Advancing to the Smart Suite
Because Samantha’s goals also include being more independent, Stephanie works with Samantha using the assistive technology and adapted equipment available in the hospital’s Smart Suite, which opened in March 2006. The 600-square-foot Smart Suite features a kitchen, bedroom, bathroom and work space, all of which have been adapted so that people with a variety of disabilities can independently participate in daily living activities. The kitchen has an oven with a side-opening door, an adjustable-height table, and cabinets that can be pulled down to countertop level to accommodate wheelchairs. Other rooms have voice-activated environmental control units for lights and appliances, a power-operated bed with a variety of accessibility options and a bathtub/shower with different types of faucets.
Using various assistive technology devices, Samantha is learning to prepare snacks and meals, brush her teeth and hair, adapt clothing for easier self-dressing and use adapted equipment like a dressing stick and reacher to dress herself, skills that will become increasingly important as Samantha enters the pre-teen and teenage years. Stephanie has also helped Samantha incorporate assistive technology devices such as a dictation system into her school day. Although she has an aide to help during the day, Samantha has learned to use a co-writer to take notes and a computer to dictate long essays and assignments.
“The Smart Suite has given us ideas to further adapt at home,” said Pam, who wants to see her daughter become as independent as possible. “It’s shown us what’s out there” in terms of adaptive equipment, including the dressing stick, reacher and toothbrush holder. Pam also hopes to add an adjustable height sink and counters and motorized shelves, similar to those in the Smart Suite, in her family’s kitchen in the future.
Stephanie agrees. “The Smart Suite has given Samantha and her mom opportunities to see how much she can do herself.”
As she becomes more independent, Samantha has big dreams for her future. An animal lover, she has seven dogs, one cat and multiple hamsters and wants to be a veterinarian. She also wants to continue honing her art skills.
Traveling the Distance
During the 10 years that Samantha has been visiting Children’s Hospital of Richmond, she has seen therapists at both the main and Southside therapy center locations. Despite the 90-minute round-trip commute for biweekly appointments, Pam said Samantha wouldn’t be able to get the kind of care she gets at Children’s Hospital of Richmond anywhere else.
“Children’s Hospital of Richmond specializes in kids,” said Pam, “so it’s worth the ride. We always get good care and have good people working with us.”
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