McCarty Center Team Rallies To Transition Patient to College
The T. J. Turner Story
(September 16, 2013)
Determined. Driven. Motivated. Desire. Independent minded. Funny. Smart. These are just some of the descriptors used by the J. D. McCarty Center staff who helped 18-year old T. J. Turner transition from high school graduate to university freshman; and they did it in three very fast weeks.
Turner, who has been a patient of the McCarty Center since he was 7-years old, was admitted to the McCarty Center on July 24 for a period of intensive therapy and independent living skills training. During his admission meeting he told the staff he wanted to attend the University of Oklahoma this fall and major in broadcast journalism. He had made application to OU, but hadn't received his acceptance letter yet.
"T. J. has always worked on independent living skills when he's here," said Maria Greenfield, director of occupational therapy. "He's always wanted to be as independent as possible."
Turner, whose hometown is Chickasha, has wanted to go to OU since he was a freshman in high school. An internship with The Chickasha Leader weekly newspaper doing general assignment and sports reporting stoked his interest in journalism. Sports reporting is of particular interest to Turner who is a self-proclaimed sports nut.
Turner has never met a stranger. "I like meeting new people and talking with them. Because I like to talk, I thought a career in radio sports broadcasting would be the way to go for me."
"As soon as we knew what T. J.'s goal was, we organized to see what we needed to do to make it happen, Greenfield said. "The team consisted of therapists from speech-language, occupational and physical therapy, social work, psych, nursing and direct care. Our biggest challenge was going to be coordinating all of the groups and agencies involved in getting T. J. in school and supporting him."
One of the first calls the team made was to Dr. Chelle' Guttery, director of the Disability Resource Center, at OU. "This woman is awesome," said Greenfield. "She became
T. J.'s champion and continues to be. She helped remove all the barriers, physical or operational, that T. J. faced getting into school. I can't say enough about this woman."
Another very helpful resource in getting Turner set up in the Couch Center dorm was Jenn Doughty, director of operations, OU housing and food. "You couldn't have asked for a more helpful person in getting T. J. set up in a proper dorm room in such a short time frame," said Aaron Collidge, an occupational therapy student from Texas Women's University in Denton, Texas. Coolidge was working with Turner while doing a clinical rotation at the McCarty Center.
To get Turner ready for college, the team evaluated each element of his life and how he'd be independent. Questions they asked and answered were how would he feed himself; could he make transfers from his wheelchair to a toilet or bed; how would he get to class; could he make and keep a schedule; how would he dress himself? For most college freshmen these questions have simple answers, but for a college freshman with cerebral palsy who uses a wheelchair and has very limited use of his limbs the answers were a bit more complicated, but it can all be accomplished with a little training and a lot of planning.
The planning for Turner began with several trips to the OU campus. The therapy members of the team visited Turner's dorm room in Couch Center to look for potential safety issues and to determine what adaptations might need to be made. Then, with Turner, they walked to his classroom buildings to determine what obstacles might present themselves in getting into the building or classroom. Obstacles were noted and reported to Dr. Guttery who got things resolved.
Maria Bratton, a speech-language pathologist, worked with Turner on executive functioning skills. These skills include: problem solving, organizing, making and keeping a schedule, setting reminders and generally getting ready to do these things on his own.
"T. J. has a lot of drive and desire that will help him overcome his limitations and succeed," Bratton said. "His biggest challenge will be learning to navigate through the executive functions we've been working on and dealing with being a college freshman."
Physical therapist Phillip Studebaker assessed Turner's adaptive equipment needs for the dorm and campus use. In the dorm he looked at a Turner's bed and mattress system for maximum safety and comfort. Studebaker also trained Turner's personal care staff on the use of a hydraulic lift to help with transfers. And most important he assessed the maintenance and condition of Turner's power chair to make sure it was "road ready" for use on campus.
Marci Koetter-Manson was the social worker on Turner's transition team. She was involved in helping Turner coordinate his personal care staff through Health Care Innovations, a home health agency, fill out financial aid forms and coordinate Turner's support from Department of Rehab Services, the DHS Independent Living Program and Selynda Bass, an education coordinator for DHS at OU.
"It's magnificent how hard people at the McCarty Center and OU were working to help me get into school," said Turner. "The McCarty Center has helped me develop my independence. It's comforting to know the staff here is ready to help. It gives you confidence. The preparation here has been amazing."
Turner has a personal care staff of 7 who work with him in 2 to 4 hour shifts during the day. Two of these people alternate being his suite mate at night. Turner also has a scribe who attends class with him and takes notes.
Turner doesn't let his cerebral palsy get in his way. He has a strong desire to be successful. His drive comes from a positive attitude and faith. "It's all about attitude for me, and I choose to be positive," he said. "I have a disability. God has a plan for me and my job is to discover what it is."
So, what is Turner's prognosis? If you ask him, Turner will tell you he'll complete college with a high GPA and launch a career in broadcast sports. Koetter-Manson sums up the general consensus of the transition team by saying that he has as much chance of completing college as any other freshman. The difference is he's more driven to succeed than the average freshman. And, if that's true, you should be listening to hear Turner's smooth voice on a sports radio broadcast in a few short years.
The J. D. McCarty Center is Oklahoma's center of excellence in the care and treatment of children with developmental disabilities from birth to age 21. This hospital provides the physical, occupational, speech and language therapy that children, like T. J. Turner, need reach their highest level of functionality and independence. For more information visit www.jdmc.org or find us on Facebook.
C. J. Mays (left), a senior political science major from the Tulsa area, is T. J. Turner's scribe for the fall semester. Because Turner has limited use of his hands and arms, Mays attends class with Turner and takes notes for him. Mays' services are provided through OU's Disability Resource Center.
McCarty Center physical therapist Phillip Studebaker demonstrates proper transfer technique to members of T. J. Turner's personal care staff. The personal care staff training was just one of many steps in preparation for Turner's move into the dorm and beginning campus life. Looking on is Kelsey Bivens, one of seven people who will assist Turner.
T. J. Turner is all smiles as he begins his college career in pursuit of a degree in broadcast journalism. Sporting a class of 2017 t-shirt, Turner has transitioned to college life with the support of the J. D. McCarty Center, OU's Disability Resource Center, Oklahoma Department of Rehab Services, DHS Independent Living Program and Health Care Innovations.