I was curious about how other swim class members take to Brad when he joined the class. Tammy explains most of the participants, primarily senior citizens, initially kept their distance from Brad, sneaking the occasional wary glance in his direction. Most did not acknowledge his presence at first and even avoided being around him in the pool; however, since regularly attending twice a week, his “pool mates” now smile at him when they see him. During my observation, I notice the group seems comfortable being within the same proximity as Brad; and even a few will watch him as he does his exercises or as he exits the pool. I wonder if they also notice the changes in Brad demeanor since he first regularly started coming in the last few months.Recently, five months after I tagged along to his swim class, Tammy tells me Brad is proactively interacting with his pool mates! There are only a few men in the swim class, and Brad has become taken with two in particular. Brad gravitates towards these two men on his own, claps a few times as if to say “hello” before continuing on his way with his water workout. Tammy also noted class regulars now greet Brad by name upon his arrival with a “hello.” One woman in particular who has an outgoing personality even comes up and gives him a hug, and starts talking to him saying “Hello, Brad-Brad!” And Brad lets her! The same Brad who hesitated when I addressed him in the corridor of the Elmer Administration Building; the same Brad who would become upset if you were too close to and/or in “his” space. Tammy does notice that as new members join the swim aerobic class, they are apprehensive and uncertain about Brad being there as the regulars once were. They go out of their way to keep their distance, or worse, ignore him or stare at him. Tammy feels with time some have begun to warm up to Brad, especially when they see other class members greeting and interacting with him.
Brad’s social transformation amazes even Cottage staff members, who notice his interactions within the cottage improved. Wes Gaynor, Cottage program director, tells a story in which he initially was unsure that what happened really happened: One Monday morning upon arriving to work, Wes found a group of Cottage members gathered in the main living area in front of the TV. He offered a resoundingly upbeat “Good morning!” to the group that included Brad, asking how everyone’s weekend was. He thought he heard a “good” come from the group; but the person Wes thought said it he could not believe did or would. Wes decided to replay the scene with greater attention by repeating again his question, “How was everyone’s weekend?” Brad responded “good” again. Brad rarely speaks, much less with intention to respond to a question. Wes felt pleased that Brad felt comfortable to speak up. It made Wes' day.Wes shares another example of how far Brad’s demeanor has come since they renewed their efforts to Brad’s person-centered plan. Every year, WFC staff meets with each resident and their family/guardians to discuss care, any concerns and/or issues, goals, and progress. In prior conferences, Brad could not sit still, constantly fidgeting and anxious as he sat through the meeting. When Cottage staff met with Brad and his uncle this past summer, Brad sat through the conference calmly and quietly, without an iota of fidgeting. The difference was so remarkable that Brad’s uncle, previously skeptical they could get Brad engaged in any meaningful way in the planned activities, even noticed it. It was a rewarding moment for everyone involved as all realized their efforts were making such a significant difference in Brad’s life.
While Cottage staff knew they were on to something good, they knew their work was not yet done. Swim aerobics took up two days of his week, but they wanted to keep Brad engaged in life as much as possible; so they devised a plan that had Brad not only busy by water, but busy by land and air.Yes, by air.
In the Next Blog Entry: No More a Whiter Shade of Pale - ". . . Rumor has it Brad has the nicest toned legs . . . and his tan never looked better!"
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