Our State Major Project

Announcements, Washington Elks Therapy Program for Children
Photos of children helped by the WA Therapy Program

Thanks to you, and the dedication of Elks Members, our State Major Project has been providing Occupational or Physical Therapy services to children birth to twenty-one years at no charge to their families. 70 years later, our mission is the same, however the types of children needing help have evolved and changed over time. Simultaneously, the science and medical understanding about how the body works and types of interventions needed to help children thrive has shifted. Given this, there has also been a change in the language used to describe who these children are.

We had a great opportunity at our Elks Mid-Winter Convention to meet a young man, Romeo, who is benefitting from Occupational Therapy intervention through our State Major Project, The Washington Elks Therapy Program for Children, Inc. Romeo is bright, engaging, and articulate. Some of his challenges and barriers that impact his engagement in meaningful occupation, i.e.: school, social engagement with family and friends, activities of daily living like bathing, dressing, eating, or chores, are the result of how he processes sensory information from his environment. He may be easily overwhelmed by sights, sounds, and smells which make it challenging to be present, focused and engaged in the task at hand. Occupational Therapy sessions for him are focused on providing sensory processing interventions that help him understand what is happening in his body and have strategies to stay calm and focused so that he can learn, play, and thrive. Over time, we have been receiving more and more referrals from doctors for children with these types of issues.

Historically, the children needing therapy had physical limitations like polio, cerebral palsy, stroke, spina bifida, epilepsy, or muscular dystrophy, and our focus was on helping them with gross and fine motor issues to enhance their skills and abilities. Thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, we are seeing fewer children with this type of diagnosis. Now, many of the children we are working with have sensory processing disorders, autism, and other mental health challenges like attention deficit disorder – ADD, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – ADHD, anxiety, or depression. These changes in diagnosis have changed the frame of reference for treatment and led to our therapists taking additional continuing education courses to have better tools in our tool kit to meet the needs of the children on our caseloads.

Another significant paradigm shift has been in how we frame the challenges “Our Kids” are facing and the language we use. Years ago, children who were different were called crippled, then handicapped, then special needs, then differently abled. Currently, we use neurodiverse to help describe the vast differences in individual brains and therefore individual perceptions and understanding of the world. We are also looking at children using a strength-based approach to intervention, building on their abilities rather than focusing on what they can’t do. As always, therapists are providing this intervention and support in the child’s home with their parents actively involved in the journey of helping their child thrive. Thank you for your continued support of The Washington Elks Therapy Program for Children, Inc.! We could not do it without you! Together, we are making positive change in the lives of children across the great state of Washington.