Jill's House gives parents of special-needs children some peace

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By Petula Dvorak
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, December 6, 2010; 11:18 PM

You can hear the tired in Jan Butters's voice.

Until several weeks ago, she'd never spent a night away from her son, who has cerebral palsy and other disabilities.

If he wants a toy, she has to put it in his hand. If he wants to watch a movie (he loves "Mary Poppins" and watches it relentlessly), she has to set it up for him. She feeds him, diapers him and exercises his limbs and shifts his teenage body numerous times each day.

This has been her life for 15 years.

"Basically, you're doing everything for him," said Butters, 50, who can't just call a sitter and catch a movie with her husband.

That kind of a date night would run about $600 for the couple, given the specialized care that their son, Rolfie, needs.

This fall, a fancy new place opened in Vienna that will give him that level of care for $75 a night.

Called Jill's House, it boasts a swimming pool, gym, music room, art center, suites with bejeweled ceilings that look like outer space and a playground so cool, I'd call it Seven Flags.

There's a ceiling track that snakes from the bed to the bath, so that a guest can be carried, via sling, for bathing.

There's the indoor-outdoor lock system, in case a guest bolts.

Picture cards all over the place let the guests point to food, water or a toilet if they can't articulate a need. The indoor swimming pool, surrounded by Bahamian decor, has water-proof wheelchairs, a ramp, a sling and one lifeguard for every guest.

Each action - feeding, clothing, bathing and playing - has a huge and intricate set of equipment and systems. The resort is a place for kids whose primary medical diagnosis is an intellectual disability, physical disability or developmental delay.


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