The ‘perfect fit’ for children with special needs and disabilities in western Kansas

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DODGE CITY, Kan. (KSNW) – Dodge city will be getting a new clinic offering multidisciplinary therapy services to children.

Perfect Fit Foundation is a nonprofit organization. It started with a goal in mind of opening a clinic that could offer services for kids living with special needs and disabilities in an underserved part of the state.

The idea originated after Trista Fergerson, a mom of two, was struggling to find her son Dax the proper resources and therapies he needed to cope with his Autism. Dax was first diagnosed at age four. By first grade, he began showing heightened signs of the disorder. He was having meltdowns, getting angry, and struggling with anxiety.

“In a child with Autism, something that a typical brain knows is socially inappropriate, an Autistic brain does not understand that,” said Trista Fergerson, Co-Founder and President of Perfect Fit Foundation and CEO and Director of Operations of Perfect Fit Therapy Clinic. “We worked extremely hard with the school district and he has a great team of people that help him. They are very helpful, but it’s just not enough.’

Fergerson and her husband began making the 150-mile trek, a six-hour round trip, back and forth to Wichita. It was the closest therapy clinic that could offer Dax Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy from a licensed and trained therapist.

The therapy, with time, would help Dax learn how to better control his emotions. However, that meant Dax would also have to have at a minimum of 10 hours a week of therapy. “To travel 150-miles, 10 hours a week when both parents have full-time jobs, both parents are doing extracurriculars, we knew it wasn’t feasible,” said Fergerson.

Wanting the best for Dax and their family, the Fergerson’s even considered moving as far as Atlanta, Georgia where therapy clinics and specialized schools for Autism are common.

But after visiting, the Fergerson’s knew it wasn’t the right fit. Instead, Trista, thought why not open a clinic in Dodge City? The idea was put in motion. “We said, we’re gonna stay, but instead bring the services to him,” said Fergerson. “We knew if our kids were living without services, there were so many other kids in this part of the state that were either going without entirely or their families were just being burdened with the idea of traveling across the state to get them these services.”

Trista, along with Holly Legg and Tatiana Tuchez founded the foundation and with immense support from the community, more than a quarter-million dollars has currently been raised to back the endeavor.

“It’s not just about Dax living normally, it’s more about him living functionally. A functional life that will create a citizen to live in this community, and work as a functioning citizen. So that he can hold a job when he’s older so that he can live on his own when he’s older. If we can get him these services now, he will be able to do those things when he’s an adult and that’s really as a parent all we hope for him,” said Fergerson.

More than 30 kids are already signed up to receive physical, occupational, speech, and applied behavioral therapies. “Our goal is that every child that walks in our doors, will have a team of therapists working at all of these disciplines to make their life as functional as they can,” said Fergerson.

Families from Denver to Wichita now have a resource to lean on, if needed. “It’s about us creating a space where families to come and get the help that they need,” said Fergerson.

Fergerson says she wants the clinic to help those families that may have similar struggles that her family went through. “We’re going to make this clinic and this foundation revolves around a family-oriented space,” she said.

Fergerson says one limitation the clinic has worked to overcome is finding professionals to serve in the clinic. “These are specialized practices and specialized disciplines,” she said. “We realize we are going to have to pay higher salaries than most people are doing in bigger cities, and I’m okay with that because it comes to a point where we know we need these specialties and if we have to pay for it, we will.”

Right now, the clinic has hired multiple specialists but is still looking for a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) that can offer ABA therapy.

Perfect Fit Foundation of Southwest Kansas owns and operates the Perfect Fit Therapy Clinic. Since the foundation is a nonprofit, grants, donors, and fundraisers help fund the clinic now and in the future.

The clinic is expected to open doors this upcoming May.

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