Every parent recognizes that each of their children has a unique personality which brings with it a variety of hopes, dreams, and desires. Each child also has special needs. That is especially true of children with developmental disabilities. At St. Mary’s, we recognize individuality and build programs designed to help each child realize his or her potential. Our Qualified Mental Retardation Professionals (QMRPs) develop and coordinate training programs to teach skills which are vital to our children and young adults’ future independence. Our comprehensive array of services and activities add a family-centered quality of life which enhances the growth and development of each person.
Relationships with family members and the opportunity to communicate with loved ones is of utmost importance to our children and young adults. The Social Services Department of St. Mary’s acts as liaison between the family or guardians and our residents to maintain an ongoing communication system. Helping families cope with difficult decisions about the future of their children while assisting them to maintain a close, loving relationship is a primary goal of the staff of Social Services. Another major function of the Social Services Department is to ensure that each individual’s human and civil rights are thoroughly protected. The staff also prepares families and children for significant changes in the living situation, when indicated, and assists the families and residents in discharge preparation and planning.
Self-Help and Independent Skills Training
The goal of all of our teaching programs is to help our children and young adults learn functional skills which will help them to be as independent as possible. Functional skills training programs focus on teaching self-help tasks such as toileting, personal hygiene, dressing, grooming, and eating. The skills are broken down into small, discrete steps and taught using a variety of prompts and systematic reinforcement. Skills such as clothing care, community integration, safety, money handling, cleaning living areas, functional academics, and phone use are taught in a similar fashion using individualized programs.
The ability to communicate is vital to the development of social interactions, relationships, and a sense of self. It is with this in mind that we at St. Mary’s attempt to integrate communication training into every aspect of our children and young adults’ lives. Language stimulation sessions and residential based dorm programs are developed and coordinated by a licensed speech pathologist consultant. Programs are designed to enhance the use of nonverbal communication skills as well as verbal communication skills.
A most valuable asset to our school-age children is our off-campus day school, Rapides Training Academy,which is provided by the Rapides Parish School Board. The school is staffed by certified special education teachers who work in conjunction with the staff at St. Mary’s. In this way, we are able to provide a comprehensive educational program for each of our children. For those children who are able to attend community schools and Rapides Training Academy, bus service is provided to and from St. Mary’s.
St. Mary’s 24-hour a day clinic staffed by Licensed Practical Nurses and Certified Nursing Assistants attend to the routine medical needs of all of our residents. A medical director/general practitioner, a family practitioner, and a wide array of specialists including a neurologist, psychiatrist, dentist, optometrist, ophthalmologists and cardiologists are readily available. Nearby hospitals are utilized for surgical procedures or emergencies. Medications are dispensed in the medication rooms on our dormitories by an LPN at prescribed times throughout the day and night.
The individual dietary needs of our children/young adults are assessed by a licensed dietician who plans and supervises menus based on these needs. A nutritional management committee, under the direction of the dietician, evaluates and monitors issues which may affect the appetite, swallowing processes, or eating skills of the residents. The team approach to monitoring possible risk factors allows us to integrate nutrition and feeding precautions into our comprehensive programs.
A staff psychologist and a team of behavior technicians work with the staff and residents of St. Mary’s to develop and implement behavior management plans using the most current research-based procedures. Functional behavior analyses are conducted to identify target behaviors and provide a framework for designing interventions which will reduce the occurrence of inappropriate behaviors. Other services include token economy programs, compliance training and staff education programs. Intellectual assessments are conducted on at least triennial basis, with adaptive behavior assessments administered annually.
Applied Behavior Analysis
A Board Certified Associate Behavior Analyst works closely with other management staff at St. Mary’s in order to promote the comprehensive use of the principles of applied behavior analysis. Applied behavior analysis uses research-based practices to teach socially significant behaviors. Important elements of programming include teaching in the natural environment, the use of positive reinforcement, data collection, incidental teaching and generalization of skills within various settings. Our Autism Resource Center provides 1:1 discrete trial instruction in language skills, social interaction, self-help, and pre-academics. An Autism library is available to the community. Staff training is ongoing in order to promote systematic integration of the techniques of applied behavior analysis throughout all campus programs.
At St. Mary’s, recreation is more than just a good time. Recreational activities are designed to help children/adults to develop and maintain gross motor skills and important leisure skills. Our year-round horse program provides for recreational riding, covered wagon rides, and Special Olympic opportunities. A petting zoo, complete with a pot-bellied pig, a rabbit, a miniature donkey, a goat, a cat, and other animals, allows children to get “up close and personal” and learn to care for animals. St. Mary’s boasts a walking trail, an enclosed swimming pool, a gym, and a baseball field, of which all contribute to a well-rounded recreational program. Our children are often taken into the community to churches, restaurants, malls, rodeos, circuses, picnics, and various other functions. In addition to being fun, all the activities help build self-esteem and enhance interpersonal and social skills.