Supporting Children with Technology-Based Solutions

GROWING THE SKILLS OF INDEPENDENCE

Smart-home technology: It’s not just for adults! Smart technology can be extremely beneficial to children, providing them with natural supports. Developing independent living skills from a young age prepares children for the transition to adulthood and community-based living. Assistive technology can create opportunities for children to learn to be more independent while supporting their health and safety.

“The technology has been such a blessing. As a single parent, it was difficult for me to monitor Anissa round the clock. Now I can be on the opposite side of the house from Anissa and know if she goes into the kitchen or leaves the house in search of food,” says Janet Smith, mother of Anissa, a teenager with developmental disabilities.

MEET ANISSA

Like most teenagers, Anissa wants to have more independence at home and in the community. With her diagnoses of Prader-Willi syndrome and developmental disabilities, however, Anissa has needed intensive monitoring to keep her healthy and safe. When her mother first contacted us, she was supervising Anissa around the clock so that she didn’t overeat or leave the home in search of food.

Anissa spent 6 months at a Prader-Willi treatment facility where she was able to learn many life skills to help her manage her behavior and weight. When it was time to return home, her mother and the care coordinator contacted SimplyHome in search of ways to encourage Anissa to continue to make good decisions.

Through the assessment with SimplyHome, Janet decided that door sensors, a bed pressure pad, and a few motion sensors would provide the assurance the family needed while supporting Anissa’s independence. The sensor-based technology not only sends alerts to Janet’s cell phone, but also provides audible notifications within the home.

OUTCOMES FOR ANISSA & HER FAMILY:

Anissa soon learned that when the system created alerts, her family would come check on her. As a result, she learned to redirect her own behavior, by returning to bed when she needs to and not leaving the home without supervision. Her mother notes that with the technology, the family no longer takes shifts to sit up at night, and as a result, her mother has been able to go back to work.

Mother and daughter

For Anissa to be more independent, the family wanted to teach her skills regarding:

  • Self-control related to eating outside of mealtime routines
  • Staying upstairs at night
  • Visiting relatives across the street by herself

Anissa’s system was designed to include motion sensors, a bed pressure pad and door sensors to:

  • Capture movement in certain areas of the home after school and at night
  • Help prevent ingress and egress during early morning and late night hours
  • Alert her and her family if she did not return to bed at night within a certain timeframe

The SimplyHome technology sequences activate only at certain times of day:

  • When Anissa is home
  • When Anissa needs a “teachable moment” to address or re-direct her behaviors
  • When Anissa’s safety requires natural support from family

Though Anissa is still a teenager, Anissa’s family is focused on her future, planning for her success as an adult. As Janet says, “We know we are not going to be around forever. If we don’t start supporting Anissa’s independence now, then she won’t have as many choices when she’s an adult.”

 

To find out more about SimplyHome technology, and how it can support the independent living skills of children and adults, contact us by requesting a free assessment.

 

 

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Sensors Harness Skills for Independence at UCP-NYC

UCP-NYC Image 1SimplyHome is pleased to announce our work with UCP-NYC to incorporate our customized assistive technology services to promote more independent living for residents with United Cerebral Palsy – NYC. UCP-NYC is the leading nonprofit agency in New York City providing direct services, technology and advocacy to children and adults with cerebral palsy and other disabilities.

“It’s My Own Routine”

One UCP-NYC resident, Efrain, uses SimplyHome technologies to increase independence with respect to his health. He uses Telehealth devices that record his blood sugar and blood pressure levels, and each device notifies staff if those levels exceed set parameters.

Efrain also uses a medication dispenser, which allows him to start his day and take medication without assistance from staff.  “I like just getting up and being able to get going,” said Efrain. “It’s my own routine, I don’t have to wait for staff.”

Read more: UCP-NYC’s full article.

 

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Top 5 Assistive Technology Resources

Top 5 assistivetechnology resources

Knowing where to find assistive technology resources can be daunting. Whether you are a family member, care provider, grandparent, parent – Where do you even begin? How do you know what works?

We’ve identified a list of the top go-to sources for individuals with disabilities wanting to stay informed about assistive technology resources available to them.

 

#1 The Arc’s Tech Toolbox

Tech ToolboxWhy we love it: It’s exactly what the name reads – A toolbox. Full of products and websites all centered around serving individuals with disabilities. You can even customize your list  by using a few key words to be geared towards independent living, a job, health, interpersonal relationships, or communication, to name a few.

“We have learned that it is challenging to find products that are a good fit for the diverse range of needs and goals of those in our community. To solve this, Tech Toolbox™ provides our community with a user-friendly, easy-to-search online space for sharing information about technology products. Anyone can add a tool to the Tech Toolbox™. And, anyone can rate or review a tool. Plus, you can ask questions about how to use a tool and answer the questions that others ask.”

 

#2 AT Smackdown

AT Expo

Why we love it: A byproduct of the 2016 Adirondack AT Expo, attendees added some of their favorite assistive technology resources. The list ranges from Bookshare to Tots ‘n Tech.


#3 The Mighty

 The MightyWhy we love it: In the words of The Mighty, “We publish real stories by real people facing real challenges. We are building a brand and a community around them. Having a disability or disease doesn’t have to be isolating. That’s why The Mighty exists.”  Their stories not only include developmental and physical disabilities, but also mental health issues.

 

#4 Disability Scoop

 disability scoopWhy we love it: Disability Scoop is the nation’s largest news organization devoted to covering developmental disabilities. Stories cover autism, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy, down syndrome and others. A recent story discusses a new regulation requiring movie theaters to further accommodate individuals with disabilities. Another provides an update on a tracking device for children with developmental disabilities getting one step closer to becoming law.

 

#5 Access and Inclusion Through Technology

Access and InclusionWhy we love it: It’s global news. Don’t have enough time to read an article? The site provides images and videos specific to accessible technology, similar to a social media feed. It also breaks out topics into categories such as Innovation, Leisure, Health and Social.  One such article highlights new technology in videos, including one about a computer mouse that can be controlled by an individual’s head movements.

 

Want to learn more about SimplyHome Technology?

Contact us for a free assessment!

 

 

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The Beginner’s Guide to Remaining in Your Home While Aging

That day is coming. The day when our Peter Pan philosophy can carry on no more. Others age but we don’t, right? It is time to face the reality that aging is something happening to us all and we must plan accordingly. Some people associate getting older with retirement communities and loss of independence.  But do we really need to leave our homes? The answer is no. Not if you take time to familiarize yourself with the tools and concepts available to you today.

“Universal design” is a concept quickly becoming embraced among homeowners of varying ages. The idea is to start making simple modifications now to your home, enabling you to remain in your home when your daily lifestyle needs and routines change. The article “Universal Design for Every Age and Stage of Life” states the best time to think about integrating universal design principles and features..is “before a life change or emergency happens.”

UD #2

Statements like this make it all the more important to start being proactive with your future home modifications. SimplyHome is taking steps by participating in the Livable Homes Project with AARP and the Universal Design Institute. Richard Duncan, Executive Director of UDI says the concept is more than adding custom features to a home. The changes need to be packed to look good and work well. He took the time to answer our questions about universal design and explain a few things we should know.

 UD #2

5 Things You Should Know about Universal Design

  1. Where do you start? Before making any changes to your home, the absolute first place to start is with an honest assessment of your home and your needs. Ask yourself, Is this the right home for me to age in? For example, should the need arise, would you be able to move your bedroom from the second floor to the first floor in this particular house?

  2. The Three Main Areas.  The three main areas to focus on in your home are the entrance, bathrooms and kitchen. Making entrance changes are the most simple and the best first move. You can start by adding handrails to the stair cases and improving lighting. A good question to ask yourself with the entrance is, Are the hallways and doorways wide enough to fit equipment through?  After the entrance, some basic bathroom changes could include having  curbless showers, adding a bench for a place to sit and having a handheld showerhead.

  3. Common Misconception. When you think of an added shower handrail to help accessibility, it’s easy to imagine it as an eyesore, a bulky feature completely out of place with the interior of your home. But universal design is more than custom features. It’s the entire package of adding an element that helps your daily needs, but also fits the style of your home. For example, a handrail can also double as a towel rack.

  4. Get the right advice. The first mistake many individuals make when implementing universal design is hiring someone with expertise in one room, rather than understanding the functionality of the house altogether. For example, advice should come from someone with an architectural or interior design background. Someone with home-design experience, who can understand your needs as they will change and envision how your home can grow with you.

  5. There’s Higher Functionality with Technology.  SimplyHome technology is, “A wonderful addition to keeping people safe and  independent in their homes,” says Richard. The higher functionality you have to begin with, the more effective the custom changes. Using SimplyHome technology helps you to avoid limitations with the changes you implement down the road. You want as many options as possible. SimplyHome environmental controls help you to adjust lighting in various locations of your home from a single location – a tablet. SimplyHome door, window and stove sensors, medication management, fall detection, and telehealth services, cover all your needs to remain in your home.

 

Want to learn specific ways customized solutions can help you? Get A Free Assessment From SimplyHome

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5 Senior Living Community Trends for 2017

5 senior living community trends

 

Can technology bridge the gap between all levels of care for people as they age? Recent trends in senior living communities are transforming care models, opening the door to more options.  

600 senior living organizations from 15 states were surveyed by Mather LifeWays Institute on Aging to identify the top senior living community trends for 2017.

Trend #1: Technology will be key to sustaining independent lifestyles among senior living residents.

  • SimplyHome technology encourages and empowers an independent lifestyle through wireless systems by utilizing sensors. As a family member, you and care staff can receive call, text or email alerts from anywhere when a problem is detected. Family visits and phone calls can focus on what matters most — quality time. Motion, door and window sensors help prevent wandering concerns; stove and cabinet sensors can promote cooking safety and healthy nutrition; chair/bed pressure pads can unobtrusively monitor sleep and behavior patterns. Medication management, fall detection and telehealth are also available for care management.

Trend #2: Senior living providers will expand services “beyond” their four walls to provide important social connection programs to older adults living in their own homes, including adult day care programs, services to the homebound and in-home care services.

  • The independence SimplyHome technology establishes increases the list of social activities individuals can partake in. The SimplyHome model of natural supports (alerts via text message, phone call and email) connects individuals to their family, friends and neighbors, as well as to staff at community living facilities.

Trend #3: Long-term care is being transformed to support person-directed care and meaningful relationships. Senior residences are beginning to adopt smaller, home-like environments.

  • Technology enables families and providers to focus on where people want to live. SimplyHome’s person-centered approach is about creating customized solutions that are based on the individual’s needs. What are your daily needs? What is your daily routine? How can we maximize your independence? These are all questions we ask when implementing technology to help an individual remain in their home. Getting the answers to these questions also builds a foundation for relationships in the community and with care staff.

Trend #4: Language, perceptions and attitudes of care providers must be updated to reflect changing older adults’ needs and expectations. This might include changing the model of an “activity director” to that of a “life coach,” which focuses on working with customers who have higher, more self-actualizing expectations.

  • When technology is implemented into a residence, SimplyHome assists care staff to further understand the specific needs of your loved one. We stress to providers the importance of knowing what options are available and allowing people to make the choice of how they want to live. The technology is a way to support their choice.

Trend #5: Above all, consumers want choice and value. Older adults are demanding more choices, control, a redefinition of what community means, and convenience within and outside of the community. This includes financing options, customized programs, and access to on-demand services and engaging activities.

  • Customers with SimplyHome choose how they want to live. The technology in place lets individuals choose life on their terms. 24/7 Customer Service support provides care staff and family with peace of mind, knowing they will be notified if a change in a behavioral pattern occurs.

Canva Quote
This video shows how one woman’s grandfather was able to maintain his choice for independence through technology.

You can view the full article’s findings here.

Start Your Free Assessment with SimplyHome

 

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Monarch Pilot Program: Smarter Homes, Greater Independence

PILOT PROGRAM TAKES OFF

SimplyHome is pleased to share technology success stories from our providers across the U.S. and other countries. Today we are featuring two stories of individuals who receive services through Monarch, a nonprofit that supports thousands of North Carolinians who have intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness, and substance use disorders.

Monarch began a pilot project in 2015, seeking to enhance independence for 46 individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and mental illness living in eight homes in three North Carolina counties. The project combines SimplyHome’s wireless smart home technology with adaptive home modifications to create healthier, safer living environments where residents can have greater control of their daily activities.

You can read the full article in Monarch’s Reaching Dreams Fall/Winter 2016 Newsletter (the stories below are excerpts, used with permission, from that newsletter).

 

INDEPENDENCE THROUGH RESPONSIBILITY

For individuals like Crissy Fiolek, the installation of smart home technology like motion-sensor and iPad-controlled lighting, medication dispensers, panic pendants, an induction stove, temperature-controlled faucets and other features, has had a significant impact.

 

Monarch SmartHome 1

Pictured (l-r): Joann and Crissy, residents of one of Monarch’s smart homes, settle in for an evening at home after locking the front door and setting the alarm using an iPad and smart home technology.

For example, before the smart home technology was installed, Fiolek needed to be reminded three or four times a day by staff to take her medication. She needed assistance in taking the right dosage at the right time. As part of this project, Fiolek received a medication dispenser. The dispenser reminds her when to take her medication and safely provides the correct dosage for her. If she does not take it within a predetermined period, the dispenser accesses the wireless home system and alerts staff she may need assistance.

After just three months, Fiolek rarely has to be reminded to take her medication. She is now more independent when it comes to managing her medication and has more confidence and higher self-esteem as a result.

 

RESPONSIBILITY THROUGH INDEPENDENCE

With the help of smart home technology, Melvin Burton has taken greater advantage of his unsupervised time in the home. Many of the high-functioning people Monarch supports have unsupervised time, where they are able to stay by themselves in the home without staff for short periods.

Unsupervised time increases independence and fosters a sense of personal responsibility and self-reliance, but many residents are afraid to use it because they fear they will need staff and be unable to contact them. With this project, Burton now wears a wrist pendant which is set to alert staff if he presses the button and needs support during his unsupervised time.

 

Monarch Smart Home 2

Melvin shows off his wrist pendant, which is set to alert staff when he presses the button and needs their support.

 

Monarch continues to evaluate the success of this pilot project and hopes to expand it to other homes across the state. The Smart Home Project was developed in partnership with Trillium Health Resources and was made possible with generous support from The Harold H. Bate Foundation, the CarolinaEast Foundation, and many other donors.

 

About Monarch:

Monarch is a nonprofit organization that supports thousands of people statewide with intellectual and developmental disabilities, mental illness, and substance use disorders.

 

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Home for the Holidays: Top 8 Signs An Older Loved One Needs More Support

Home for the Holidays

 

An Ideal Time to Observe

Ah, the holidays. Does any time of year fill children with more excitement over gifts and goodies? Of fill adults with more concern over travel plans and family gatherings?

The holidays are a great time to simply observe the aging process of your loved ones and to anticipate the process of planning for the future. Depending on what you observe, you can lay the foundations for future conversations about life changes, whether that means making plans to age in place, move closer to loved ones, or find a more supported living setting.

The aging process can be disorienting both for the person who is aging and their family members. How do we know the difference between natural signs of healthy aging, and more significant changes?

 

Patterns to Look for

Here are some indicators that an older person might be in need of additional support to maintain their quality of life. This is not a comprehensive list.

  1. Personality changes or rapid mood swings

  1. Becoming confused, aggressive, agitated, suspicious, fearful, or paranoid

  1. A greater need for rest or a disruption of sleep patterns

  1. Difficulty walking, sitting, rising, answering the door

  1. Difficulties with remembering people’s names or to complete daily tasks

  1. Disinterest in previously enjoyed activities

  1. Neglect of residence or vehicle (Examples: accumulating mail, out-of-date food in the refrigerator, debris or fall hazards, scrapes or dents on vehicle, deterioration of landscape or home)

  1. Neglect of self-care (Examples: unkempt clothing, bruises, irregular or inadequate diet, disorganized medications, lack of hygiene, lack of social interaction)

We encourage families to discuss their concerns and plans for the future sooner rather than later. Being proactive offers the aging individual the opportunity to participate in the planning process, and to have plans in place in case a crisis occurs. Above all, it’s important to reassure aging parents or grandparents that you will be present in the next phases of their lives.

 

Possible Solutions for Aging in Place with Technology

Not all of the concerns on this list indicate that individuals need to move to assisted living or have full-time support. With the combination of technology and home care, an individual can remain independent in his or her own home for much longer.

Here are some of the technology solutions SimplyHome to empower adults who are facing the challenges of aging:

  • Medication Management: Medication dispensers can remind individuals when it is time to take their medications. A call center can notify family or staff if medication is missed or delayed.

  • Wellness Monitoring: Blood pressure cuffs, glucose monitors, and pulse oximeters can collect health data in a confidential online health file. These systems send notifications if an individual’s status exceed predetermined thresholds. This type of health monitoring can prevent

  • Customized Sensor Systems: Wireless systems can promote independence with activities of daily living by utilizing sensors. Motion, door and window sensors help prevent wandering or fall concerns; stove and cabinet sensors can promote cooking safety and healthy nutrition; chair/bed pressure pads can unobtrusively monitor sleep and behavior patterns. providing alerts only when a problem is detected.

  • Preserving Independence: Notifications are sent to caregivers only when a problem is detected – this allows for senior adults to get the assistance they needed, without feeling like their privacy or independence is lost.

It can be a great gift to your loved ones to initiate conversations about these concerns, so that they can take part in a positive planning process on their care and plans for the future.

Want to learn more about these solutions? SimplyHome offers a free assessment process to discuss your loved one’s goals related to safe and independent living.

Initiate Your Free Assessment With SimplyHome


Photo credits: Holiday candle, holiday cookies (Flickr)

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Finding Independence and Saving for the Future in NC

David and his mom

 

FINDING INDEPENDENCE THROUGH TECHNOLOGY

David Maennle is an accomplished young man who directly benefits from assistive technology in North Carolina. David’s chosen lifestyle — living independently in the community with the help of technology — saves the State of North Carolina almost $80,000 per year.

David was born with an intellectual disability, but as his mother Becky says, “He is able to do everything that he puts his mind to. He just does it a bit differently.” David currently has a job and is saving for his dream of building his own log cabin. He rents his own apartment and is able to apply the independent living skills he learned at Western Carolina University.

The use of SimplyHome’s sensors and verbal prompts enable David to:

  • Cook his own meals and be notified if he leaves the stove on.
  • Complete a morning routine of self-care, eating breakfast, taking medication, and tidying up before going to work at a scheduled time.
  • Receive a verbal reminder to close and lock the doors.
  • Access help quickly if needed.

 

Increasing Independence in a Cost-Effective Way

The SimplyHome technology David uses has two components: an annual monitoring fee and a one-time fee for the technology itself:

  • $779.40 annual monitoring fee
  • $6,827 one-time cost for customized SimplyHome System

David’s use of this technology reduces his living costs, enabling him to take advantage of additional supports such as supported employment, in-home skill building and personal care for $80,055 per year. Altogether his living supports total $87,661.

If David were not using technology, he would not have access to these supports. Institutional home care costs would be $60,794 per year and group home rates would be $105,495 per year. That comes to a total of $166,290 per year, which nearly doubles the cost of living in his own home.

The chart below contrasts the annual costs for David’s supports if he were in a group home and receiving day supports, with the annual costs for his more independent lifestyle of living in his own apartment.

 

Comparison Chart

 

DAVID’S VISION FOR HIS LIFE

David lives a fully-immersed life on his own terms, including working for the local EMS, cooking his own meals, and saving for his “Vision”: building his own log cabin, driving his own red truck, and owning a blue-tick hound.

Without the assistance of technology, so much independence and integration into the community would not be possible.

 

DV logo

To learn more about David’s story and to get a tour of his home, watch the “David’s Vision” video.

 

You can also learn more by checking out David’s Facebook page.

 

WHAT ABOUT FUNDING?

Funding is available for individuals in North Carolina to afford to live independently with the use of assistive technology. The NC Innovations Waiver provides funding to local management entities and managed care organizations.  The services provided through the waiver empower individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to:

  • Choose where they live
  • Choose how they spend their time and what they do to be connected to the community
  • Self-direct or manage their supports
  • Support their own growth
  • Obtain access to the adaptive technology they need to live in their community
NC Innovations Waiver Quick Facts*
  • Individual cost limit / reimbursement rate in NC: $135k (maximum)
  • Innovations Waiver cost limit / reimbursement rate for NC per individual: $60k
  • Annual average cost of institutional care in NC: $120k
  • As of October 2016:
    • Waiver Slots: 12,488
    • Current Wait List: 10,000 individuals

*From The Division of Medical Assistance, Community Based Services (North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services)

 

Want to explore other ways that technology can empower independence? Contact SimplyHome at 877.684.3581 or email customer.service@simply-home.com.

 

 

 

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Where Is He Now? An Interview with Brian Keefer of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition

“You gotta work on that grip, Brian,” Allen Ray, SimplyHome’s CEO, said on his recent visit to the home of Brian Keefer. This may seem like an odd thing to say to someone who has quadriplegia, but you don’t know Brian Keefer. The 29-year-old Pennsylvanian and star of an episode of TLC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition just laughed in response to Allen’s remark. You might not know that Brian is well-known for his deeply positive outlook and indefatigable dedication to recovering as much mobility as possible after a 2008 gymnastics accident left him paralyzed. A recent highlight of Brian’s recovery was regaining the ability to lift his left hand and to open a door for himself: “It was one of the best things I’ve done in my entire life. A huge stepping stone!”

 

Allen Ray visits with the Keefer Family

While encouraged by his progress, Brian has no intention of stopping there: he wants to walk, drive, and work with others who face quadriplegia. Mindful of this, Allen used his recent trip to Pennsylvania to encourage Brian to continue the intensity of his hard work towards recovery. Allen says, “Brian is focused and determined and will not stop there. We know this development is just one step in his longer journey to recovery.”

 

You may remember that the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition episodes featured renovations of the Keefer family home and technology SimplyHome designed for Brian to give him greater independence. The technology included a tablet that powered environmental controls (home automation), a voice-activated adjustable bed and drink machine, intercoms for communicating throughout the home, adaptive controls for playing video games with his family, and voice-controlled text, before voice-texting was a common feature on cell phones.

 

SimplyHome asked Brian a few questions about his life after Extreme Makeover, how technology impacts his life today, and where his goals will lead him next!

 

SH: What’s your life like after the show? Do you get recognized a lot?

Brian: It’s really good. I am really thankful; the show gave me a lot more independence. I can talk to my house, turn on the lights and the music and everything. I definitely get recognized a lot. I travel around South Central Pennsylvania giving speeches, and people recognize me through that, too.

I have had a lot of opportunities. I have gotten to scuba dive in California with my doctors. I have been helping to coach volleyball at my high school. In 2013 I went to Oklahoma for a couple of months and helped coach the men’s and women’s Paralympics volleyball teams.  I’m not just staying in my house – I go out and do things, make choices, to have a full life in society.

 

SH: Tell us about your work as a motivational speaker.

Brian: People have wanted to hear my story ever since I got hurt. I have had people tell me that I have changed their lives completely, helped them through dark times. Every time I do my speech, it’s relatively similar, telling my story. In the Q&A time after my speech, one of the first questions people always ask is, “How are you able to stay so positive?”

 

SH: How do you answer that? You must have some hard days.

Brian: I have always been a really positive person, I am always having fun and smiling. Because I am such a positive person, I am able to turn a really difficult situation into something better. I also have an enormous support system. I am lucky to have what I have, people praying for me and everything.

Everyone has days where they are dark days or down days, but I’ve always been a firm believer that you make the choice whether to be happy or to be sad. Obviously there are things that will affect that, but you can still choose to pick yourself up and do something. And I have so many people supporting me. If I need to, there is someone I can go to – we can go out, get some food, go see a movie.

 

SH: What technology does your daily life involve these days? Are you continuing to use the technology from the show, like the voice-activated texting, bed lift, and drink machine?

Brian: I use a mouth stick to text people now, rather than voice-to-text. That way I can text people even when I am in the middle of something, like watching a movie. I have gotten really fast at it now. I use the environmental controls through my voice on my tablet all day, every day. I don’t need the voice-activated adjustable bed as much, because I just keep it elevated. I read a lot of books on my tablet. I’ll read pretty much anything but my favorites are usually sci-fi and fantasy. Two of my favorite series are Harry Potter and Eragon.

Extreme Home Makeover Edition, Brian Keefer and Family

SH: What do you think about the Amazon Alexa, the new technology Allen brought on his visit?

Brian: Alexa is great, she has great potential. It would be huge to connect it to Environmental Controls. Another thing she could help with is to talk on the phone or use social media.

 

SH: We were excited to hear about you regaining the ability to lift your left arm. Tell us about that process.

Brian: I do physical therapy every day, seven days a week. An aide comes in three times a week to help my dad do the exercises that take two people and are more intensive for my core. After the aide leaves, my dad and I can do more machines that don’t require an outside person. A lot of the exercises work on balance.

The change to be able to lift my arm was gradual. I got a flicker in my left bicep when I was first in the hospital, 8 years ago. About a year and a half ago, I was able to start lifting my arm off the armrest. Still working on the hand and fingers. I opened a door at Kennedy Krieger for the first time by myself last year. It was a huge stepping stone!

 

SH: Tell us about your work on the board of United Central Palsy – Central Pennsylvania.

Brian: I gave a speech for UCP of Central PA a couple of years back and had gotten to know them through that. The president, Jeff Cooper, came out to the house, and I got to know him fairly well. Jeff reached out to me to see if it was something I was interested in doing. I decided to do that to help people across Central PA who have some sort of disability. We have meetings every other week. I give my two cents and help out where I can. I help to make decisions on new programs and how the programs are going, and how to optimize their capabilities for people with disabilities.

 

SH: Your motivational speaking career is growing a lot. Who is your audience right now? How do you see that continuing to grow in the future?

Brian: I will talk to anybody that wants to listen – businesses, schools, churches, Parkinson’s groups, the nursing school in Lancaster. I’d like to expand my speaking audience to other places, beyond South Central Pennsylvania.

I would love to be able to do something like webinars to share my story – it would be a lot easier than driving all over. To be able to share my story and be able to reach out to people who are going through dark times — that’s what I want to do.

 

SH: Looking to the future, what are some things that you would like to accomplish?

Brian: Number one, I want to get out of my chair and walk. I am working toward that every day.

I want to learn to use more technology to become more independent. I would LOVE to drive. For the past three years I have been helping to coach my high school volleyball team. It would be awesome to be able to drive to that.

Potentially I would like to work with more spinal cord injury patients, when I make more of a recovery myself. Who better to work with them than me? I know what they are going through. [Brian’s college degree is in recreational management with a focus on therapy.]

Photo: www.briankeefer.org

SH: As you continue your recovery, what inspires you?

Brian: Probably what inspires me the most is the response I get from other people, telling me that I have helped them. I’ve always wanted to help people, and being told that I inspired them is really big. My family and friends inspire me because they are so supportive and with me on every step of this journey, pushing with me. And I have heard from people all over the world – the show aired in 139 different countries and people will reach out to say that I touched their lives and have been an inspiration to them.

 

Brian Keefer can be contacted regarding his motivational speaking through his website, www.briankeefer.org.

Watch the original episodes from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Season 9: Episode 6 and Episode 7.

 

Arc of NC State Conference Features David Maennle and SimplyHome

“Enabling technology empowers individuals to dream of new possibilities where every person can live a life of their choosing. It should be less about a person’s needs and more about their abilities, capabilities, and potential for success through natural supports.”

- Allen Ray, SimplyHome

 

This year’s ARC of NC State Conference will feature key presentations by SimplyHome and a Western North Carolina family who uses SimplyHome technology on a daily basis to support more independent living. This year’s conference takes place September 8-9, in Charlotte, NC, and brings together self-advocates, families of people with disabilities, and I/DD professionals to create an informative and inspiring experience aimed at supporting people with disabilities as they pursue their personal goals for work, home, and community.

SimplyHome’s conference presentation will engage families to discuss the life-changing effects of assistive technology and smart home options for people with disabilities. SimplyHome will also partner in a panel on Assistive Technology. David Maennle, an individual who uses SimplyHome technology, and his mother, Becky Garland Hopper, will both participate in this panel, discussing how David’s use of assistive technology supports his vision for his life.

David's VisionDavid Maennle’s story (“David’s Vision”) is a great example of how technology can promote independence and create customized outcomes for people with disabilities. David Maennle is an accomplished young man who won’t take no for an answer. Diagnosed with down syndrome as an infant, David has established very specific goals for his home, workplace, and community. He has graduated from Western Carolina University’s University Participant program, formed friendships with people with and without disabilities, successfully completed internships related to emergency medical care and athletic injuries, obtained a job with the Graham County EMS, and frequently volunteers in his community. David’s coworkers attest that he is a valued member of his workplace and his larger community. David also serves in leadership for the advocacy organization NC-TASH.

David’s mother Becky, an outspoken advocate for inclusion, also has a unique perspective on the use of technology to promote independence for people with disabilities. Becky not only functions as Treasurer for the North Carolina TASH, but also works as Finance Officer of Graham County, NC. Because of her position in finance, Becky is keenly aware that David’s chosen lifestyle not only promotes his desired goals for his life, but ends up being a cost-effective way to support people with disabilities.

David uses a SimplyHome system (a customized integration of assistive technology) to promote residential safety, to adhere to a daily schedule, and to enable his family members to provide a natural level of support without intruding on his independence and privacy. David utilizes customized verbal prompts and various sensors throughout his home to reach outcomes related to cooking his own meals, completing a morning routine of self-care before he heads to work, ensuring he meets his health needs every day, and accessing help quickly if needed.

Comparing North Carolina’s typical costs for providing group home or institution-based support services to someone with disabilities similar to David’s, Becky has calculated that David’s chosen, independent lifestyle, supported by assistive technology, saves the state almost $100,000 annually.

 

“Beyond cost, the big factor is his quality of life, and his ability to navigate life himself, which is priceless.”

- Becky Garland Hopper

 

David continues to set and meet goals for his life, whether it be his goal of building his own log cabin, caring for his own bluetick hound, or continuing to work with area emergency services in Western North Carolina.

What can technology do for you and your family? Do you have the courage to change the way you and your loved ones live? Are you ready for technology to step in and provide the independence your family members long for? We’re on this journey together.

Thanks to the willingness of David and other individuals to share their stories, SimplyHome is engaging in thought-provoking discussions on customized technology solutions that promote independence, dignity, and person-centered planning in the lives of people with disabilities.

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