Answering the Call, Filling a Need

Aspire Children’s Services reaches for new heights

Barb and Doug Prine have been involved with Aspire since their son Ben, who contracted meningitis as a newborn, was just three months old.  The hospital’s intensive care unit staff suggested the Elmhurst couple investigate physical therapy when it became apparent Ben had vision impairments and developmental delays.

The Prines say they are happy Aspire Kids has significantly expanded its offerings for children age three to eight. Ben, now age four, can continue to benefit from the occupational and speech therapy he receives at Aspire, in addition to the therapies he gets at preschool.

“At school, he gets therapies that are school related, which is great,” says Barb Prine. “But Aspire is able to supplement those therapies with occupational and speech therapies that are based on his life outside of school and here at home. He’s learning to eat with utensils, get in and out of the car, and improve his sensory issues, like walking.”

Meeting the Need

A couple of years ago, says Kathy Ruffulo, Vice President of Aspire Kids, parents began asking Aspire for expanded services for children past age three. “They saw their children benefiting and getting results, so they began asking us if they could stay on in the programs. Now, we’re happy to report, they can.”

Over the past 30 years, Aspire has grown into one of metropolitan Chicago’s premiere providers of early intervention services for children, birth to age three. Now we are building that foundation by continuing services for children age three to eight.

This expansion fills a need for the child who has “graduated” out of the early intervention program, but still has developmental, occupational, or physical therapy needs that can be helped at Aspire’s state-of-the-art Eamon Shannon Center in Hillside.

“We’re able to focus on skills and partner with parents in the process,“ says Ruffulo. “After age three, most kids are in Special Ed programs for school-related therapies, but parents are not a part of that learning process. At Aspire, families are always at the center of what we do.”

Partnering with Parents

“The goals in the school-based setting might be learning to use scissors or other tools, while our services are more life- and home-based, such as learning how to dress yourself and ride a bike, for example, or learning social skills,” says Paula Cox, Manager of Clinical Therapy Services and a physical therapist. “But it really depends on the needs of the child since all of our services are individualized and tailored.”

Our services meet the developmental needs of infants and children with a variety of disabilities and delays, such as autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, chromosomal abnormalities and disorders and Down syndrome. Our therapies and specialized services help address sensory integration issues, speech and language disorders, motor skill disorders and many other issues.

Aspire Kids is thankful for the generosity of three foundations that provided $375,000 to expand and enhance our programming for children, ages three to eight. The funding allowed Aspire to purchase new challenging toys and equipment for older children, provide continued education for therapy staff, and complete other needed enhancements. Aspire thanks The Chicago Community Trust, the Oberweiler Foundation, and an anonymous foundation for helping children and their families to reach a little farther, a little higher, together with Aspire.

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