Grant uses a Coin-U-Lator device to learn about money and the value of different coins.
Marsha and Grant Kenney moved from Chicago in 2009 to join DDD and take advantage of the day treatment and training program at Cortney’s Place.
All the students at Cortney’s Place enjoy music therapy on Wednesdays, followed by lunch and the friendship hour, which is their favorite time of day.
In February, students at Cortney’s Place collected canned goods for St. Mary’s Food Bank. “It’s a good way to remember to pay it forward,” said Executive Director Chasidy Gray. “We’re grateful for everything we get.”
Students create menus and select recipes from Pinterest.
With recipes in hand, students list out the ingredients they need to purchase at either Fry’s or Costco. They cook on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
Cortney’s Place is decorated with colorful art, a sensory wall and students’ photos.
Regular fitness sessions as well as adapted Pilates and cross-fit classes help students limber up and strengthen their muscles.
The lobby at Cortney’s Place features a portrait wall of most of the 34 students.
In 2009, the Kenney family had a decision to make. Their son, Grant, who has cerebral palsy, would soon age out of high school. What would he do each day without school? Because Grant uses a wheel chair, the family who lived in Chicago investigated areas of the country where snow and ice would not pose a hindrance to Grant’s mobility. After a few trips to the Phoenix area, the family was still uncertain of what their son would do. Then, on their way to Sky Harbor Airport for a return flight to Chicago, they made a last minute stop at Cortney’s Place in Scottsdale.
“I started to cry because I just knew that this is what I wanted for him,” said Marsha Kenney, Grant’s mother. The Kenneys returned home that February, put their house up for sale, Mr. Kenney took an early retirement, and the family moved to Arizona by August.
Cortney’s Place provides day training for adults (DTA) with developmental disabilities. One of 297 DTAs contracted with the DES Division of Developmental Disabilities, Cortney’s Place provides specialized training to develop skills in activities of daily living. A day program may include volunteer opportunities, community experiences and/or a work program. DDD members or their guardians choose a day program that best fits their needs.
“Grant is more social than for him to be in a work program,” explained Kenney. “He wants to be social and be out in the community.”
As part of their community-based activities, the “students” volunteer at Pueblo Norte Senior Living Center three days a week. Plus, each month, the students choose a local nonprofit agency to support. “Then we do what’s called a ‘helping hands’ activity,” explained Chasidy Gray, Executive Director of Cortney’s Place. The students solicit donations from family members, neighbors, and businesses neighboring the facility. Most recently, the students collected canned goods for St. Mary’s Food Bank.
Kenney was also impressed with “the colors, brightness, and the fact that they had a calendar of what they did each day, hour by hour. So I knew he wasn’t going to be sitting around watching TV.”
Each day is filled with structured activities and time is scheduled for each student to focus on his or her individual goals. These goals are set by a DDD Support Coordinator and the guardians in the Individual Service Plan, which is reviewed and updated every 90 days. Grant’s current goals include learning money skills, making eye contact when meeting new people and building his vocabulary.
Another skill Grant and his classmates are developing is menu planning, creating shopping lists, shopping at a local grocery store and cooking. Everyone has a favorite menu item to cook and Grant is no different. His favorite?
“Pizza,” said Grant.
The students enjoy 40 outings per month, such as bowling, visiting the science center and museums. “Fun stuff, but everything with a purpose,” said Gray. “If the outings aren’t purely educational, there’s an educational component to it.”
Kenney noted, “The fact that they go out into the community and they have so many different therapies that come in – pet therapy, music therapy, hydrotherapy, swimming. They go to the grocery store, they go bowling. They go out to special events sometimes. It was a perfect fit for Grant.”
Grant’s favorite activity? “Hydro,” which is short for hydrotherapy. Students alternate between Tuesdays and Thursdays for an hour-long certified hydrotherapy session at the nearby AquaSafe indoor swimming pool. Cortney’s Place also offers computer and iPad technology classes where, among other things, the students take turns finding new recipes on Pinterest. Other activities include adapted Pilates, adapted cross-fit training and regular fitness sessions.
“He participates in every activity,” said Kenney. Except one. The Snoezelen® room.
The Snoezelen room is a multi-sensory relaxation area with soothing sounds, special-effects lighting and calming aromas to help reduce agitation and anxiety. “Some students love this room,” said Gray, “some don’t like it at all.” Grant is one student who doesn’t like it. According to Kenney, “[Grant] wants to be where the action is.”
“Music therapy’s the one thing that everybody loves,” said Gray. Each Wednesday at 10:00 a.m., the students gather in the multi-purpose room to participate in a group music therapy class, followed by lunch and the friendship hour. The students at Cortney’s Place represent a wide range of disabilities with a mix of high- and low-functioning individuals who blend well together. “They help each other,” commented Gray. “The friendships are great.”
“I believe that the community needs a program like this and that these students, these young adults, deserve to have a meaningful day,” said Kenney. And that belief fits right in with DDD’s mission to empower Arizonans with developmental disabilities to lead self-directed, healthy, meaningful lives.
By Lyn Riley