Learning Life Lessons
Shannon burst into Children’s Hospital of Richmond’s Bon Air Therapy Center in December 2009 beaming about the new space’s bright colors, spacious waiting room and wide windows. “It’s so wonderful, I love it here,” she told one of her therapists. And months after first seeing the new space, Shannon, who will be seven in July 2010, still gets excited for her weekly therapy appointments and visits to “Miss Pat and Miss Gail’s place,” a reference to two of the therapists she sees each week.
Children’s Hospital of Richmond’s Bon Air Therapy Center opened in late December 2009 with 5,300 square feet of space that includes two gyms, two sensory motor areas, seven quiet treatment spaces, a psychology office, a comfortable waiting room with dedicated children’s nook and additional staff and office space. The new location within the Sheltering Arms Bon Air facility near Buford Road and Midlothian Turnpike replaced the hospital’s former South Therapy Center, which needed additional space to accommodate growing demand for pediatric physical, occupational and speech therapy and psychology services. The new space provides better flow for patients to move from waiting room to treatment areas as well as a larger and more family-friendly waiting room.
For Shannon’s mom, Maureen, the waiting room provides space for her four-year-old son, Sean, to play during Shannon’s weekly occupational, physical and speech therapy sessions. It also offers more space for Maureen to catch up with other families, many of whom have become friends during the more than three years she’s been bringing Shannon to Children’s Hospital of Richmond.
Shannon, who has Down syndrome, began receiving therapy services at the hospital’s former South Therapy Center in 2006 after receiving three years of early intervention services through Chesterfield County. Her early Children’s Hospital of Richmond visits focused on developing speech, building muscle tone and other age-appropriate skills. Today, Maureen said Shannon’s speech is “out of the ballpark,” she’s learned to jump and throw a ball and can write her name and cut on the lines. And with support from her family, therapists and teachers, Shannon is a kindergartener in an inclusive classroom at Good Shepherd Episcopal School in Richmond.
“Shannon’s family has fostered a strong sense of self,” remarked Pat Stevens, OT/L, Rehab Manager for Bon Air and one of Shannon’s occupational therapists. “Shannon has great social skills and an I-can-do-it attitude.”
Encouraging their daughter to be her best has always been important to Maureen and her husband, Paul. Yet they are quick to share the credit with Shannon’s therapists.
“Shannon has thrived in an inclusive school environment,” said Maureen, “because of the help and support she’s received from Children’s Hospital of Richmond. From early on, her therapists have worked as a team, made themselves available to her teachers and provided suggestions for accommodations to help Shannon excel in the classroom.”
Suggestions range from creating a device to help Shannon better hold her pencil to repeating directions and allowing extra time for Shannon to complete assignments. Shannon’s therapists also communicate regularly with each other to review goals and identify areas of opportunity.
Maureen appreciates the team approach to Shannon’s care and the flexibility to refocus therapy sessions to address needs or challenges as they arise. If Shannon is working on numbers in school, occupational therapy may involve writing numbers, physical therapy may include counting steps and speech therapy may focus on reading a book about the topic. Shannon’s therapists also provide activities for her to practice at home and spend time talking with Maureen before or after each appointment about Shannon’s progress and concerns.
“Shannon’s family does such a good job at supporting and carrying over things at home,” commented Allison Mirra, MS, OTR/L, Occupational Therapist. “I see Shannon only once a week for an hour so if she doesn’t practice her skills at home, she won’t make progress.”
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