Clinic providing support for children with disabilities opens in Calgary

A clinic that specializes in the treatment of neurodevelopmental challenges and delays in children has opened in southeast Calgary.

SMILE Therapy for Kids offers physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech language pathology for children, and treatment for neuro-conditions that include cerebral palsy, spina bifida and Down syndrome.

It also provides support for children with autism, feeding concerns, and speech, language and handwriting delays.

SMILE stands for Sensory Motor Integrated Learning Experience.

“Our entire goal here at the clinic is to ensure that we add value to the families in providing them [with] supports and services and modalities that they wouldn’t necessarily have access to in the comfort of their home,” co-owner Julie Rubin said.

“Those skills would be transferable … and then they continue that work on a more basic level at home.”

Gaps in services

As far as Rubin is aware, Calgary’s SMILE clinic is just the second of its kind in Canada.

The first was opened in Toronto, but Rubin and her husband Brian decided to open a location of their own closer to home with the help of experts.

They were motivated in part by desperation, she said.

There were gaps in local services that were available for the Rubins’ son, who needed developmental support through intensive physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and feeding therapy.

“It’s definitely not a journey that we ever imagined for ourselves. We found ourselves on it a lot out of necessity and desperation, to tell you the truth,” Rubin said.

“There is a lack of services for kids like our son, who need a lot of developmental support … They need this therapy on an often daily or at the very least, weekly basis.”

‘Potential is not really seen in our kids’

Every parent sees potential in their children, Rubin said. But she has wondered if those gaps in services and resources are the results of others overlooking those with disabilities and higher needs.

“Often people don’t see the potential that these kids have, but that’s only because there hasn’t been that really intensive work done with them,” Rubin said.

“Maybe people see a child that cannot walk, [and] the assumption is that they’ll never walk — whereas with the right therapy they could really get there … and maybe that’s why no one is really working too hard in making that happen.”

Julie Rubin said the clinic’s goal is to provide families with supports they wouldn’t necessarily have access to at home. (Helen Pike/CBC)

Parents like Youyou Zhang are excited to see the Calgary location open its doors.

Zhang was saving and planning for another trip to Ontario’s SMILE clinic with her son Harvey when the pandemic disrupted their plans.

Then Zhang discovered a Calgary clinic was soon to open, rendering its resources more accessible and affordable.

“I’m very excited, and it’s amazing that Calgary has this clinic … it’s definitely going to help his strength, balance, and all the other things,” Zhang said.

“As parents, you see your kid’s potential, right? And then you want to do everything you can to help him to reach his maximum [potential].”

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