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."

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