Child Development Centre celebrates 40 years of caring for kids with special needs

(Kingston, ON, Sept. 4, 2014) Nobody loves a birthday party more than kids, and this month children with special needs in our community will be helping to celebrate a special one when the Child Development Centre (CDC) at Hotel Dieu Hospital hits the big 4-0.

One of 21 Children’s Treatment Centres in Ontario, the CDC will be marking four decades of providing services for children and youth who have neurological, physical or developmental disabilities or impairments.

On Saturday, Sept. 13, CDC families and staff will be celebrating the occasion with a party from 1 to 3 pm at Lake Ontario Park, complete with cake, games, displays and entertainment. It’s a date Suzanne Shephard and her son Brian have definitely circled on the family calendar.

“Every visit to the CDC feels like a homecoming,” says Suzanne when describing the 15 years her family worked with the CDC team to meet the challenges of Brian’s Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

“They never saw a disease, just the person and family living with it. Even though we were involved in a medical experience, it never felt like that because Brian’s team were as interested in his discovery of Greek mythology at school as in how well his wheelchair was functioning. Everyone was very warm and caring. They grew with us as a family.”

Forty years ago, the CDC had its roots in the Regional Centre for Handicapped Children, which took a then unheard-of approach to treating children with disabilities: instead of institutionalizing them, it supported children staying home with their families and accessing rehabilitative services—such as physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy—in the Centre, located at Kingston General Hospital, and in their own homes, school and communities.

In 1982, the Centre changed its name to the Child Development Centre, and in 1984, it moved to Hotel Dieu, where its focus expanded over the next 30 years to include clinics dedicated to helping children with learning disabilities, acquired brain injury, neuromuscular disorders, infants with special needs and more. Last year, the CDC recorded almost 10,000 patient visits

At the same time, the CDC has been generous in supporting other communities—through outreach projects to northern Ontario, India and Russia, for example—and in spearheading fundraising efforts to ensure the highest quality of care for children and families. The annual CDC Run/Walk, for example, has raised almost $170,000 since it hit the pavement in 1994.

The key to the CDC’s success is amazing teamwork, says Dr. Jean Alexander, a developmental pediatrician who helped to launch the Centre four decades ago.

“From the beginning, CDC staff have provided an outstanding team approach to management of children and their families where often the problems were so great as to be overwhelming,” she says.

“In contrast to many areas of medical practice, there is often no cure for the disability, and progress or change is hard to measure. The staff not only provided multi-disciplinary treatment and support to the children and their families but also to each other.”

In this region, the CDC is synonymous with excellence in health care for children with special needs, says Director Margaret van Beers.

“This 40th anniversary is truly an exciting milestone for children, families and staff alike,” she says.

“It testifies to the wisdom of putting children and families at the centre of care and to the deep commitment of so many health care professionals, past and present. We’re honoured to do this work every day and to have the opportunity to celebrate it with our community.”

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