Sarah’s Motorized Wheelchair Part 2: A Student with Multiple Disabilities Gains Independence
Sarah’s Motorized Wheelchair Part 2:
A PGCS Student With Multiple Disabilities Gains Independence
After four months of practice, Sarah’s new power chair has given her the ability to “go anywhere and do anything.” In our last e-newsletter, our readers heard from Sarah, who had just received a new power wheelchair as a birthday present, wrapped in a big purple bow. At 13 years old, a time of growing independence for a typical teenager, the power wheelchair has given Sarah something that she has never had: independent mobility. Today, we have only had a glimpse of what Sarah will do, and think, and feel with her newly-found independence.
“Sarah has been able to take more responsibility for herself,” says her classroom teacher, Linda Cook, “and she has taken on more responsibility in the classroom as well. Her confidence is through the roof.” For example, each day Sarah independently drives herself around the school and picks up the bus list that is taped on the outside of each classroom door.
After receiving the power wheelchair, Sarah began working with her therapist, Mandy. Sarah first started by working on particular skills, such as moving her chair’s joystick and figuring out obstacles in her surroundings. After learning these skills, using repetition and practice, Mandy helped Sarah put all her skills together to master the power wheelchair. “Sarah has been working on things like straying to the right while driving, parking in a designated space using cones to simulate a parking spot, and looking behind her when backing up,” said Mandy, we also use obstacles to represent students and others who might be in her path.”
The skills that Sarah has been working on not only benefit her life at school, but also impact her life at home and in the community. As Mandy points out, “[Sarah’s] home is much more narrow than the hallways at school, so discussions about how she needs to drive slowly and look for obstacles occurs a lot at home as well.”
“I feel more like an adult and I feel free,” said Sarah when asked about using her new power wheelchair. “I can see myself and what I can do in the future so much better. I can go where I want to go, and when I want to go.”
While Sarah’s visual impairment and limited motor abilities are still challenges for her, she will not allow these challenges to get in her way. As she continues to learn and grow at P.G. Chambers School, we can take a lesson from her insights. We must continue moving forward, meet obstacles as exciting challenges, and use our strengths and resources to achieve our goals.
Addendum: As of the distribution of this article, Sarah has made an appointment with PGCS Executive Director, Susan Seamans, to give her feedback on what she needs to make the school grounds more accessible for her. Watch for our next newsletter to hear the whole story of how Sarah is learning to advocate for herself.