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Pediatric center helps special-needs kids develop with tailored therapy plans
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Addison Driskell, 2, leans back on a ball as Jacque Young, a physical therapist works with her at Kidworks in The Rehabilitation Institute in Gainesville. Addison suffers from global developmental delay; he was born prematurely at 32 weeks and falls on the autism spectrum. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Kidworks at The Rehabilitation Institute

Address: 597 S. Enota Drive, Gainesville

More info: nghs.com/kidworks or 770-219-8218

Two-year-old Glavine Leach excitedly flew down a slide in the pediatrics gym at Kidworks during his recent occupational therapy session. The toddler has a sensory integration disorder and wears a vest to help calm him and centralize his emotions.

Glavine’s mother, Crystal Leach, says he has been going to the rehabilitation center for eight months for occupational and speech therapy. She described sensory integration disorder as his “central nervous system is all over the place.”

“They’re absolutely wonderful,” she said of those involved with Kidworks. “Courtney (Modesitt) does a fabulous job with Glavine.”

Kidworks, 597 S. Enota Drive, is Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s outpatient pediatric rehabilitation program, offering physical, occupational and speech therapy for children up to age 18.

Glavine goes for two types of therapy. His progress has been noticeable.

“His mobility seems a whole lot better,” Crystal said.

Glavine used to fall often but can now climb up and down stairs without holding on to her. He also couldn’t stand to have his fingernails or toenails cut, she said. Now he will let her do it.

His speech has also improved, she said, adding that he’s picked up several words.

“I think just in the short time he’s been going there, he’s made a lot of progress,” Crystal said.

Helping children and their families is what makes physical therapist Cam Christopher love her job.

“They are so much fun and inspiring and motivated,” Christopher said of children. “They find joy in every little thing. They don’t know that they’re disabled; they just think that’s the way you move.”

Helping parents also inspires Christopher.

“They have this baby or this child they don’t know what to do with,” she said. “You give them some strategies and it helps them in their daily life. If you can do that, you feel like you’ve really helped somebody.”

Parents are a very important part of therapy, Christopher said. She works with parents and caregivers and gives them hands-on demonstrations of stretches and exercises they can do at home with their children. For children to improve, they need constant assistance. Therapists only see them once or twice a week, so it’s up to the parents to work with them outside of the sessions.

“Parent involvement is very big and the kids that get the most from therapy is when their parents are very involved and following through,” Christopher said.

And when the big moment comes and a child completes a new skill, everyone celebrates.

Christopher said she’s been known to cry with families when children take their first steps.

“You get emotionally invested in the children,” she said. “You’ve been part of their family ... and you get excited because maybe they take their first step in therapy. You all celebrate together, and the little things are huge for some of these kids.”

Heather Wilsey, a physical therapist and the outpatient supervisor for Kidworks, said seeing children progress is exciting.

“You celebrate anything, as big as it is or as small as it is, that you’ve been a part of,” she said. “If you get to see some of that firsthand, that’s what you live on for the week.”

For children like Glavine, it’s good to get them in therapy as soon as possible, Wilsey said.

“The earlier you help children with their development, the more effect it has,” she said. “If you wait until the child is school age, there’s a lot you could have done before.”

Kidworks serves Gainesville and Northeast Georgia. It accepts many types of insurance, including Medicaid. All children who are seen at the facility are referred by another doctor. If parents contact Kidworks directly, Wilsey said the staff can help them contact their doctors for a referral.

Makesha Driskell has been coming to Kidworks about 10 years. She has five children who all have received care.

“I recommend Kidworks to anybody,” she said. “They are absolutely amazing. All of my children love every therapist they see. They latch on to them and love them and tell them ‘bye’ and everything.”

Makesha was at Kidworks on Wednesday with her 2-year-old twins Addison and Jameson. The brother and sister were diagnosed with global developmental delays and an autism spectrum disorder.

The Gainesville resident said her children have done great under the guidance of Kidworks staffers. Addison is speaking more and Jameson, who is nonverbal, is making some sounds.

“They’re really great. They treat the children as their own,” she said.

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