United Way presents: Shorkey Center opens opportunities for parents, children

Published 8:00 am Saturday, December 11, 2021

By Dawn Burleigh

(Editor’s Note: This is part 13 of a 21-part series on the partners of United Way of Orange County.)

Shorkey Center was established in 1944 to serve children and families of children with special needs. The Shorkey Center moved into the current location built in 1967. The center is a United Way Recipient and still serves children and families with special needs.

Providing Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy, Speech Therapy, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and Aquatic Therapy to children, the Center also provides a day treatment school for children with Autism and those with Down Syndrome.

Executive Director Dr. Robin Pearson, prior to working at the non-profit facility, worked in Pediatric therapy and teacher bringing with her a unique understanding of the needs of the families and the children.

“We are also providing an educational service,” Pearson said. “The children need good social modeling. We also offer an after-school program where the kids are brought here and they can receive their therapy while they are here.”

With funding received through United Way, the center is able to help parents offset the costs of therapy.

“Some have a high copay or parents just cannot afford the copays,” Pearson said. “Even if the parents have a good job, if their child receives three different therapies a week with each one at a $30, that is $90 a week. A family could look at $400 a month to help their child get the therapy he needs. Then there are the kids without insurance…”

The center also has outreach programs which operate through donations as well as parent training such as Pathways.

Community Outreach is Parent Training supports families of children with autism and other diagnosed behavior challenges. This 1:1 parent training program informs parents and empowers families with skills to improve language, social emotional learning, and behavior strategies. The goal is to work directly with the parent and child targeting specific challenges and improve relationships. Shorkey’s trained behavior support staff listen to parent needs and create an individualized family plan for targeted behavior practice.

Pathways is designed to empower parents by providing current research and evidence-based intervention strategies in order to address the unique needs of their child with autism. Pathways is based on Naturalistic Developmental Behavioral Interventions (NDBI), a combination of ABA techniques and developmental science. Pathways is a 12 chapter program that allows parents and their children (aged 0-5) to work at their own pace to improve overall social engagement and communication.

The program also benefits children that struggle with behavior, social development, and/or self-regulation.

Your child does not need a diagnosis of autism to receive intervention.

Pearson added another benefit the organization receives through it’s partnership with United Way is the networking and connection with other partner agencies.

“It helps us connect families with an agency who may need help we do not provide,” Pearson said.

Being relatively new to the area herself, she said she has relied heavily on United Way to help her with information needed as well.

“The connections are helpful,” Pearson said. “They could tell me who I need to speak with.”

Pearson moved to the area in 2020 at the height of the pandemic, making finding information even more challenging.

“We can’t do what we do without the support of United Way,” Pearson said. “Grants and donations help in so many ways.”

For some parents, it helps to know they are leaving their child at a day care which specializes in caring for their child’s needs.

“We had an instance where a parent was told to pick up their child after two hours at a regular day care due to behavior,” Pearson said. “Parents still need to be able to work to provide for their child. If a child has autism, they need more one on one which you can’t get in regular day care. We have a six to one ratio.”

While insurance pays for some of the therapy, it is a third of the cost.

“If the cost is $250, we get a third of that,” Pearson said. A third of $250 is $82.50.

Funding from United Way helps Shorkey Center to continue to help 200 plus children in the area.

To make a donation to United Way of Orange County, visit https://www.uwoctx.org/civicrm/contribute/transact?reset=1&id=1