When Cassie and Tem Miles’ first child arrived in June of 2009, they became immersed in all of the joys parenthood. Emma was their little angel and a wonderful addition to the family. And as all parents do, they envisioned what her life would be like. However before she was six months old they were blindsided by the results of a CT scan done to determine why her head was measuring small.
The Miles’ began the arduous process of medical testing, ultimately finding out that Emma had severe brain damage likely caused by a series of mini strokes that occurred before she was born. Just days before Christmas that year, they were sitting in front of a pediatric neurologist at the Greenwood Genetic Center in North Charleston looking for answers. And while the doctor could not predict what Emma’s future might look like, he counseled these young parents. The key for Emma’s development was to provide her with as much therapy as possible, especially during the critical years before age five.
There is no playbook for families in this situation. They need to piece together what is best for their child without knowing what that should look like. Cassie continued to work for another six months until she realized the impossibility of maintaining Emma’s busy schedule and being a good attorney. She just didn’t have a choice, a problem that so many parents face. Caring for a child with severe special needs is more than a full-time job.
For the next few years Cassie shuffled Emma to her various medical and therapy appointments. “And while we were doing everything humanly possible for Emma, we had an incredible sense of guilt, believing we were not doing enough. We started to feel like bad therapists and inadequate parents,” shared Tem.
Then in 2011, the Miles’ learned about an amazing organization right here in Columbia that was providing cutting-edge therapies for children like Emma. The Therapy Place offered physical, occupational and speech therapies. In addition, they were about to launch Bridges, a year-round therapeutic preschool program for children ages 2-5 with developmental delays. Emma was one of the first children to enter the new program, the only one of its kind in South Carolina.
The children in Bridges receive care from a team of professionals including pediatric therapists, special education/early childhood teachers and aides who work together to customize each child’s curriculum. Partnering these professionals with each child’s parents, leads to amazing results.
Emma blossomed at Bridges. Through fundraising and amazing financial support from family and friends, she was also able to utilize the cutting edge therapy called Therasuit. These intense three-week sessions gave her strength and development boosts. When she entered the program, Emma was unable to feed herself, had limited communications skills and was unable to get around. Today she can talk, walk with a walker, and play with her friends. She knows her numbers and letters and loves to stack blocks. And Emma is extremely social, always smiling and laughing.
“While we still have to help Emma with some stretching at home, we now feel like her parents and not only her therapists. I can honestly say that The Therapy Place has dramatically changed our lives. It has allowed us the peace of mind to have more kids, to accept our daughter Emma, and to continue leading fulfilling personal and professional lives,” explained Tem.
Since submitting this article, Emma has begun a new phase of her life. She graduated from Bridges and is now at St. Peters Catholic School. She is in a 4K class along with her sister, Kate. The Miles’ are optimistic about Emma’s transition to St. Peters, thanks to the tremendous collaboration between Erin Bellinder, the Bridges progrm director, and the team at St. Peter’s, including the principal, the school psychologist and the 4K teachers, Mrs. Rolack, and her assistant, Mrs. Robinson.
For more information about The Therapy Place and its programs for children with special needs, visit www.thetherapyplace.org or call 803-787-3033.
Photos by Kimberly Campbell