Children’s Center Continues Therapy Online Amidst Shelter in Place Order
Mon, 04/06/2020 - 08:18am | By: Courtney Tesh
“I was fearful when I heard that face-to-face therapy wasn’t going to be an option
anymore,” said Lindsay Wright. Wright’s daughter, Kaitlyn, has been receiving therapy
from The Children’s Center for Communication and Development, a non-profit on USM’s
campuses that provides cost-free services for children with disabilities, since she
was a newborn. When this now sweet, spunky, and strong blonde-haired, blue-eyed 4-year-old
was born, she was diagnosed with Down syndrome, and therapists from The Children’s
Center began in-home therapy just 3 months later. She later transitioned to group
therapy at the Center and has been there ever since.
The fear Wright expressed regarding the lack of in-person therapy was a fear no doubt
shared by many of the Center’s families, and by caregivers of children with special
needs all over the country, as facilities began shutting their doors in order to do
their part in lessening the effects of COVID-19 in their communities. It’s not hard
to imagine their concerns as the very services that have helped their child learn
to communicate, to move, to play, to function, have suddenly been paused. Will my
child’s progress be halted? Will they lose the skills they’ve worked so hard to attain?
But, thankfully, we live in a time when shutting one’s doors doesn’t have to equate
to shutting down. Thanks to modern technology, children across the country are still
able to receive many of the services they need, even amidst the current circumstances.
The Children’s Center, for one, has officially begun providing speech therapy, physical
therapy, occupational therapy, audiology, listening and spoken language therapy, and
special education via teletherapy this past week.
“We are so fortunate that The Children’s Center has worked tirelessly to convert therapy
to an online format, so we don’t go without,” said Wright. “Our lead therapist, Katie
Crosby, has been amazing. She’s even been sending me her own how-to videos so that
I can teach Kaitlyn how to use her new communication app.”
“Transitioning from our normal way of doing things into this new virtual platform
has been somewhat intimidating, but also so exciting,” said Katie Crosby, Kaitlyn’s
lead therapist and speech language pathologist at the Center. “The Children’s Center
has never been one to back down from an opportunity to try new things and meet families
where they are. This is just a new way for us to get creative.” And in order for this
new format to work, it takes a willingness to adapt and an open mind, both on the
part of the therapists, as well as the families.
The Center has been so encouraged and motivated by the excitement and commitment they’ve
already seen from their families. “I love seeing all of the parents jump on board
with this idea,” said Susanna McDonald, listening and spoken language specialist at
The Children’s Center. “They are truly their children’s biggest fans. And we are theirs.”
Families of children with special needs are no strangers to the idea of rising to
a challenge. This is just yet another challenge they are facing, and according to
the Center, knocking out of the park.
Sarah Myers, interim director at The Children’s Center, is grateful for the opportunity
to be a constant and a source of support for families as they take on this new challenge
and find themselves having to adapt in so many ways. “The Children’s Center’s mission
is to serve and support the most vulnerable among us – young children with disabilities,”
said Myers. “During this time of incredible uncertainty, we know one thing remains
true – we can continue to serve our families by providing continued support through
teletherapy. This is new to The Children’s Center, but we are eager to find new formats
for providing quality therapies for our children while providing an unwavering constant
presence for our families.”
One of Susanna McDonald’s Center parents, Heather Lee, reiterated this sentiment.
“Kallie was so excited,” Lee said of her daughter’s first teletherapy session. “She
could not stop smiling. I’m so glad we are taking measures like this so that our babies
can have some sense of normalcy.”
And for many, a sense of normalcy has never been so welcome as it is right now.
About The Children’s Center for Communication and Development
The Children’s Center for Communication and Development at The University of Southern Mississippi is a non-profit that provides cost-free communicative and developmental transdisciplinary services to infants, toddlers, and preschoolers while educating, training and supporting families, university students and professionals. For more information, visit www.usm.edu/childrenscenter.