Friday, March 29, 2013

Butch: The Caffeinator

Like coffee?  Well, if you work in Wendell Foster’s Campus (WFC) Administration building, you’d better!

Skylar’s vacation and Becky’s Holiday World adventure are just two of several mini-success stories happening on Campus after WFC and its staff experiences a paradigm shift of thinking around person-centered service.  Empowered, staff is asking person-centered questions of themselves and of each other on behalf of the individuals that we closely work with and serve on a daily basis.  We are encouraged to find ways to help them shift from a “service” life, which places focus on organizational services for them, to that of living more of a community life, which places the individual within the community doing what is important to them as an active participant and contributor.  We each have several communities:  work, social, religious/spiritual, ethnicity, familial, school, just to name a few; and if something happens to us, our community would miss us.  CEO Terry Brownson says WFC will have accomplished its goal; we will know that we achieved success in integrating those we serve into the community when members of our community notice one’s absence and reach out to express concern and inquiry.
Everyone in Owensboro knows Butch, the man always with a friendly “Hello, young man” or “Hello, young lady;” the man with a big smile, a loving and generous heart, and a carefree spirit. Everyone knows Butch because Butch knows no strangers.  Butch has been a part of the Wendell Foster’s legacy in some way, shape and form since he was a young child.  He attended school here when it was the “Spastics School and Home.”  As a young adult, he attended the day programs the Fosters offered, and in the last three years, he has called our Campus home. Butch loves WFC and the people who work here saying, “Wendell Foster’s been good to me.”  Butch keeps busy in his independent and very active life.  He goes to church at St. Joseph & Paul’s where he is hospitality minister.  He is a regular at the Elizabeth Munday Center.  Every day, Butch makes his rounds throughout the Campus, from the other Supports for Community Living house through the Centre Point Cottages, to say hello, spread good cheer, and keep in the know of what’s going on.    When in the Admin building, it wasn’t unusual for Butch to check on his “sweetheart” Lindsay and enjoy a cup of coffee too.

Last year, Butch wanted a cup of coffee in the Media Room in our Admin building but the pot was dry.  While it is unclear who initiated this process, a staff member came into the Media Room looking for coffee just as Butch was trying to figure out what to do about the empty coffee pot.  This chance moment initiated what would become a person-centered opportunity.  Rather than just make it for him, the staff member showed Butch how to do it himself: where the coffee pouches are stored; how much water to put in the pot; where to pour the water; and what button to push to get it started. Over a period of a few weeks, several different Admin staff members would walk Butch through the process until he had it down pat.  Butch enjoyed the sense of autonomy of making himself a cup of coffee.

Butch relished the new task so much so that he seized an opportunity to contribute to the Wendell Foster's community he loves so dearly:  keeping us amped up on caffeine!  He made it a part of his daily routine to come over in the morning to get the second pot going to make sure we always had coffee available.  Once a new pot is a-brewing, he goes around informing everyone, “I put on a pot of coffee for yall.”  Even those of us non-coffee drinkers are informed.  Butch says he makes sure we have coffee because we “are good people” and we “work hard.”  It isn’t unusual to see Butch early in the morning, around lunchtime, then again in the afternoon between 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. at which time he’d make the rounds to tell everyone “g’night yall.”

After the first of the year, whatever bug was making the rounds shortly after Christmas caught Butch and put him in bed for two weeks.  After a couple of days, Admin staff noticed the absence of Butch, but we were not alone.  Members from his local church, staff at the Munday Center, and other folks throughout our Campus noticed Butch’s absence!  Lindsay Overby, his caseworker, said her phone rang off the hook as people called checking on Butch and asking about his whereabouts. 

That is what it means to shift a person’s existence from a service life to that of a community life:  when someone or a group of people miss your valued presence.
Butch is now hereby titled “The Caffeinator” because not only does he keep our staff supplied with fresh hot coffee, but because he is always saying “I’ll be back” to check on the pot. 

Thank for the cuppa joe, Butch!

In the Next Blog Entry:  To Be Announced

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“The educated do not share a common body of information, but a common state of mind.” ~Mason Cooley
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Friday, March 15, 2013

Roller Coaster Mama


After a yearlong training, Wendell Foster’s Campus (WFC) staff is now even more aware of person-centeredness when serving its individuals with developmental disabilities, and their efforts are paying off.  The journey through this training; this paradigm shift has not always been easy for staff, especially those who have worked with the Campus for more than a decade.  Consistently emphasized was we already do a pretty good job serving individual needs; however, we all were being challenged to raise the bar in how we approach discovering what is important to someone.  More importantly, we were being empowered to step out of our comfort zones to try some new things, things a health care organization might consider risky.  As staff moved into this mindset of person-centeredness, and giving those we serve more choices and options, it seems as if the Universe was lining up opportunities for our staff “to get it.” Some incredible opportunities that support the training that our staff had been undergoing the past several months were presenting themselves.  Becky is one great example.

Every summer, our recreation department (REC) will take small groups of individuals to Holiday World, an amusement and water park that’s an hour from Owensboro in Santa Claus, Indiana. Many of those we serve enjoy the roller coaster and water park rides.  On occasion, REC will bring along someone who is “older” or who doesn’t really like doing the rides, but enjoys watching others, helps with holding bags, and enjoy drinking coke throughout the day.

Late last summer, REC asked Becky, a friendly 68-year-old gal who enjoys being outside and drinking soda pop, if she wanted to go to Holiday World with a group of younger residents with the intent that she could enjoy watching the young daredevils ride and the free Pepsi the park offers its visitors.  Becky had been to Holiday World before, but never had ridden the rides.  She agreed, and off they went to Santa Claus, Indiana.  One of the first rides you encounter at the park is the Lewis & Clark Trail, a leisurely ride in an antique car for the fainter-of-heart park attendees:  flat, slow and easy.  Once they arrived, the staff asked Becky if she wanted to ride, so she could at least enjoy something the park had to offer.  Becky immediately told staff member Jennifer Fitch that she wanted to drive!  Decision made, the two women boarded the antique car and off they went. With Becky in the driver’s seat, hands on the steering wheel and a foot on the gas pedal, Jennifer lightly put her foot onto Becky’s to help control the speed.  Becky chastised her, “Get your foot off of me, Fitch!” and proceeded to drive the car on her own, to Jennifer’s chagrined amusement.

The group next headed to the Liberty Launch, a tower ride that lifts approximately 70’ then suddenly drops at 35 mph; and a favorite ride of several WFC peeps.  When Becky saw the others were going to ride Liberty Launch, she announced she was riding too, even before staff had the chance to ask her!  And ride it she did, along with every roller coaster:  the Raven, the Legend, and even including the roller coaster enthusiasts’ #1 pick of the best wooden roller coaster, the largest one of the park, the Voyage!  This 1.2 mile long, 173 feet high beast of a roller coaster has it all – speed (67.4 mph), three 90 degree banked turns, five underground tunnels, a lift hill measuring 163 mph, and the most air-time of any wooden coaster recorded of 24.3 seconds!  This 68-year-old lady kept pace with the youngsters in thrills; and the staff was simultaneously surprised, baffled and thrilled!
You can bet Becky will be going back to Holiday World again this summer, and of course, she’ll have the choice to ride or not.  The staff realized that just because someone has not shown interest in doing something in the past doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t have a lack of interest later.  We always have a choice to say yes or no; after all, some days we may be in the mood for a roller coaster ride, and others days, not so much.  And once in a while, we will sometimes decide to do something totally wild and different. 

On that August day, Becky decided to mix things up and keep the staff on their person-centered toes and to “roller coast” with the flow!  Cowabunga!
In the Next Blog Entry:  Butch, The Caffienator - ". . . Butch makes his rounds throughout the Campus, . . . .  to say hello, spread good cheer, and keep in the know of what’s going on. . . . . to check on his “sweetheart” Lindsay and enjoy a cup of coffee too."

We want to hear from you! Please share your responses and comments by clicking below on “Comment” – you may post them anonymously or using your gmail.com profile name.

“The educated do not share a common body of information, but a common state of mind.” ~Mason Cooley
Please share our blog with others via Facebook, Twitter, or email! Follow our blog! Click on “Join our Site” below.

Blog content is copyrighted property of Wendell Foster’s Campus for Development Disabilities and Carolyn Smith Ferber (and/or other blog authors). Content may be used, duplicated or reprinted only with the expressed authorization of the Wendell Foster’s Campus. Permission for use, duplication or reprints may be made to wfcampus.org@gmail.com.

Friday, March 8, 2013

No Tourist Traps, Please

Brad’s story is one of many ways Wendell Foster’s Campus (WFC) and its staff are centering its thinking and services around what is important to the people we serve.  When an organization offers a “service life,” it focuses on “client’s needs” according to the organizational system and staff that in some ways limits those served, not to mention out of the box thinking.  When an organization facilitates a “community life,” it is being a person-centered organization.  The efforts and lessons learned by Brad’s Cottage staff demonstrates the value of thinking outside the bureaucratic box, and supports problem-solving centered around what is important to someone, not just what is important for someone.

Never underestimate the power of “word of mouth.”  Our efforts towards a more person-centered approach was broadcast across Campus so that everyone understands this goal; even the residents got wind of it and jumped at the chance in letting staff know what’s important to them! Awesome!  Similar stories not quite as elaborate as that of Brad’s, but just as powerful and meaningful, began to surface as staff began supporting WFC individuals with the new person-centered tools.  Whether it was simply asking someone what s/he wanted, rather than assuming it because it had “always been that way,” to simply inviting a new opportunity to someone to mix things up, staff began shifting their way out of the “service run.” In other cases, those person-centered moments just presented themselves, as if the stars and moons, or whatever lined up in the process.  The bottom line is we all like to make our own choices, and have our own personal preferences about things.  Those with developmental disabilities are no different.

So, I wonder:  when you go on vacation, do you plan a jam-pack itinerary, or do you find a spot to plant yourself to chill, doing whatever, whenever it moves you?

Each year, our recreation department (REC) schedules mini-vacations that consist of an overnight trip somewhere outside of Owensboro. The vacations vary, designed with the individuals and their interests in mind.  Skylar is a young man who previously has gone on vacations but demonstrated an unsettled restlessness and upset when on them.  As a result, recreational staff had not scheduled Skylar for a vacation for the past two years, mainly because he just simply did not seem to enjoy them. 

This past spring when vacations were being planned, Beth, a direct support professional (DSP) in Skylar’s cottage, noticed he wasn’t scheduled to go, and asked WFC’s recreational director about it.  Not wanting Skylar to be left out, Beth suggested that a trip to Audubon Cabins in Henderson, KY might be more enjoyable for Skylar who is visually-impaired, noting he doesn’t like being around a lot of environmental commotion which can leave him feeling anxious.  She additionally volunteered to go with him since she emotionally understands him, and seems to have the best rapport with Skylar of all the staff.  Vacation planners in hindsight realized they never considered staff matching, a person-centered tool, when scheduling DSP support for vacations.  Staff matching for optimal rapport has been constant conversation WFC has had in the person-centered culture shift.

With Beth’s advocacy, and REC staff's open-mindedness to her insights, they together adopted the “can-do” attitude that person-centeredness challenges our staff to have, and made Skylar’s vacation happen.  And how did he enjoy it?  He joined others who are the low-key “chill-out” vacationers that care little for the hubbub of sightseeing and tourist traps.  The group enjoyed “home-cooked” meals, and with Skylar’s love of eating, he enjoyed the smells and comforts of “at-home” dining.  The 3-bedroom cabin’s accommodations allowed open space for Skylar to move about, especially if he felt restless at night, something a small hotel room doesn’t offer.  And most importantly, Skylar enjoyed chill-laxing on the cabin’s deck listening to the sounds of nature.
Even Skylar’s physical therapist (PT) noticed an improvement in his demeanor during his sessions after vacation.  She reported his improved light-hearted moods in which he laughed and was “sing-songy” with her.  Skylar even responded to her when asked about his good mood, “I’m singing!” The physical therapist noted she’d never seen him be in such good spirits.

Isn’t that what a good vacation is suppose to do for one’s body, mind and spirit?

In the Next Blog Entry: Roller Coaster Mama - ". . . With Becky in the driver’s seat, hands on the steering wheel and a foot on the gas pedal, Jennifer lightly put her foot on Becky’s to help control the speed.  Becky chastised her, 'Get your foot off of me, Fitch!'"

We want to hear from you! Please share your responses and comments by clicking below on “Comment” – you may post them anonymously or using your gmail.com profile name.

“The educated do not share a common body of information, but a common state of mind.” ~Mason Cooley
Please share our blog with others via Facebook, Twitter, or email! Follow our blog! Click on “Join our Site” below.

Blog content is copyrighted property of Wendell Foster’s Campus for Development Disabilities and Carolyn Smith Ferber and/or other blog authors). Content may be used, duplicated or reprinted only with the expressed authorization of the Wendell Foster’s Campus. Permission for use, duplication or reprints may be made to wfcampus.org@gmail.com.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Sharp Dressed Man With Groovy Digs

At Wendell Foster’s Campus (WFC), sixty-three individuals with developmental disabilities live in our four Centre Pointe cottages, each of which houses sixteen individuals in eight semi-private rooms.  Our cottages are not your typical healthcare facility setting.  Dividing each room are shelving and dresser units, allowing each of its two occupants the opportunity to decorate his or her bedroom space to his or her own liking and taste.  Cottage staff invested a lot of effort over the last year in helping Brad improve the quality of his life through a variety of activities such as swimming, biking and visits to Holiday World.  Yet, they wanted Brad to feel good about himself and more comfortable in his home.  These matters were the final two pieces of the puzzle of Cottage's person-centered efforts for Brad.

You and I appreciate and understand the importance of feeling comfortable in our living space.  Those we serve at WFC, including Brad, are no different. Wes Gaynor, Cottage program director, explains Brad’s living space was sparse with only a couple of posters that were more age-appropriate for a teen than for a 47-year-old man.  Without much home d├ęcor or personal touches, Brad’s room looked sterile, which conflicted with our efforts to make the Cottage living quarters homey and cozy.  When Brad’s father passed away a couple of years ago, Brad received a little inheritance money.  Given Brad’s diagnosis of autism, and with permission from Brad’s uncle who now serves as his guardian, Cottage staff transformed Brad’s room into a calming sensory world.
Individuals with autism can experience sensory overload; for example, imagine a visit to Walmart during holiday season with Christmas music blaring, bright lights, inventory everywhere, and hundreds of people.  Overwhelming for those of us without a diagnosis of sensory challenges, we can only grasp a sliver of understanding as to what sensory overload feels like for someone with autism.  With a little help from the staff of our Occupational Therapy (OT) department, Cottage staff completely redid Brad’s room.  They set up a Somatron, which is essentially a big beanbag chair with speakers inside of it that emits vibrations of sound.  For this beanbag chair to work, Brad needed a new stereo with a Compact Disc (CD) player that is set to play greater bass vibrations aimed to provide extra soothing comfort through the beanbag.  The staff also purchased special CD’s designed especially for individuals with autism, music for pain management, soothing relaxation, etc.   They also installed a fiber optic waterfall of lights from the ceiling around the beanbag, with a mirror attached to the ceiling in the middle of it.  This sensory tool supports visual sensory along with tactile sensory that helps soothe Brad when he is agitated.  On the floor lays a new textured rug so when sitting in his beanbag, Brad has something more soothing to touch than a cold tiled floor.  Finally, a projector was set up to project different colors and shapes on the wall and floor of his living space.  OT has a Sensory Room as does our Kelly Autism Program, both used for our outpatients; however, Brad now has his own place to go when he is feeling overwhelmed or agitated; a warmer, more comfortable place that is now his room.

Brad’s fashion style was as Wes put it, “tired and unkempt.” For whatever reason, Brad’s wardrobe consisted mainly of sweat pants and t-shirts, and worse, his clothes looked worn out and, given his recent physical activity they were starting to hang on him.  He had only one old pair of tennis shoes.  With his guardian’s permission, staff took Brad shopping for clothes; and Brad was actively involved in picking his own new clothes out.  Staff share Brad was very thoughtful in his selections, so much so that it was a long shopping trip.  Brad went from wearing ratty sweat pants every day to wearing khakis and polo shirts.  He also purchased a few pairs of dress pants and shirts, and new tennis shoes and a pair of dressier shoes.  Brad was now looking like a sharp dressed man!  Additionally, to support his “active life” moving forward, Brad purchased his own Amtryke (verses using a Campus bike), and now rides in style in his own cycling shirt, helmet, gloves and reflective vest.  Oh, and he has new swim trunks.
What’s next?  Brad loves being outdoors so staff plan on taking Brad camping this coming summer to places where there are bike trails in the quiet of nature (he doesn’t like loud noises).   Brad already has his camping equipment ready, including a tent, cot, and sleeping bag so he may have his own personal space.  Recently, Brad just renewed his membership at the local health facility – with his own money.  Brad has invested in his quality of life, and is now on his way to being an active and fulfilled participant in his community.

Brad’s story is one of several examples of how Wendell Foster’s Campus is supporting the people it serves to having a more empowering life that helps them realize their dreams and their potential.  Our Cottage staff’s efforts role-modeled our Campus’ shift to a more personalized approach to what is important to Brad.  Through their willingness to acknowledge their shortcomings in their efforts, they were able to regroup and develop a plan generated from a paradigm shift in thinking and person-centered service.  Everyone wins, but the grand winner is Brad who is now living the better life!
In the Next Blog Entry:  No Tourist Traps, Please - ". . . staff adopted the “can-do” attitude that person-centeredness challenges staff to have, and made Skylar’s vacation happen. . . Even Skylar’s physical therapist (PT) noticed an improvement in his demeanor during his PT sessions after vacation. . . ."

We want to hear from you! Please share your responses and comments by clicking below on “Comment” – you may post them anonymously or using your gmail.com profile name.

“The educated do not share a common body of information, but a common state of mind.” ~Mason Cooley
Please share our blog with others via Facebook, Twitter, or email! Follow our blog! Click on “Join our Site” below.

Blog content is copyrighted property of Wendell Foster’s Campus for Development Disabilities and Carolyn Smith Ferber and/or other blog authors). Content may be used, duplicated or reprinted only with the expressed authorization of the Wendell Foster’s Campus. Permission for use, duplication or reprints may be made to wfcampus.org@gmail.com.