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Clients Celebrate a Successful Season at the Big House

Special Tree’s InPro Enterprises wrapped up another season of running the condiment stations at U of M’s Big House during the 2018 football season.   With support from Special Tree’s job coaches, clients were responsible for filling and cleaning all condiment stations at the 100,000 seat stadium for six home games.

“Our vocational clients received glowing reviews from the health inspectors on the excellent cleanliness of the condiment stations,” said Rene Dell, Associate Director of Vocational Services.   

InPro Enterprises began managing the condiment stations at the Big House in 2016 to help clients gain valuable work experience in the community.  Clients work on developing important job skills for competitive employment like following directions, working under stress, focusing on tasks, and being part of the team.

The Big House is one of many community enclaves that are part of Special Tree’s Vocational Rehabilitation program.  “The enclaves are a great bridge for vocational clients who are ready to beef up their job readiness skills in a work environment outside of Special Tree,” said Dell.  Special Tree/InPro Enterprises partner with local businesses and non-profit organizations to find paid, real-work experiences that clients enjoy and that they’re best suited for.   Prior to working in an enclave, vocational counselors develop an individualized vocational plan for each client through interviews, vocational testing, and/or in-depth vocational assessments.  Being familiar with each client's needs, interests, and goals helps job coaches to modify and adapt job tasks at enclaves so clients experience success and learn to work independently.

Learn more about Special Tree's Vocational Rehabilitation Services.

Special Tree Shines at Re:Con 2018

Special Tree was well represented at re:con 2018, the premiere event for vocational professionals in Michigan.   The annual two-day conference in Traverses City features professional workshops, panel discussions, and merchandising opportunities for micro-businesses like InPro Enterprises that employ individuals with disabilities.

Among the workshop presenters was Special Tree’s Rene Dell, Assoc. Director of Vocational Services, whose presentation “Effective Vocational Counseling as a Path to Long Term Vocational Success” attracted a crowd and was well-received.   Rene was joined by Vocational team members Tara Forster, Blair Harrison, Kelly Hott and Heidi Nadobny who attended the conference for professional development as well as inspiration.  “It’s a wonderful conference and we always bring back new ideas for vocational assessments and counseling sessions as well as new ways to expand our work enclaves and merchandise for clients to make and sell,” said Rene.

The conference was also a great opportunity to spotlight Special Tree’s Vocational programs.  Special Tree’s exhibit booth was hopping thanks to Neal Dregansky, Marketing, and Jacob Spicer, Voc, who interacted with attendees.  A big conference highlight was the InPro Enterprises booth which sold nearly $600 in handmade items from Special Tree's greenhouse, ceramics, art studio, and woodshop vocationl programs!. Thanks to team members Laura Collopy and Doug Bouldin who provided support and assistance to clients working the booth.

Stop the Presses! Special Tree Earns 9th Top Workplace Award from the Freep

Special Tree is honored to be named a Top Workplace once again by the Detroit Free Press!  This 2018 recognition marks our 9th consecutive year to earn the award and we're thrilled to move up our ranking to #11 out of 35 in the large company category.

"We couldn't feel more proud of this award, particularly as the judges were our employees," said Kate McClain, Director of Workforce Engagement.  "They make Special Tree a great place to be every day."

To make the list, our employee's took an independent survey to rate Special Tree's performance on qualities that make a workplace great including direction, execution, career, conditions, leadership, and pay & benefits.  Special Tree's overall employee satisfaction score from the Top Workplace survey improved from last year and we were a standout in the number of comments we received on the survey -- 970 -- with many points of praise for Special Tree’s leadership, caring work environment, staff training program, and strong teamwork.  Here's a few that made us smile:

"I have the freedom to learn and grow within the clinical environment which has always been my dream. I enjoy interacting with the clients and staff at all levels. I feel needed and valued for the role I play here and my input matters. I feel like a part of the family and love being a part of such a great place."

"It is challenging, exciting and filled with opportunity to grow and contribute to the success of Special Tree. I like being able to make a positive difference and feel this company clears the path to be able to accomplish your goals and make a real difference to this company in your sphere of responsibility."

"Special Tree staff and leadership are always supportive of me and my personal needs which allows me to be flexible when I have important events with my family that may conflict with my work schedule."

"Provides me with the tools, training, space and challenging opportunities to be able to succeed and contribute in a positive way. I feel like this company empowers you as an individual to be creative and self-directed in your approach to your responsibilities and work."

"Special Tree is efficient in providing excellent care to every client we meet. We are a strong and responsible team and give our very best in everything we do." 

“I’d like to give my special thanks to our employees, not only for all of their hard work and dedication, but also for sharing their positive workplace experiences,” said CEO Joe Richert.   “Equally important is our employees’ understanding and strong commitment to our mission to help our clients achieve the most independent and meaningful life possible.”

Massage Therapists Now Trained in Lymphatic Drainage Massage

By Melissa Tapp, MT, CBIS

What is Lymphatic Drainage Therapy ?
Lymphatic Drainage Therapy is a gentle manual therapy that addresses the body’s fluids.  When our lymphatic system is working correctly it helps the body to circulate stagnate fluids, filter out toxins and foreign substances, and maintain a healthy immune system. Techniques are used to help fluid recirculate through the natural lymphatic pathways.  When a person exhibits fluid retention or edema, this treatment can be used in an attempt to decrease this swelling.

What training is involved in becoming a Certified Lymphedema Therapist?
Special Tree has massage therapists in Wayne county and Oakland who have completed the Lymphatic Drainage Therapy training, which consisted of four 30-hour classes and a written exam.  The team has a final hands-on exam which they’ll complete early next year.  They are qualified to utilize this treatment and address most types of fluid retention or edema.

How does Lymphatic Drainage Therapy help our clients?
When a person exhibits edema, this treatment can be used in an attempt to decrease this swelling.   For example, Lymphatic Drainage Therapy was used with one of our clients when the swelling in his leg affected his ability to wear his leg splint needed for his walking program.  After receiving orders from his doctor, Lymphatic Drainage Therapy was used twice weekly.  There was a measured decrease in edema in his leg within the first two weeks of treatment.  After approximately six weeks of treatment, he was able to wear his splint and resume his normal walking program.

Learn more about Special Tree's Massage Therapy services here.

CBIS: Special Tree Team Members Committed to Best Practices

Congratulations to the eight Special Tree team members who recently passed the exam to become Certified Brain Injury Specialists (CBIS).  They join 120 Special Tree team members who have earned the voluntary certification since 2004.  It requires class time, extensive preparation, and passing a national exam administered by the American Academy for the Certification of Brain Injury Specialists (AACBIS).  Initiated by the BIAA the AACBIS program was established in 1996 to improve the quality of care given to individuals with brain injuries through the continuing education of those who work in the field.  Special Tree team members are strongly committed to learning about best practices and to applying this knowledge to client care and rehabilitation.   The CBIS certification is voluntary and is available to all levels of professionals.

Highlights from the SCI Mobility + Recreation Expo

People from all over metro Detroit gathered at the NeuroCare Campus seeking inspiration and greater independence at Special Tree’s 5th annual SCI Mobility + Recreation Expo.   The Expo brought together 30 vendors who provide products, services, and recreational activities to help benefit and enrich the lives of people living with spinal cord injury and other disabilities.

Attendees enjoyed beautiful weather as they explored all the Expo had to offer.  They learned about mobility options including wheelchair accessible vehicles and all terrain wheelchairs.   They networked with vendors that provide home modifications and driving rehabilitation.  They tried out hand-cycle bikes and adaptive tennis equipment.  They watched hard-hitting, fast-paced games of wheelchair rugby and basketball.   Some got their wheelchairs tuned-up while others learned more about traveling with disabilities.

“The Expo is an opportunity to bring people together to show them what’s possible after a brain or spinal cord injury – which is just about everything,” said Todd Hammons, Special Tree’s Accessibility Advisor who spearheads the event.  Todd has spent the 29 years since he sustained a spinal cord injury at age 19 finding ways to do just about everything he wants to do and helping others do the same.

This year’s Expo was a big success with more vendors and an increase in attendance.  Local news coverage helped to build buzz for the event including a story that was featured on-line  and in the Sunday print editions of the News Herald, Oakland Press, and Macomb Daily newspapers. WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Action News interviewed Jack Richert and Todd Hammons on their Sunday morning news broadcast, and FOX2 News stopped by the event and did a recap on the 5pm news broadcast.

The Expo wouldn’t be possible without a tremendous team effort.  Many thanks to the team that made it all possible including Todd and Special Tree’s Facilities Maintenance Team — Director Jim Richert, Abby Whitford, Krystal Thompson, Dan Button, Shawn Opperman, Mark Blevins, Jeff Messersmith.

“We are honored to host this inspiring event every summer,” said Jim.  “Special Tree’s focus is always on possibility rather than obstacle; having Todd as a part of our team helps us keep that focus. We have an unwavering commitment to bring together brain and spinal cord injury rehabilitation organizations and vendors in one place through this event, so we can work together for the greater good.”

IN THE NEWS: SCI Mobility Expo on Fox 2 News

Thank you FOX 2 Detroit for stopping by our SCI Mobility & Recreation Expo! Here's a recap from the 5:00 news broadcast.


New Program Helps Patients Drive Toward Success

Driving is a skill that many patients want to regain after their injury.  Special Tree’s new Pre-Driving Program helps individuals take the first step toward driving again by making sure they’re safe and ready to get behind the wheel for on-the-road training. 

“We all spend so much time behind the wheel that we take for granted the underlying skills involved,” said OT Bev Zimmerman, who helped develop the program with a multi-disciplinary team at Special Tree.  “A TBI can alter many off-the-road skills needed to be a safe and successful driver such as concentration, memory, physical stamina, visual perception, problem-solving, and more.” 

The Pre-Driving Program helps rev-up those essential off-the-road skills through a six-week program that includes a clinical assessment with an OT, speech pathologist, and/or psychologist and a multi-disciplinary, clinician-led treatment plan with individualized goals to address skill deficits.  Individuals are reevaluated after six-weeks with recommendations from the therapy team for more treatment or a behind-the-wheel evaluation with a Certified Driving Rehabilitation Specialist.   The program officially launched in August and is being offered at Special Tree’s Troy, Romulus, and Midland outpatient clinics.

In addition to individualized OT, speech, and psychology treatment, the program also encompasses Special Tree’s Vision Therapy program which includes (if needed) a formal evaluation with a Behavioral Optometrist and Vision Therapy with a Special Tree OT.   The therapy team is also using advanced technology to provide data-driven assessments and treatment including CogniFit Brain Fitness and Simulated Driving Computers at each outpatient location.

Stay tuned for more updates about this exciting new program at Special Tree!


Did You Hear? Special Tree Earns Another Three-Year CARF Accreditation

Special Tree has earned another accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF), the highest level accreditation given to rehabilitation facilities.

CARF is an independent, non-profit accrediting organization, which works to ensure that high standards of care and quality are met by its accredited rehabilitation providers.  Special Tree voluntarily pursues CARF accreditation for its programs and services every three years.  To earn this internationally recognized accreditation, a team of CARF surveyors visited Special Tree to evaluate our programs, services, staff, policies, and procedures to make sure they met CARF standards. 

“Special Tree first earned CARF accreditation in 1991, and we're thankful to our team for helping to grow and expand it to more facilities and programs over time,” said Chief Quality Officer Mark MacAleese.  This year Special Tree earned accreditation for all the programs and services that were surveyed which included adding our Carrington Residence in Monroe, Middle Branch Residence in Macomb, and Home Health Care to the list as well as a new CARF accreditation for our Vocational Services as a Brain Injury Specialty Program. 

Special Tree’s new three-year accreditation includes the following programs and services:

Inpatient Rehabilitation Programs – Skilled Nursing:  Brain Injury Program (Adults)
Interdisciplinary Outpatient Medical Rehabilitation Programs:  Brain Injury Program (Adults)
Interdisciplinary Outpatient Medical Rehabilitation Programs:  Brain Injury Programs (Pediatric Specialty Program)
Residential Rehabilitation Programs:  Brain Injury Program (Adults)
Residential Rehabilitation Programs:  Brain Injury Program (Pediatric Specialty Program)
Vocational Services (Adults) Brain Injury Specialty Program

CARF is an independent, nonprofit accrediting body whose mission is to promote the quality, value, and optimal outcomes of services through a consultative accreditation process that centers on enhancing the lives of the persons served. Founded in 1966 as the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities, and now known as CARF International, the accrediting body establishes consumer-focused standards to help organizations measure and improve the quality of their programs and services. For more information about the accreditation process, please visit the CARF website at

IN THE NEWS: Robot Tool Gives Patients a Lift to Recovery

Check out this article in The Detroit News to learn how Special Tree's new ZeroG system is having a tremendous impact on the recovery of patients like Sloan H.