Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

A Home for the Whole Family

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

A Home for the Whole Family

Article excerpt

Looking back at their previous housing situation, Laurie and Jeff Schutz can't imagine how they ever survived. It wasn't that long ago that the Schutz family of five was living in an 1,100 square foot, two bedroom house. Under normal circumstances, this would have been cramped for any family. The Schutzes, however, have a son with cerebral palsy.

Laurie Schutz had about as normal a first-time pregnancy as any woman could want, carrying to full term. Her problem began during a long labor, including nearly 30 hours of hard labor, that produced a colossal amount of stress on her as-yet unborn son.

"It was a long delivery. As time went by, Laurie was struggling, and the baby's ability to withstand the contractions got weaker. Her contractions were just wearing him down and putting an immense amount of strain on him," Jeff recalls in explaining what went wrong. "Babies usually feel the contractions and then recover. In Joel's case, the heart rate wasn't coming back as it should. He was in distress."

Joel Schutz was born with an Apgar score (a method to quickly and summarily assess the health of a newborn immediately after birth) of 0-1-1. Jeff said his son was in full code and wasn't stabilized for nearly 20 minutes. He was eventually transferred to a larger hospital with a NICU, where tests were run to see what happened. The result? "They discovered nothing other than he was oxygen deprived at birth," Jeff said.

So not only were the Schutzes adjusting to life as first time parents, they were adjusting to life with a newborn who had cerebral palsy, and they were living in a house that would be totally inadequate for him and his needs.

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Jeff said that although his house was on a beautiful piece of property, he and Laurie knew that as their family grew, they'd have to make different arrangements. "We knew we'd need a house that was better equipped to help us raise our son and any other children we were planning to have," Jeff said. "As Joel got older, we knew this house would be more and more of a problem."

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"Inside the house, everything was pretty cramped, especially once we started getting more and more equipment for Joel," Jeff recalls. "The house had a kitchen, eating area, living area, one small bedroom, and a larger master bedroom. We had to get rid of the eating area so we could store Joel's equipment. We had to eat every night around the coffee table."

They lived in this house about a year and a half with all three of their children. Their next son Joshua shared a 9' x 11' bedroom with Joel and all Joel's medical equipment, while youngest child, Nicole, slept in the master bedroom with her parents. The Schutzes knew they had to make a change.

Jeff and Laurie were speaking with their attorney, Jay Kearns, who suggested they contact Todd Rosenblum, principal of Adaptive Architecture. Mr. Kearns, who has worked with Adaptive Architecture on numerous other accessible homes, knew that the firm would be able to help the Schutzes come up with a solution for their housing needs.

Laurie and Jeff met with Adaptive Architecture to talk about whether to renovate and expand their current house or build and design from scratch. Jeff said that while he knew that the house they were living in was totally inadequate, he also knew how much they loved the property where the house was located. "We were dealing with a house built in the 1930s, and nothing about that house was handicapped accessible or ever would be. We were faced with a decision--the same decision everyone faces. You either buy a plot of land and build, or you buy a house and modify it. In our case, with our plot of land, you could level the house and start from scratch. We owned the property outright, so we chose that option."

The Schutzes and Mr. Rosenblum went over all aspects of what they wanted in a house. Being an outdoorsy kind of family, Jeff said it was important that the house have an outdoor feel, even from the inside. …

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