Creating Possibilities

Turnstone helps people with disabilities gain and maintain independence.
Dec 4, 2019
Tammy Davis
Jeffrey Crane

On any given day, someone at Turnstone accomplishes a task others thought he or she could never do. It might be as simple as holding a fork or taking a first step, or as far-reaching as competing in a national or international sports competition, but every personal victory helps reset that person’s awareness of and confidence in their strengths and abilities. 

Turnstone, a nonprofit agency that offers services ranging from rehabilitation to recreation, serves clients with physical, visual, intellectual and neurological disabilities. The agency’s success in these areas has led other organizations across the country to look to Turnstone for best practices to use in their own facilities. Now in its 76th year of operation, Turnstone serves more than 3,500 individuals a year, helping them achieve goals they once considered impossible.

“Our primary goal is to support people in functioning to their maximum capability so they can remain independent as long as possible,” says Chief Executive Officer Mike Mushett. “But with the friendships, social aspects and moral support found at Turnstone, the social opportunity 

in coming here is as important as the therapies and fitness.”

For many people, engaging with Turnstone begins with rehabilitation. Clients of all ages come to Turnstone with disabilities that may be the result of birth anomalies, genetic disorders, accidents or something that may have been acquired later in life. These might include strokes, spinal cord injuries, arthritis and knee or hip replacements. Regardless of what brings them, Turnstone addresses each client’s specific needs with an individualized plan of care. 

“Our team provides a comprehensive array of specialized therapies and services under one roof,” explains Director of Rehab Therapy Chanda Lichtsinn. “That allows us to take a whole-person approach and connect with other services.”

A key component of this approach involves including the client’s family. Teaching the family or primary caregiver to be a strong member of that team is essential to the client, whether he is a child or an adult.

“We get to know the parents and other family members and include them in the plan,” explains Mushett. “It’s important that the work that is done here can be continued in the home.”

Rehabilitation services at Turnstone include physical and aquatic therapy, occupational therapy and speech pathology. They also feature a variety of supplemental modalities that enhance these therapies. For example, Turnstone’s Snoezelen room stimulates various senses in order to maximize a person’s potential to focus and engage. Turnstone’s Augmentative Alternative Communications (AAC) lab allows clients to learn to use adaptive equipment activated by hand, switch, finger or even eye gaze to allow a non-verbal client to communicate in single words or sentences.

“These are very specialized services,” says Lichtsinn. “Individuals on our team are well-trained and experienced, but moreover, they’re very caring and very kind.”

In fact, therapists and staff are passionate about connecting with clients and learning what motivates them. Understanding those motivations helps staff offer therapies that are more fun, provide choices and allow the client to maintain control of the process. 

The best motivator on the team is Milo, Turnstone’s therapy dog who serves clients under the direction of his owner and Turnstone therapist Zoe Martin, OTR. Differing from his human counterparts, Milo has a gift for drawing people out in unique ways. 

“Milo is able to encourage our clients to do things in therapy that our therapists may not be able to accomplish. He just senses what people need,” says Lichtsinn. “We have many people whose first steps or words came because of Milo. He recently helped one client throw a ball for the first time after a stroke.”

As clients progress, Turnstone’s fitness center offers state-of-the art options for wellness and recreation that naturally integrate into a care plan. With its adaptive equipment and exercise programs, two warm-water therapy pools, and group fitness classes, Turnstone’s Health and Wellness Center is the only exercise facility in the region tailored to people with disabilities. 

Physical and occupational therapists collaborate with the wellness staff to incorporate fitness into a client’s plan of care. While fitness may work on muscle strengthening, therapy can translate that into walking, for example. Physical aquatic therapy in the warm-water pools can work muscles clients cannot work on land, in order to increase later success on land.

“Overall, the Health and Wellness Center has impacted the lives of many people,” says Director of Wellness and Adaptive Sports Michelle Kimpel. “We have so many amazing stories of people shattering prognoses, dropping medications, and improving their physical abilities.”

Clients can obtain a fitness membership at Turnstone just like any other gym, even without being part of the therapy program. Members can use the adaptive fitness equipment, participate in land and pool classes, and connect with others. Eligibility includes nearly any condition that requires some sort of adaptation, such as arthritis, a recent surgery, Parkinson’s disease, and more. The center even offers programs for veterans that include monthly socials, meals, exposure to recreational programs, and speakers. 

More competitive members can participate on one of Turnstone’s sports teams, including wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby, sled hockey, track and field, and power soccer. The state-of-the-art facility also serves as a United States Olympic & Paralympic Training Center, and at the elite level, its men’s and women’s goalball teams are internationally ranked and heading to the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. People who may have thought sports were out of the question for them can compete on recreational, national and international levels. 

Even if Turnstone clients know they are capable, it is equally important for the community at large to understand. In an effort to promote inclusion, Turnstone has invited a local high school track team to conduct its winter conditioning at the facility alongside Turnstone athletes. Now in year three, the program is having a clear impact on both groups.

“Inclusion pushes athletes with disabilities,” says Kimpel. “It can be emotionally draining, but the athletes excel better and quicker in that situation. We’ve also seen new friendships develop, as well as an awareness that a disability doesn’t mean they don’t have things in common.”

Clearly Turnstone is making an impact in northeast Indiana. In 2019, Turnstone was voted best rehab center and best fitness center in the Fort Wayne Newspapers Readers’ Choice Awards. Those awards, however, simply recognize what clients and staff have known all along.

Lichtsinn affirms: “There’s no place like Turnstone.” 

Turnstone

Address: 3320 N. Clinton St. Fort Wayne, Indiana 46805

Phone: (260) 483-2100

Website: turnstone.org

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