A Day in the Life

Sean Hanlon, age 10
Day student

8:45am Sean’s bus pulls up to HMS’s student entrance, but his day starts at 6:45 at home with companion dog Percy and a busy routine—dressing, medications, tube feeding, putting on leg braces, morning prayers with the family and feeding Percy. Sean’s bus pick up is around 7:30. At HMS a CNA accompanies Sean to his classroom. Warm greeting from teacher Ed Contaldi and assistant teacher Sara Sydney.

9:00-10:00 Class time. Teacher-led group music activity. Time to greet one another and to learn through music—concepts like taking turns, vocalizing, singing interactively, imitation through voice or instruments. Sean uses computer software that enables him to play notes, chords and vocalizations using a switch. He also likes to play the keyboard.

10:00-11:15 Something Magical weekly project with Germantown Friends School. Rehearsal for May performance. Sean, gregarious and fun-loving, comes alive with his GFS partner Connor—loves this interaction, is smiling.

11:15-11:45 Class time. Receives tube feeding. Practices using auditory scanning to communicate. Speech therapist Marianne Gellert-Jones has taught him this skill and it’s reinforced consistently in the classroom. Learning how to be patient and hit the switch at the correct word cue to hear a message that he wants to send in order to continue interacting or playing. Sean listens to several cues and hits the switch correctly for “roughhouse.” The computer rewards him with the full message, “I want to roughhouse,” a favorite activity. His teacher responds.

Noon-1:00 Personal care and medication. Relax with CNAs and friends. Read a story, catch up on HMS news.

1:00-1:30 Recreation therapy with Rich Magnuson driving the BOSS car. Sean activates a switch with his hand. Switch placed between his legs on the pummel of the seat. Very motivating activity for Sean—he’s attentive to his movements and the switch and likes the attention he gets moving down the hall. Pretends he’s chasing Rich.

1:30-2:15 Occupational therapy with OT Emily Hayes, who reinforces the team’s goals for Sean to increase consistency with switch access, usually a switch positioned behind his head. Sean likes to swing and to bounce on large therapy balls—is motivated to use a switch with voice output programmed to request more swinging or bouncing.

2:15-3:15 Class time. Tube feeding. Sean has fun driving a power wheelchair, owned by HMS and specially adjusted for him, across the room. More practice using a switch to move the chair to reach his teacher—Sean thrives on social interaction. Other goals are for Sean to experience moving through space and to learn concepts like “front and behind,” “near and far,” “come over here” that take on new meaning when he can move independently. Following this activity, teachers complete notes to parents in Sean’s communication book and prepare him for bus departure.

"GFS students learn so much from their HMS partners and cherish memories of their time on stage together. What a demonstration of the power of the human spirit and the talent and devotion of HMS teachers."

Dick Wade, Former Head of Germantown Friends School