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 décor 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. . . ."

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