A Dream Turned Reality for Six-Year-Old Myricle Johnson

May 16, 2023

A look at one Denver family’s journey toward helping their daughter with special needs to thrive in the safety and comfort of her home

The Johnsons, a Denver family of ten, lovingly care for the youngest of the bunch, 6-year-old Myricle Johnson, who was born prematurely at just 28 weeks. Myricle’s early entry into this world ultimately led to a variety of specific medical needs, and despite several attempts, she has been unable to regularly attend school without subsequent prolonged stays in the hospital. After some time, Myricle’s mother, Raiko Johnson, decided to keep Myricle home to protect the health and wellbeing of her daughter and family. Still, accessing necessary in-home learning and ongoing care for Myricle was hard, and their journey led them to seek extra support for in-home accommodations through the RMHS Mill Levy Program.

“We found out about Mill Levy through our caseworker at RMHS,” said Raiko Johnson. “Mill Levy has been a true blessing to our family.”

The RMHS Mill Levy Program is a customizable resource designed to enhance the lives of Denver residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) by connecting them with the services and resources needed to live healthy and fulfilling lives in their homes or community. There are several ways to access support from the Mill Levy Program, and one of them is through individual requests submitted by those with specific needs that go beyond standard care. The goal in these situations is to provide flexible services and options that meet each family or individual where they are to help them thrive.

In this case, the Johnsons submitted a Mill Levy request to convert the upper loft of their home to a fully equipped sensory room with an accessible bathroom and shower. The idea for the sensory room was created by Myricle’s family, doctors, therapists, school, and home support staff with the goal of helping Myricle receive the supports that she needed in the safety of her home.

“Children learn best through their play: being able to explore, learn, and understand the world around them through their senses,” said Abby Grinstead, Director of the Mill Levy Program. “This is foundational for overall childhood development, brain development, language development, gross motor skills, and more. When the Johnsons first approached the Mill Levy team about Myricle’s unique needs and how creating a sensory space in the home would truly change her life now and set up her future for success by meeting this foundational need, we began working our way to the yes, cutting through red tape and barriers along the way.”

As the Mill Levy team worked with Raiko and RMHS caseworker Delaney Bozzo to create this sensory room, they faced many challenges. From sorting out red tape and funding to finding a contractor willing to take on the project to ordering the right sensory items despite many being out of stock or on backorder, there was never a dull moment in the two-year process. Along the way, Raiko was grateful for Bozzo’s support in communication and logistical matters.

“We are so thankful for our caseworker at RMHS,” said Raiko. “She did a lot of footwork and back and forth communicating so we didn’t have to stress.”

In April 2023, Myricle’s sensory room was finally complete. Soon enough, Myricle moved out of the room she shared with two of her sisters and into her very own customized space. Although the Johnsons are still waiting on a few back ordered items, Myricle has been ecstatic with her new environment and all the opportunities that come with it.

“She is very proud to have her own shower and sink that is her height,” Raiko said. “She really loves using her sensory swing as well… The climbing wall is her absolute favorite part because her siblings can also do it with her.”

Myricle can now receive the care she needs in the safety of her home. The room allows her therapist to work with her in a space that houses everything she needs, and Myricle can grow in her independence, motor skills, and sensory processing abilities every day.

Bozzo commented, “This sensory room project has helped the Johnsons in so many capacities. Not only has it given Myricle a space of her own in the safety and comfort of her home that meets her sensory needs, but she can also grow in this space. This is her forever home, and Myricle will have her own room and bathroom as she gets older. Myricle can also work on her independence using her new accessible bathroom. This room will mean everything to her, and she and her family will continue to benefit from it for many, many years.”

The Mill Levy team is proud to have made this project a reality for Myricle and her family. From the start, the goal was to help Myricle thrive, and as Myricle enjoys her new space, everyone feels wonderful about this beautiful success.

“This was a true team effort, from partnering with the family, children’s program team, purchasers, and finance team all coming together, keeping Myricle at the heart of this project, and now almost a year later, seeing her smile speaks volumes about the life-changing impact Mill Levy has had in changing the road ahead for Myricle,” said Grinstead.