Life Skills Center for Children with Various Abilities – Maya Johnson

Maya Johnson is a current senior at Thousand Oaks High School. Upon visiting a pediatric therapeutic unit at a public health clinic, she noticed that a certain area was in dire need of renovations. Recognizing that the publicly funded clinic was not receiving the kind of attention it needed, Maya decided to take matters into her own hands and begin her Girl Scout Gold Award project.

“The root cause of the issue that my project addresses is the lack of funding that therapeutic units receive from the Ventura County Public Health Department,” Maya said. “The funds that they are given are allocated to larger necessities for the clinic, so they are not left with much money to replace old items. A renovation was considered a non-essential project for the unit, so they didn’t have proper funding to buy things, even if it would greatly improve the quality of their care. I addressed the accessibility of public health therapy units and the resources that are needed, but are not provided to them due to lack of funding.”

The area that Maya chose to renovate resided in one of Ventura County’s Public Health Department’s pediatric therapeutic units. Occupational and physical therapists in the unit teach daily living skills, such as dressing, walking, eating, and playing, to children with special needs. She met with the head of the therapeutic unit and the physicians that worked there to address their needs. Maya wanted to focus on creating a bright, welcoming environment for the children so that they could focus on developing their gross and fine motor skills in a safe space. Additionally, she wanted to fulfill some of the therapists’ wish list items for the unit to improve their work with patients.

Through donations from her friends and family, Maya was able to raise nearly $1,000 for her project. She used that money to purchase paint, new rugs, towels and feeding bibs, a play kitchen and toys, and clothes for the children to practice dressing themselves. After purchasing the necessary supplies, she had an extra $300 left over which she donated back to the clinic.

Maya enlisted her dad for help with the renovation process, and together they repainted worn cabinets, sanded and refinished splintering tables, put in new rugs, then cleaned, organized, and decorated the unit. “By painting the cabinets a lighter color and buying new rugs for the area, it created a lighter, happier environment,” Maya said. “My goal with buying a new play kitchen and food was to encourage the kids to utilize their fine motor skills in a fun, active way that gets them more involved. Finally, by sanding the old tables and placing Formica (an easy-to-clean plastic material) on top of them, I created a more sanitary feeding area for the therapists to work with. The children learn to feed themselves off of these tables, so they were in need of a more sanitary surface than wood.”

Maya wanted to inspire other people in her community to help their local clinics, so she created a pamphlet with details of her project and explained how others could donate to or volunteer at units like the one she renovated. The pamphlet was emailed to other medical units in the community as well as placed in the newly renovated unit with the intent to encourage others to get involved.

“I hope that through my project, the children in the special needs community are able to become more independent and confident through building their life skills and creating ease in their daily routine,” Maya said. “I hope that through creating a more positive environment for the kids, they will want to come to therapy and be more active with the therapists while learning new skills. Also, by reaching out to multiple individuals in the community and constantly keeping them updated with my project, I hope that they will take more active roles in the community and continuously choose to help support the cause. I also am hoping that through my project, others will also be inspired to support their local public health care therapy units and spread awareness.”

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