“Eddie is not the same person he was a year ago” is a statement that you hear from most everyone who knows him. Eddie came to the Heartspring School in November 2008 as a day only student and the subject of his transformation is one that genuinely moves his staff to tears.
Eddie didn’t just come to Heartspring. Eddie needed Heartspring. Upon enrolling, Eddie would constantly cry and have tantrums. He would also act aggressively toward his staff and had severe self-injurious behaviors. In order to ensure his safety and the safety of others, he required two staff members to work with him at all times. Eddie also wore a helmet and protective arm splints everyday to protect himself from his self-injurious behaviors.
Within a few months, it was apparent that Eddie’s needs extended beyond the services of what a day-only placement at Heartspring could offer him and therefore he also enrolled in Heartspring’s residential program. His goals and services could now extend beyond educational needs and now reach to daily living skills such as bathing, household chores and more.
Eddie’s team, which consists of his classroom teacher, therapists and psychologists, reported that upon enrolling, he would not use his hands… they were “the enemy”. He even preferred to have his hands behind him, where he couldn’t see them. If he saw his hands, he would often hit himself. Therefore staff prevented Eddie from doing so by blocking Eddie’s arms and hands; otherwise he would constantly hit himself and therefore injure himself. Because of his refusal to use his hands, he was not independent with any day to day tasks such as, bathing, toileting, brushing his teeth, eating or even opening a door. “It would take two people to try and complete any task,” said Kara Hopkins, Eddie’s occupational therapist. “He was not able to use his hands for anything.” She started with a basic “put-in” task where staff would help Eddie pick an object up with his hand and put it in a container. This was a slow process. They had to re-introduce Eddie to his hands. They started by moving his hands from behind his back to in front of him. They were finally able to remove the arm splints and introduce a “football players” hand muff; still needing to hide Eddie’s hands from him. The football muff was gradually changed to a terrycloth muff and Eddie would start to use his hands for picking up his favorite re-enforcer, candles. “The consistency in Eddie’s team has made all the difference in Eddie being able to use his hands appropriately,” said Dr. Bruce Hauser, Eddie’s psychologist at Heartspring. This opinion is shared by all of Eddie’s team. “Seeing Eddie improve so much is a huge reward,” said Stephanie Taylor, one of Eddie’s paraeducators. They are all so proud of Eddie and his overwhelming accomplishments.
Eddie has been at Heartspring for a little over a year now and he is able to do so much more for himself. He follows his picture schedule and completes his classroom tasks with very little re-direction. He participates in chores in the group home, such as vacuuming, sweeping (his favorite) and taking out the trash. He can tie his own shoes, and is now independent with getting dressed, eating, brushing his teeth, and can now use the restroom with very little assistance. He interacts with his classmates and staff and no longer requires two staff. “We now do our OT therapy face to face (and) he has met three of the four OT goals,” said Kara. They are now working on handwriting and writing his name.
Before Eddie came to Heartspring, there were few things he enjoyed. But now Eddie loves to run, ride bikes and swim. Eddie now enjoys life. Eddie’s father, Gordon, says “It’s been a long time since I have seen my son this way.” Eddie smiles and laughs instead of cries. He is now active and energetic rather than sluggish and tired. Eddie has lost 40 pounds and now only takes one medication.
Eddie has a unique personality and a wonderful sense of humor that the staff at Heartspring have all come to love. He enjoys singing, going for walks and smelling his favorite candles. And interestingly, one of his favorite things is to go to the Multi-Sensory Environment (MSE) Room where he plays with beans, rice and macaroni, and where he lets them fall through his hands. Yes, you might say, Eddie has come a long way.