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Staff member overcomes obstacles, gets early Christmas present from students

Dec 20 2016
Students in SCC’s occupational therapy assistant program pictured with Casey Deakins, SCC’s institutional development assistant, during the surprise pizza party she gave them. Pictured are, front row, from left: Christine Golkowski of Leicester; Jennifer Cunningham, Franklin; Alecia Gerra, Franklin; Kaylyn Martin, Hayesville; Savannah Cable, Robbinsville; Sydney Moody, Robbinsville; Lori Beaver, Murphy; Kristine Johnson, Hot Springs; Deakins and Anna Walls, OTA program coordinator. Back row left to right: David Sherwood, Franklin; Justin Kinsland, Franklin; Melinda Clark, Hendersonville; Cheynne Orr, Robbinsville; Deborah Smith, Sylva; Robin Bradley, Waynesville; and Krystan Inman, Waynesville.
When you are around Casey Deakins, SCC’s institutional development assistant, you can’t help but be inspired and smile as she talks about overcoming the obstacles she’s faced in life.

Deakins was born with Apert Syndrome.

“I could be oh woe is me, Scarlett O’Hara over here, but I choose to be positive,” said Deakins. “I love what I do, and I take things as they come.”

Apert Syndrome is a condition that involves abnormal growth of the skull and face that is caused by premature fusion of certain sutures of the skull.

Other anomalies of the syndrome include webbed fingers and toes, as well as wide-set, bulging eyes that are tilted down at the side. Underdevelopment of the jaw usually causes problems with teeth alignment, and some are born with a cleft palate.

Apert Syndrome occurs in one out of every 160,000 to 200,000 births.

When Deakins realized she needed a modified staple remover, she asked Anna Walls, SCC’s occupational therapy assistant (OTA) program coordinator, for assistance.

Walls agreed and asked what else Deakins had difficulty doing.

The OTA students worked together to adapt a staple remover to maximize Deakins’ strength, putting her in the best ergonomic position.

The class then addressed other activities of daily living that Casey identified as difficult, including: answering the phone, cutting with scissors, drinking from a cup with one hand, and using a knife to cut vegetables.

Students worked with Casey on a trial run of various techniques and adaptive devices to increase her independence with the activities she had identified as difficult.

Once appropriate equipment was determined, Walls not only told her where to find the items - but that the OTA student club had paid for the order - telling Deakins Santa had come a little early this year.

“We were so happy to be able to work with Casey. She is such an inspiration to all of us,” said Walls. “Occupational therapy is about engaging people in the activities of life that are meaningful to them. Sometimes we focus on adapting the task by analyzing the skills a person has to use so that they can be independent.”

“We all have really enjoyed working with Casey. She has such a positive outlook and is so sweet,” said OTA student Krystan Inman.

Deakins had one more request of the OTA students and faculty, and that was to eat as much pizza as they could at the surprise party she gave them as a thank you for all they had done.

“It has been fantastic working with the students,” said Deakins. “A simple question I had turned into so much more.”

For more information about Apert Syndrome visit

For more information about SCC and the programs it offers, visit or call 828-339-4000.