Inclusive family center serves children with special needs

MERRIAM, Kan. -- Children with special needs have a new place to learn side-by-side with other kids. Advent Health Shawnee Mission is opening a new $24-million family center where technology is playing a larger role in helping kids with disabilities.

The former owner of a health care recruiting firm based in Lenexa, Kansas, made a big donation that created the center, called the B.E. Smith Family Center.

Inside the classrooms, children with Down Syndrome or other developmental disabilities are supported with a unique harness system that's the only one of its kind in the nation.

It allows children with special needs to explore and have full mobility with other kids as they develop coordination and control of their bodies.

Whitney Dinkel says the therapies here have made a huge difference for her 2-year-old son, Roman, who was born with Spina Bifida.

"I think it would have been really great for him, just to be able to get the opportunity to walk," Dinkel said. "A lot of times when he was little, it was hard for him to bear weight at all. Just to be upright, to have him bear some of that weight would have really helped him get going."

The center includes two aquatic pools, a multi-sensory environment and music therapy rooms. The spaces are designed to accommodate children of all abilities under six years old.

The Britain Development program serves 200 kids every week. Health insurance covers a portion of therapy services and the center has a generous scholarship program so that no family will be turned away.

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