Woods, Residential Housing, and Options for the Disabled

The recent trend is to stop so-called “institutionalizing” individuals with special needs. Policymakers and journalists have latched onto the thinking that all special needs individuals should integrate into the community. That is, they should live in private homes for the handicapped and get busing to work/activities in another location with cooperating medical facilities nearby for their care.

Well, I am writing to tell the public that this thinking does not work for all people, particularly those with severe special needs. They need and should be entitled to options.

I will use the residential housing community Woods Services in Langhorne, Pennsylvania as an example. The Philadelphia Inquirer plans to run a series of articles on alleged abuse and neglect at Woods. While it is true that they and other residential housing facilities suffer from a shortage of people willing to work with individuals with extreme disabilities, Woods Services does its utmost to provide housing and round-the-clock staffing for each client. They provide medical and dental services on campus, including a shift of nurses for all their housing units. If, God forbid, there is a life-or-death emergency, a client can receive immediate medical care, which helps prevent a condition worsening or even death.

For the school-age population, Woods has a state licensed private school on campus that operates the whole year, providing special education and supports like occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech therapy. For non –verbal clients, alternative communication devices like sign language and voice output devices are also available.

For those over 21, Woods buses clients to work sites on campus or out in the community, whichever is appropriate for each client. Some of the on-campus work sites include a coffee shop, a floral shop, and factory jobs. All positions include a job coach.

All clients have on-campus psychological and psychiatric services.

In addition, Woods provides trips like going to the movies, the mall, and Philadelphia sports games all through the year.

And no one is in danger of aging out. People can live in this staff- and medical-supported residency throughout their lifespan.

Politicians are supposed to serve and represent the interests and needs of their constituents. Journalists are supposed to report the news. Neither are experts in special needs care. They should not decide or persuade the public that all individuals with severe disabilities are suited for a one-size-fits-all system. There is no system that is right for all individuals—obviously, everyone has different needs and cannot thrive with only one option.

One change I personally would like to see in all group homes for special needs clients, and for nursing homes as well, is more funding to increase the staffs’ salaries in the hope of motivating more people to work in these residential housing facilities. It takes a special person to work with people who cannot take care of themselves through no fault of their own. They are the unsung heroes.

Woods is unique in having a vigilant staff. A few years ago, a client reportedly had a temper tantrum and hid under a bus. The staff spotted the client and made sure he was safe before the bus moved again.

Most people cannot relate to the challenges of having a loved one with severe special needs. But anyone could have a child, a sibling, or any other relative who is born with a neurological disorder and that person may require care at all times with no hope of ever living independently. Family members need the peace of mind that goes along with knowing their loved one is getting the care and services they require round-the-clock. These families need places like Woods.

Shaquem Griffin and NFL: Story of Inspiration

I’ve been wanting to write a post about an inspirational person. This past weekend, I saw Shaquem Griffen and his twin brothe Shaquill on TV during the NFL draft and realized I had my post.

Shaquem Griffen was born with a pre-birth condition known as Amniotic Band Syndrome, which occurs when a limb in the fetus becomes entrapped in amniotic bands while still in the womb. In Griffin’s case, a band wrapped around his left hand had cut off circulation. Pain wracked his hand during his first few years of life, and one day his mother found him in the kitchen trying to cut off his hand with a knife. The next day his family took him for surgery to amputate that hand.

Shaquem said he had to work harder than everyone else to prove he was just as capable. He and his twin brother Shaquill played football growing up, and both earned scholarships to the University of Central Florida. However, during their first years of college, Shaquill played on the UCF football team while Shaquem got redshirted for the first year, playing second string, and then getting bumped down to third string. Then in the third season, his luck changed. The coach brought him back to play for the team.

And play he did. For the next two seasons the team was the undefeated, national champions. In 2016, Shaquem was named the American Athletic Conference Defense Player of the Year.

Now Shaquem has been drafted to play with the Seattle Seakhawks, reuniting him with Shaquill, who was drafted by Seattle last year.

Shaquem has a message he wishes to impart based on his life experience:

I’ve had people doubt me my whole life, and I know that there are a lot of kids out there with various deformities or birth defects or whatever labels people want to put on them, and they’re going to be doubted, too. And I’m convinced that God has put me on this earth for a reason, and that reason is to show people that it doesn’t matter what anybody else says, because people are going to doubt you regardless. That’s a fact of life for everybody, but especially for those with birth defects or other so-called disabilities.

The important thing is that you don’t doubt yourself.

In addition, Shaquem’s father taught him never to quit with a motto he always keeps in mind: “Nothing comes easy.”

Shaquem Griffen drafted by the Seahawks