Ask any expectant parent if they hope their baby will be a boy or a girl, and they’ll probably say the most important thing is that he or she be born healthy.
For Sam and Torie Rehman, all seemed well when they welcomed their son, Bennett, into the world five years ago. But they quickly noticed that his left hand was constantly clenched—and when they tried to open it, there was quite a bit of resistance. After a CT scan at BC Children’s Hospital, Bennett was diagnosed with Polymicrogyria (PMG), a neurological disorder similar to Cerebral Palsy. “It’s tough,” says Sam. “You cry when you first find out—when that bubble bursts, and you realize your son or daughter isn’t going to be the same as other kids.”
While the Rehmans found short term support during their visits to Children’s, what they needed was support for the long term. “It was terrifying coming home with a highly technical diagnosis and not knowing what to do with it. You’re told what your son has, but what are the next steps? As parents, we want to do whatever we can for our kids as soon as possible.” Thankfully, their doctor knew about, and referred them to a Child Development Centre.
Established in 1953, the Centre for Child Development serves about 2,000 children aged 0-19 from across Surrey, Langley, Delta and White Rock each year. Many of these children have familiar disabilities, like Cerebral Palsy, Autism and Spina Bifida. Others, like Bennett, have lesser-known disorders. But all of them require complex rehabilitative care that can last for years.
The Centre offers a variety of services, including a casting and splinting clinic, communication therapy, physiotherapy, and family support services to name a few. In addition to coming to the Rehman home to help their son manage the things most of us take for granted—like going up and down the stairs—one of Bennett’s current workers helps at his pre-school. “It’s like having another set of eyes and ears, giving him the attention that we’d like to give him, but can’t because we’re not there,” Sam says. “She helps us figure out how we can adapt Bennett’s learning at school (working with teachers) as well as at home, so he can do more of the things the other kids are doing at school. It’s been a huge blessing for Bennett, as well as for us.”
In fact, Sam believes so strongly in the support the Centre offers to children and their families, that he recently joined the fundraising efforts for the Centre as Vice President for Individual and Strategic Giving of The Child Development Foundation, the Centre’s fundraising arm. “I have a deep passion and belief for this worthy cause,” he says. “Some children have to wait two years for service. We want to see waitlists dramatically shorten especially since early intervention is critical and there are so many kids that need help now.”
There are lots of ways that people can help these children get the support they need, including financially, or by volunteering. “If we can keep costs down,” says Sam, “we can serve more kids—and their families.”
For more information on how you can help children with special needs reach their full potential, visit The Centre for Child Development’s website at http://www.centreforchilddevelopment.ca, www.cdfbc.ca or sam at firstname.lastname@example.org.