Over the last few months we have been meeting with people and organizations geared toward helping children with special needs. Often these organizations not only provide support for the child, but also the family. This week we had a chance to meet with the children’s therapy center. They have four locations which serve children in 14 school districts including children at Joint Base Lewis-McCord. We traveled to the headquarters of CTC in Kent, WA, to learn more about them. CTC was a unique visit because of their participation in my journey. While spending my first four years in Tacoma, we were referred to CTC for orthotics to support my ankles. The orthotics they created for me over thirty years ago fit inside my shoe. They help support and strengthen my ankles, helping provide the ability to walk. This week, we were interested in the programs at CTC helping children with CP. Having met with a few other organizations to this point, we have been getting a feel for objectives. Learning about things to look for when researching organizations. We are in search of services for cerebral palsy improvements. Finding resources for families to access along their journey. Children’s Therapy Center would provide a unique experience.
Walking into the Children’s Therapy Center main offices felt like walking into a home. The building looked more like a home from the outside, than an office building. When we walked in, the feeling of comfort continued. Moving toward the reception area, people were warm and friendly. As we checked in for the meeting, conversation could help but begin. We spoke about my experience as a young child. After learning of my experience over thirty years ago, the woman behind the desk sprung to her feet. CTC had been created in 1979. Just a few short years before they created my orthotics. We were lead over to a wall with pictures of smiling faces. There were probably six to ten rows of these pictures. They were the many faces of staff at Children’s Therapy Center. Along the top were a few pictures separated from the group. One of them was a woman by the name of Nancy. Nancy was one of the founders of CTC and the person responsible for created the devices that helped me learn to walk. With a smile and subtle chill running through me body, I studied the picture for a moment. The face of Nancy tickled my memory momentarily, thinking how could I remember that far back, probably being under the age of four at the time. The sensation passed, as we took a seat in comfortable chairs, awaiting our meeting with CTC.
We were greeted by a friendly gentleman. We exchanged introductions, briefly talking about my time with CTC many years ago. We walked into the elevator and within the minute were exiting onto the top floor of the two-story building. Into an expansive office we went, sitting around a spacious section of his desk. This would be our spot for the following hour, as we learned about CTC. Children’s Therapy Center is the largest of its kind in the state of Washington. They have four locations in Kent, Tacoma, Burien, and Maple Valley. CTC served 3,400 children last year from fourteen school districts. One of the most interesting things we learned in the early part of our meeting was CTC serving of the military. They work closely with Joint Base Lewis-McChord serving military families with special needs children. The unique part of this fact was the rarity of military access to such a facility. We learned there are only four military bases in the country with services for military families with special needs children. There is a base in Hawaii, Virginia, Florida, and JBLM here in Washington. It was a surprising statistic, but one leaving me thankful for having CTC in our area.
After visiting a couple organization like CTC, we had gained a better idea. We could listen and ask questions to better understand differences. One major program these organizations have in common has been the Early Intervention programs. Early Intervention refers to a group of home-based therapies to help children with special needs. The therapy and education services take place in the home and often involve the family. Including the family in the process helps therapeutic activities continue after the therapist departs. They often use things available inside the home to help the child improve. Creating a scenario where the exercises can be worked on by parent and child. The Early Intervention services are designed for children birth to three years of age. These Early Intervention programs are creating a team to provide services and support for the child and family. During the first few years of my life, things looked a little different. We didn’t have an Early Intervention program coming to the house. Instead the team helping me develop in those formative years came for Mary Bridge Hospital in Tacoma. They came and helped me reach early milestones, challenging to achieve due to CP. Following our discussion around Early Intervention, the conversation turned toward a new-found interest. The transition period.
Through our time looking into the programs helping children with cerebral palsy, we come across an interesting period. The period of time seems to occur after Early Intervention ends. Usually happening when the child turns three years of age. They are required to transition out of Early Intervention and sometimes into the unknown. We have heard stories of families wanting to stay in these organizations where they began. Wondering why they can’t stay with the Early Intervention programs, which helps the entire family. In some cases, finding themselves feeling isolated and confused over the next step. We became intrigued with some of the solutions Children’s Therapy Center had for these questions. Instead of being sent out on their own, families could stay with CTC for continued therapy. Their form of therapy beyond Early Intervention is center-based therapy. The center-based therapy at CTC continues for children until the age of eighteen. Though we learned the children generally come to one of the CTC center’s through middle school. There weren’t many high school kids in the program. The information was heartwarming, as it seemed to help relieve the concern over what to do next.
The next inquisition we had was over access to the center-based program. We have learned through our visits, the EI programs are available to those families living in the school district covered. Some Early Intervention facilities have multiple locations, giving them the opportunity to service more families. While other programs cover smaller areas. The center-based program of Children’s Therapy Center has been open to anyone seeking the services. With the program, they cover a wide range of the Puget Sound Area. The kids come from as far north as Marysville and Mill Creek, as well as from cities to the south like Olympia and Lacey. They seem to be in search of services beyond the Early Intervention stage. A couple of the programs in the center-based program struck a chord. CTC has a program in aquatic therapy. Over the last year, working in the water has become interesting. Wondering how working in the water could help CP. Every conversation around the subject has only turned up positive in regards to moving in the water. The aquatic program at CTC only added to my interest in swimming as a way toward cerebral palsy improvement. The aquatic program is part of the center-based program from three to eighteen years of age. We moved on to talk about another program peaking my interest.
Our following program discussion went into something relatable. They have a program in a fitness center. Because of my background of using exercise to help cerebral palsy improvement, the thought of any fitness program was exciting. They use the program for kids to gain familiarity with fitness. The children learn their way around fitness equipment. The idea seems to be a great one, as I related to the feeling. It always felt like exercise would help my disability. However, being around the gym could be intimidating. There were always machines that I didn’t really know how to use. The bars and weights could cause some intimidation, not wanting to do something incorrectly, resulting in injury. It wasn’t until after high school that a gym environment began becoming comfortable. Doing some workouts with a buddy help ease my anxiety around gym equipment. The experience helped guide me onto the path of working out. The gift of the fitness center program at CTC would be helping kids become comfortable in the environment. So, whether they take on exercise individually, with friends, or work with a trainer. Their comfort level walking into a gym environment could be greatly increased. The program as a child would have probably help ease my anxiety around beginning to exercise.
Touring places helping kids with cerebral palsy and special needs has been exciting. It was even more exciting to visit Children’s Therapy Center this week. CTC was unique for me because of their place in my journey. They created the orthotics that helped me learn to walk. First a supportive boot to fit inside my boots. Then, an insert for the sole of my shoe. I didn’t know before our visit just how young CTC was when they helped with my gait. Created in 1979, they were just a few years old when we walked through their doors. Today, they have grown to be the largest facility of its kind in our state. CTC has multiple locations and the ability to provide therapy for children with special needs from birth through their eightieth year. The programs at Children’s Therapy Center can remove that transition period occurring in some cases, after Early Intervention has stopped. They also have the ability to welcome children who have completed programs in other places. In the last year, CTC has served 3,400 children over an area of 300 square miles. We learned this week how inviting the staff is along with the warm and welcoming environment when entering the offices. The photo of Nancy, who created the devices helping me more than thirty years ago still hangs on the wall. Showing the continuity of the organization. Our meeting with their CEO Barry Gourley couldn’t have been better. His kind nature had us feeling comfortable from the time we sat at his desk. We walked out of Children’s Therapy Center with a good understanding of their organization. CTC was a positive part of my journey and may someday be part of yours.
For more information contact CEO Barry Gourley of Children’s Therapy Center. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org