February 12, 2013

Aviv Donates Rehab Equipment to Salem Schools

SALEM – Lisa Ginivisian, an occupational therapist for both the Salem Public Schools and Aviv Centers for Living, used her strategic position to secure a donation from Aviv to help special needs students in the Salem Public Schools.
In September, Aviv moved residents from the Jewish Rehabilitation Center in Swampscott to the new, state-of-the-art long term care facility, the Waldfogel Health Center. At that time, they upgraded some of the rehabilitation equipment for the new facility.
“I saw that they were starting to pack up and discard old things because they had newer things in the new facility. I asked if they were willing to make a donation and offered to personally come with a truck,” said Ginivisian.
She worked with Megin Hemmerling, Aviv’s executive director of assisted living who had formerly worked as director of rehabilitation.  Ginivisian’s timing was impeccable.
“Aviv wanted to branch out to into the community and Megin made a list of things available. The more she heard, the more she wanted to do,” said Ginivisian.
The timing was perfect for the Salem schools as well. Recently, Salem has been enhancing their programs for students with disabilities who, under state law, can remain in school until they are 22.  Ginivisian wanted to address an issue common with older specials needs students. Many of them are out of shape and lack stamina. Their physical and cognitive disabilities make it harder for them to get the proper exercise that allows them to succeed in some of the vocational jobs for which they are trained.
“I was happy that someone could benefit from the rehab equipment.  Once I started putting together our donation, I kept finding other things that might be of use to Lisa, so the donation became larger and larger,” said Hemmerling.
“These kids are getting ready to live independently, but from an OT (occupational therapy) perspective, they need strength and endurance.  They can barely stand in one place too long,” Ginivisian said.
She and a teacher moved and adapted the equipment as well as a school space to create the “Work Hardening” program, designed to offer students the physical training for some of the assembly line tasks they will end up doing.
Aviv gave them a large mat that is used to stretch. They also have an arm bicycle so the students can build arm strength and range of motion. They have foot pedals so the students in wheelchairs can exercise legs. When the students are ready, she adds ankle and wrist weight to create resistance. In addition to increasing stamina for work, it increases their overall health.
“These are students who will never have the awareness and ability to ride a bicycle. With this equipment, they can ride in a way that does not require balance,” Ginivisian said.
To make it all work, Ginivisian worked with the special education team in Salem and the vocational team. The vocational teacher created and adapted space within a vocational classroom so students can work on range of motion and strength training as part of their participation in life and vocational skills training.
“Strength and endurance are sort of a prerequisite to job tasks or activity of daily living,” she said.
Hemmerling enjoys hearing about the student progress in Salem.
“What is most satisfying are the stories that Lisa shares about how many of her students are accomplishing things that they could not have otherwise done without his equipment. That is the true meaning of giving,” Hemmerling said.