Collaborating for Kids
by Kristen Parker
“She doesn’t play with other children.”
“He doesn’t like to get his hands dirty.”
“She still isn’t talking; she only repeats the same word over and over.”
“He’s just different than other children his age.”
Sometimes a parent senses that her child may need some extra help.
Sometimes a physician recognizes a need or a gap in development and refers a child to receive therapy. Sometimes a teacher suggests that a child needs more help than can be given in a classroom.
Regardless of how families find their way to the doors of Collaborating for Kids, it is obvious from the moment they step foot inside that this organization is dedicated to entire families as well as children. The care and concern families receive from the staff is clear in the wide and varied services available to children.
Assistance varies through all degrees of need, from ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) Therapy to once-a-week outpatient therapy after school. They even have a psychologist on site that can evaluate and diagnose autism in order to help families get answers more quickly.
Patients do not have to initially be referred to Collaborating for Kids by a physician. “If you have a question or a concern about your child, pick up the phone and call us. A lot of times, parents don’t know where to turn, and we are here,” emphasized Kim Cassel, CEO of Collaborating for Kids.
Opening their comprehensive autism program in November of 2009 and currently preparing to expand, Collaborating for Kids quickly established themselves as a leader in ABA services. They have been a First Steps Agency since 2009 and have been providing private outpatient therapy for over 3 years. This is in addition to the many children (ages 0-3) in Johnson County, as well as the surrounding seven counties, who receive care through First Steps. In addition, they just recently opened an outpatient clinic and ABA center in Bloomington.
Families come from all over the surrounding area to receive services at Collaborating for Kids. It is the only Autism Center in Indianapolis that is also a First Steps Agency. What this means is that children who have aged-out (become too old) of First Steps services can continue to be seen by the same staff who have served them and grown to know and care for their family up to that point.
In fact, Collaborating for Kids is so dedicated to making it a seamless transition for the client families that both the Autism Center and the First Steps Agency are under the direction of Director of Clinical and Educational Services Lindsay Knez, MA, CCC-SLP, BCBA.
Each child in the ABA program has a team of eight professionals who are assigned to him, in order to help him reach his full potential. The facility is set up to look and feel much like a developmental preschool, with separate areas for the child to work one-on-one with the therapists. Some of the areas included are naptime, toilet training, bathing, sorting laundry, water play, and tactile development (playing with things such as shaving cream or in buckets of dry rice).
This therapy runs the gamut of only 3 hour/week up to 40 hours/week. It may be during the day at the facility, during the day while at school, or at the facility after school; it is all determined by the child’s needs and abilities. “We will work out a schedule that is best for the child,” said Knez.
They also offer Social Groups in which children learn how to interact with their peers in healthy ways. These evening social groups meet every night (except Fridays) and provide summer camp opportunities in which the children go out into the community in the form of field trips and activities.
While a child may receive adequate services from other locations, Collaborating for Kids is distinct in its approach to combining services and serving each child as a whole. A child doesn’t have to visit one place for speech therapy, and another place for OT, and yet another for PT; all the services are under one roof, making it easier for the child, as well as her family. “The parent only has one place to go for the child to receive therapy,” said Knez.
Collaborating for Kids employs a holistic approach, not simply treating the child, but also helping care for the entire family. They work to ensure that a family will not have to worry about the financial burdens of therapy, but can simply focus on helping their child reach his or her full potential.
The therapists at Collaborating for Kids truly care for their children. “All of our employees are dedicated to the children and their families,” said Cassel. She went on to explain a recent event in which a family had stopped attending church because their child couldn’t make it through the entire service. As a result, the child’s therapist began attending church with the family to implement behavior strategies that would help the child effectively participate.
One last note to make about Collaborating for Kids is that they give back to the community. This organization shows its commitment to serving the families of Johnson County and the surrounding area. They have sponsored autism events and awareness walks in Johnson County, participated in clothing and food drives for Kid’s Kloset, and they host a weekly Special Olympics playgroup (ages 2-8) which is led by several members of Collaborating for Kids.
If you are interested in getting touch with Collaborating for Kids, they can be reached at (317) 881-9923, via email at therapy@collabforkids, or you can check out the website for more detailed information at collabforkids.com.