provides light support.  Brad kicks his legs with her encouragement; then he begins moving his arms in front of him as if swimming.  Tammy tells me he recently started doing the doggy paddle in the last few classes.  Next Brad floats on his back while Tammy gently holds his ankles, and together, they move his legs into knee bend exercises.  Finally, Tammy replaces the flotation vest with a waist flotation device, and walks backwards in front of Brad holding his hands while he walks, or more accurately, hops along on his left leg around the pool.  When Brad reaches the pool’s edge, he holds onto it to rest, then surprisingly immerses his entire face into the water for approximately three or four seconds before coming back up for air!  A few times, Brad takes a mouthful of water and squirts it out like a fountain.  Tammy and I laugh.  She explains Brad did not care for getting his face wet when they first started coming together, but now it is a favorite activity.  Talk about progress!

The class instructor greeted Brad upon his arrival, and checks on him periodically during the class.  When the group exercises begin, Tammy removes Brad’s flotation device and stands behind him, and gently helps Brad move his arms according to the instructor’s directions.  Brad offers mild resistance at first but after a few repetitions relaxes into the movement to where Tammy’s effort becomes minimal.  I also notice Brad starts bobbing his head forward and back to the beat of the music playing as he exercises.  When they finished, Tammy and Brad exit the pool the same way they entered it, though Brad is slower to come out.  Aren’t we all when our suits are soaked and getting our land legs back?  He holds both rails as an ever-cautious Tammy follows close behind him.
The renewed commitment on the part of Cottage staff to provide consistency to Brad’s schedule improves Brad’s willingness to participate in his swim class, and his confidence in the water.  In just two months, Brad developed a trusting relationship with Tammy, as well as with his class environment. Yet, his progress described at the swim class does not even begin to scratch the surface to the positive impact to Brad’s demeanor, as well as upon his quality of life.  The staff begins to notice changes in his social interactions that amaze even Wendell Foster staff members, including me.

In the Next Blog Entry:  I say, Brad said WHAT? - "Wes. . . tells a story in which he initially was unsure that what happened really happened. . . . . ."

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