Take a stroll through Pediatric Therapy Network’s (PTN) colorful Torrance-based facility and it’s hard to imagine it launched in 1996 with no funding.
There are swings, brightly-colored balls, bikes, riding toys, puzzles, games, and most importantly, a dedicated group of therapists and volunteers devoted to helping children reach their full capabilities.
“Back then, we just had this dream,” said PTN CEO Terri Nishimura, also a licensed occupational therapist with a specialty in sensory integration. “Several therapists, parents and teachers got together, we pulled together some used equipment and materials that were either donated or purchased at yard sales, and we set out to build an innovative therapy center for kids that supported research and therapist training. I am so pleased with what we’ve been able to accomplish.”
Today, the organization provides over 130,000 hours of therapeutic intervention to 2,500 children a year in LA County. The facility, supported by 150 staff members, runs therapy programs, Monday through Friday, and additionally offers an Early Head Start program for low-income families.
During the summer, PTN offers an innovative two-week summer day camp for children ages five to 14 with special needs. Camp Escapades, armed with hundreds of high school and college volunteer helpers, rolls out activities geared and adapted so every camper can have fun regardless of their age or ability.
“We’ve learned so much through the years about the value of early intervention,” said Nishimura. “The early years are absolutely critical in terms of setting a child up for a positive trajectory for development, learning and forming healthy social skills.”
LA County has done wonders in terms of educating parents and caregivers about the importance of focusing attention on health, education, reading and beyond in those first five years of life. PTN staff members have furthered that dialogue by serving on the LA County Policy Roundtable for Child Care and Development
Additionally, PTN continues to work closely with parents and doctors about getting young children assistance if they are in need of physical, occupational, and/or speech-language therapies. As a result, more children are being diagnosed at younger ages, and organizations like PTN are able to launch a plan of attack to rehabilitate or habilitate the child sooner.
Parent James Reid was introduced to PTN shortly after his son’s first birthday when he and his wife started noticing developmental delays in their young child. Jay R. was born with an excess of spinal fluid on his brain, and as a result endured some early days in the Intensive Care Unit. Months later, the family knew Jay R. would need help with speech and occupational therapy, so they linked up with PTN.
“I can’t imagine where we would be today if it had not been for PTN,” said Reid. “Jay R. is still delayed in some areas, but he is now a thriving, energetic three-year-old. As soon as we started going to PTN, we felt we had some direction and tools to help him. The entire facility is built around kids, so you just see the children enjoy the environment and staff. Everyone from the receptionist to the therapists to the administrators is warm and welcoming.”
Nishimura adds that changes in the affordable healthcare act will allow more children with developmental and medical issues to benefit from PTN services. The affordable healthcare act mandates that small and individual health insurance plans now cover medically necessary behavioral health treatments for individuals will developmental disorders like autism, Rett syndrome, Aspergers, and other childhood disintegrative disorders.
“Many healthcare providers have yet to realize this news, so we want to spread the word that families can get help, and should feel comfortable seeking resources early,” said Nishimura.
To learn more about PTN, visit www.pediatrictherapynetwork.org.