Letters to the Editor

Don't forget children who need extra help

I saw in The State the plans for the $40 million renovations to Riverbanks Zoo. Good for the zoo; good for all of us. Our family loves the zoo.

We have been members for years, probably since our oldest, Cooper, was born. I remember strolling him around as a baby and holding him up to see the animals. Since Cooper has cerebral palsy, he was late to start walking. When he was 3, we would go to the zoo on early mornings when it was less crowded and turn him loose with his walker. He had wide-open spaces to maneuver and, by then, knew the way to the animals he wanted to see. Now, his sister Laura is 3 years old, and they enjoy feeding the giraffes and riding the train together. Only now, Cooper is walking alongside his sister, with no aides.

EdVenture is another community asset that government and private sources have chosen to invest in for our children, helping us keep up with neighboring states as a vibrant, family-friendly place to live.

However, South Carolina is woefully behind neighboring states in what we provide to our children with special needs. The increase in the diagnosis of autism alone is staggering, yet Easter Seals has closed its doors, and Providence Northeast no longer provides pediatric therapy.

Where are the increasing numbers of children turning for their therapies? Only a few centers remain. In addition, the number of therapy visits allowed by private insurance or Medicaid is well below a number that could provide any meaningful change for the child. For families covered under the state insurance plan, it's 20 visits per year. For Medicaid, it's 1.5 hours per week.

We turned to an innovative therapy in Atlanta where Cooper received 45 hours in three weeks. He returned having accomplished major goals, going from being unable to jump at all to leaping forward more than 12 inches, for example, and walking up steps with only one hand assistance. Other families have traveled to Birmingham, Utah and Chicago to find programs. But many families do not have the resources to travel, pay for the therapies or spend weeks away from home.

Some children need to learn to walk, socialize appropriately with their peers or sit without assistance before they are able to enjoy the "extras" such as the zoo and EdVenture. Neither geography nor cost should be a barrier to a child with special needs receiving the therapy he needs to reach his full potential.

Is there money left over for the needs of these kids, too?

DAWN DARBY

Co-founder

The Therapy Place

Columbia

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