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Drops of sunshine for Cowichan families

Briannon Meyer and her son Reilly have been coming to the Sundrops Centre for two years. - Krista Siefken
Briannon Meyer and her son Reilly have been coming to the Sundrops Centre for two years.
— image credit: Krista Siefken

The Clements Centre has long served Cowichan children — since 1957, in fact — but when most people think of Clements, they tend to think of its programs and services for adults.

That's why staff have rebranded the children's arm of Clements, launching the Sundrops Centre for Child Development last month.

"We see children from birth to almost five," says Delta McDonell, program manager at Sundrops. "Children who are at risk for a delay in development."

A development team of physical and occupational therapists work with speech and language pathologists, infant development consultants and a family resource consultant to address any area where a child may need assistance.

There are the equivalent of about ten full-time staff members at Sundrops, although those resources have been stretched thin by an increased case load — Sundrops serves 350 children and their families.

"We do have wait lists for some of our services," McDonell said.

There are 150 children on the wait list, and 106 of those kids are waiting for speech therapy in particular.

McDonell says that's partially due to a growing knowledge of Sundrops in the valley, but also due to Cowichan's population increase. Sundrops served 130 kids in 2009, 195 kids in 2010 and 211 kids in 2011.

Some funding, meanwhile, comes from the Ministry of Child and Family Development, and the United Way, while the Duncan Volunteer Fire Department has made huge contributions to occupational therapy funding, McDonell said.

"We also receive charitable donations from individual," she added. "We're hoping to increase those."

The ultimate aim, McDonell explained, is to build a separate centre for expanded Sundrop services.

"We want to assist all the children being referred to us," she said.

Briannon Meyer, for example, was referred to Sundrop about two years ago by her son's doctor.

Reilly, who has autism, was about 1 1/2 then.

At Sundrops, Reilly and his parents were connected with an infant development consultant and works with an occupational and speech therapist.

"She's gone above and beyond her job," Meyer said. "When your child has autism there are so many people involved, but the ones here support you, and encourage you, and work with you. It's a very, very good relationship.

"You feel like the people here have the same passion I do to help Reilly."

To learn more about the Sundrops Centre, call 250-746-4135 or visit the Sundrops website.

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