The Langan School at Prospect Center is a remarkable school where children with varying levels of disabilities ages 3-21 can receive their education. Nestled in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, the school is a satellite of the Langan School in the state’s capital, Albany. Both schools are run by The Center for Disability Services, a major provider of all types of services for individuals with disabilities in New York’s capital region and beyond. The Center for Disability Services acquired Prospect Center in 2013 and soon after, in the Spring of 2014 the MOVE™ (Mobility Opportunities Via Education) curriculum was launched. MOVE™ was implemented to fill a void in the school’s programming with the objective of improving independent functional mobility in students who had essentially been confined to their wheelchairs throughout their school day.
Almost upon inception, the school was transformed. Most notable were the positive changes in the students, but the impact of the MOVE™ curriculum was apparent everywhere. The students demonstrated growth in all areas including academics, social skills and overall confidence. Everywhere the atmosphere of the school was lighter and more cheerful. The once quiet hallways were now filled with students and staff performing meaningful daily activities, and probably most important of all, chatter and laughter! After only two years of using the curriculum, the Prospect Center was awarded Model Site Status by MOVE™ International in the fall of 2016. It has now been three and half years since MOVE™ was adopted and over and over we’ve seen priceless opportunities for the 22 students who participate in the program.
PROSPECT GETS MOVING
When we were tasked with the job of coordinating the MOVE™ program at Prospect we knew we needed to be organized. As veteran therapists from the Langan School in Albany (also a MOVE™ model site), we were familiar with Rifton’s adaptive equipment. Through the use of adjustable and removable prompts, each piece of equipment is fully customizable to the needs of specific students across a wide range of abilities and sizes. In fact, most of Rifton’s products were designed specifically to support the MOVE™ program.
With multiple students using each piece of equipment with varying prompts throughout the day, the need for a highly efficient and convenient storage, maintenance, and cleaning system was crucial. Using our organization skills, and our passion for our work, we created just that. We’re told this system is special, so want to share it with you.
FIRST THINGS FIRST
While the MOVE™ program does not depend on equipment, we know that the right equipment, properly configured, can make implementation much more effective. So we carefully measured all the children who were going to participate and evaluated each one’s ability level before ordering the equipment. This time spent planning beforehand is critical.
WHERE TO PUT IT ALL
Obviously, all this equipment takes up space, a valuable commodity in any school, so be prepared to reorganize. With upwards of 20 pieces of equipment on our initial order (since increased to 38), we are constantly reorganizing.
We identified the need to create a system where each piece would find its home after each use, making it easy for people to locate a specific piece of equipment quickly. Designated storage areas would in turn keep classrooms and educational areas clutter-free. For us, our most viable option came in the form of a designated parking spot in hallway complete with individualized license plate labels.
We consecutively numbered each specific type/size of equipment using adhesive mailbox numbers affixed in a consistent location on the device. The numbers correlate with the license plate in the equipment's designated parking area. To make identification even easier we color coordinated our equipment by size when we ordered it. All our small equipment is pink, medium is blue, large is green, and extra large is champagne. This proved very popular with our staff because it saved so much time. We were able to do this as we started fresh when ordering our equipment. If you already have equipment in place, using a consistent color of duct tape across all sizes of devices works as well.
We are lucky enough that our equipment lines the hallways, but this may not be possible in all settings. Wherever you store the equipment, make sure it is easily accessible. If storing in a single room, create “driving lanes” to easily maneuver the equipment in and out. The more easily accessible the equipment, the more likely it will be used. Be fun and creative in your labeling system no matter where you store your equipment.
PROMPTS, PROMPTS AND MORE PROMPTS
When ordering the equipment we try to order pieces that are fully prompted so they can be shared across students of all abilities. But as great as this is, it can result in a lot of disorganization and chaos. With the input of the classroom staff we came up with a temporary storage system for prompts that “belong” to a device but are not currently in use. Inevitably classrooms are continually taking off, moving, repositioning prompts on our entire fleet throughout each day. While we love to see this (that is what MOVE is all about), it can lead to missing pieces, difficulty quickly locating a necessary prompt or clutter in general. Our classrooms have each devised a unique system that works for them. A couple of examples are:
- A milk crate in the classroom that houses all pieces that are taken off or traded in throughout the day. Ultimately, the prompts should be removed from the box and replaced immediately after the student is finished with it though, understandably, this doesn’t always happen. If this is the case you only need to check here for the missing prompt instead of searching aimlessly in a million different places. At the end of the day, a classroom teaching assistant is assigned to repositioning all prompts left in the crate.
- Placing removed prompts into the student's cubby. The classroom staff immediately replace the prompts when the student is done and it can be returned to the hall, fully prompted.
- A milk crate or bag placed under each piece of equipment in the hall so when the staff obtains a piece of equipment and knows what prompts the student needs, they can immediately take them off without even bringing them to the classroom and replace them upon returning the piece to its parking place.
Although our adaptive equipment is fully prompted in its hallway parking spot, we do have some extra prompts. Additionally, most of our students are assigned their own activity chair that they use with their specific prompts throughout the day. Each of these was also ordered fully prompted or with additional prompts to allow for trialing of positioning as necessary. Needless to say, we have a lot of prompts that need a permanent home. We purchased two large Rubbermaid drawer sets to place all of our extra prompts in. To make it easy for our staff, we cut the picture and description of each of the prompts out of the Rifton catalog, laminated them and affixed them on the outside of the drawer. This allows our staff to easily check and see if a smaller or larger prompt is available and more permanently return prompts when they are able to be reduced for our kiddos. We store these drawers in a central location for all, our therapy gym.
ENTER, THE MOVE™ CLEANING TEAM
With our students continually getting into and out of equipment throughout the day, things get messy! Although the staff is expected to spray down each piece of equipment when the student is finished, more intense, deep cleaning and organizing is required to keep everything looking and working its best. This is where our MOVE™ Cleaning Team comes in. Our team is comprised of three teaching assistants who spend their afternoons, after all other classroom duties are complete, cleaning and reorganizing our equipment. Depending on your situation, this may be made up of staff members looking for a way to earn a little extra cash or someone who has time to fill or is looking for extra duties. Members of our team were trained to become familiar with each piece of equipment to ensure deep cleaning. We created the MOVE™ Equipment Checklist that indicates what each piece of equipment should be prompted with and where it should be stored at the end of each day. This allows our team to immediately recognize whether something is missing or broken and locate it promptly (pun intended) as well as to sanitize each piece after a full day of use. This not only keeps our organization system running but ultimately cuts down on germs and sickness as well. As pieces of equipment are added to our fleet, we update the MOVE™ Equipment Checklist and retrain our team as needed.
WELL OILED MACHINES
As diligent as we are and as durable as Rifton equipment is, inevitably things will break. For this we created a Maintenance Request Form. A simple form that allows our MOVE™ Cleaning Team or any staff member to easily indicate the possible concern and submit it to either of us for prompt resolution of the issue. We can then contact the necessary person and make all aware of how long that piece of equipment or prompt will be out of commission. For anyone that works with Rifton regularly, you know that timeline is never long. We have found that maintaining and cleaning our equipment on a daily basis cuts down significantly on the frequency of larger maintenance concerns.
...AND THERE YOU HAVE IT!
This was no easy undertaking, it took many hours of planning and organization to put this system in place, but it has in turn saved us and the staff at Prospect countless hours of frustration, allowing our students to spend more time doing the things that they love such as school dances, holiday celebrations, New York State Special Olympic games, vocational education tasks both in school and in the community, work habilitation programs in the community, field days, field trips and more. And that, of course, is the whole point.
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