Grant Expands Family Circle Services

Family Circle's Sunday Respite Program added an Adaptive Aquatics instructor and more extensive Music Therapy and Art Therapy in June, thanks to a grant from the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation.The two-year grant provides $30,000 per year to expand recreational opportunities for young adults with disabilities.
"We are very excited to be able to respond to parents" requests for aquatic therapy in our Sunday Respite program," said Doreen Cummings, one of two Family Circle coordinators. Adaptive Aquatics is more beneficial than unstructured water play, she said, because it improves strength and mobility.
The Shapiro grant also pays for additional supplies and instruction for art and music therapy sessions, and increases program capacity.
Presently, up to 15 individuals can participate in the three-hour sessions held at the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center in Newton, MA. Families must make advance reservations and pay a nominal fee.
Jewish Family & Children's Service of Boston operates the Sunday Respite program for H.A.L.O.'s Family Circle and was responsible for obtaining the grant. Contact Family Circle at (781) 647-5327 or familycircle@halofoundation.org

Artist Makes Nursing Home Look Like Home

Nursing homes can seem sterile places. An artist at a pediatric nursing home in Massachusetts is making one facility a bit more homey.

Recreational aide Theresa Munnis is creating a portrait gallery of residents at New England Pediatric Care (NEPC) in North Billerica.

When she is done the faces of more than 50 young people with complex medical needs and severe neurological impairments will welcome visitors through the main entrance.

The gallery was the brainchild of Anthony Terrasi, a designer hired to move the institutional d├ęcor “to the next level.”

“This is a residence – a home – for kids. What home doesn’t have pictures of its children?” says Anthony. “Theresa creates amazing likenesses – she brings out their soul!”

Theresa typically spends just one to three hours sketching an individual in pencil. She has worked at NEPC for 12 years and known many residents since her childhood when her father and brother worked there.

NEPC Executive Director Ellen O’Gorman became aware of Theresa’s talent when she began to draw portraits to give to families whose children had
passed away. The director subsequently involved her in beautification projects at the nursing home.

“We want to create an atmosphere that is whimsical but not juvenile, so that both residents and staff feel good when they are here,” O’Gorman said.

Other NEPC enhancements include new paint and cheerful flags to identify classrooms and offices. A resident’s family recently initiated a “Tiles for Smiles” campaign to provide ceiling art for the pleasure of residents who spend hours reclining in bed or in wheelchairs.

For information call (978)667-5123 or visit: http://www.nepediatriccare.org./

Long Term Care for Children

Pediatric long term care is different from geriatric care. Both may require complex medical care, but many children in nursing homes require extensive support from the very beginning of their lives.

Unlike geriatric residents who were once fully functioning adults, children must also be educated and need support to develop social and life skills.

For the first time, professionals have introduced guidelines to ensure quality long term care for young people.

A 14-member team representing a variety of pediatric disciplines and facilities across the U.S. spent nearly six years developing the guidelines which were presented to more than 180 professionals at the April 2008 conference �Navigating the Care of the Medically Fragile Child� in Atlanta, GA .

�The needs of children in long-term care today are starkly different than those of older adults,� said Ellen O�Gorman, Executive Director of New England Pediatric Care in Massachusetts, and one of the guideline authors. �Most will be dependent on others throughout their lives. These young people need life skills - habilitation �more than rehabilitation.�

Thirty years ago, pediatric homes were populated mostly by individuals with developmental disabilities, O�Gorman said.

As community based-options were developed for those individuals, their beds were filled by children rMonday, September 8, 2008 0:04 AMstaining equipment such as ventilators and feeding tubes and intense therapeutic intervention to survive.

As individuals �age out� of state-funded support in pediatric homes, O�Gorman said the new guidelines will provide a critical framework for determining which adult options will best meet the needs of each individual.

Call Ellen O�Gorman at (978) 667-5123 or email eogorman@nepediatriccare.org

Teens Befriend Socially Isolated Children

Friendship Circle celebrates friendship and makes it happen for Central Massachusetts children and families who are socially isolated because of physical, emotional or behavioral disabilities.

H.A.L.O. visited with a happy group of families at a recent barbeque sponsored by the Jewish Chabad of Westboro, MA. This fledgling group organizes monthly events for families and recruits, trains and matches teenage volunteers to be supportive friends to children who have a disability.

�Our goal is to make these children and their families feel more integrated with the community,� said Rabbi Yaron Kimelman, who oversees Friendship Circle with his wife Yona Rivka. �This experience enriches the lives of everyone involved, from the teenagers who learn about the power of giving to the children who get to experience the fun of friendship.�

�We now have over twenty amazingly devoted teen volunteers and a growing number of families who are seeking friendship for their special needs children," the rabbi said.

Families do not need to be associated with Chabad � or even be Jewish � to take participate in activities with more than 100 independent Friendship Circles across the United States and Canada. Children with a wide range of disabilities are welcome.

What do Teens and Families say?

(Pseudonyms have been used to maintain anonymity.)

Andrew�s mom: �I guess I was surprised to find out that there are actually teenagers who want to do this kind of thing. I have two sons on the autism spectrum, and am always looking to make connections for them . . . Andrew is great with adults, but has trouble interacting with kids, and transitions can be very tough. I always feel people are staring at us. At the picnic he made quite a scene; last week it was at the grocery store. David�s visit each week gives me a break from keeping Andrew occupied.�

David, 14: �I go to the Academy of Mathematics and Science, and was just looking for something different to do. I found out I really enjoy playing with Andrew. I feel like I am helping someone.�

Michael�s mom: �It�s nice for Michael to be with someone who isn�t going to make him learn something or answer questions. Two teenagers alternate weekly visits, and this gives Michael two new friends. He is not a kid who plays well with his peer group so it�s less stressful for him to be with an older child who will give him some slack.�

Hank, 14: �Sometimes Michael can be challenging, but I have learned what to do to keep him calm. (When Michael scraped his toe while climbing on rocks at the beach, Hank redirected his attention to avoid an outburst, then gave him a piggyback ride to the first aid station.) I didn�t know I would like this. It�s turned out to be a great opportunity to work with people I like and care about.�

Rita�s mom: �Friendship Circle is very good for my daughter Rita. For the first time she has a friend she can laugh with and share secrets. Most other children don�t know how to communicate with her. Her �friend� makes an effort.�

For information about the Westboro Friendship Circle, contact Rabbi Yaron Kimelman at (508) 410-3831 or visit www.fc.chabadwestboro.org.