Hundreds of successful vaccine doses, and counting
Giving kids the "opportunity to be brave," KidsAbility staff find purpose and connection in helping our community
KidsAbility’s Special Accommodation COVID-19 Vaccination Clinics
are fast becoming the happiest place for kids to get immunized, and a place of
hope and connection for so many parents and families. They are also another way that KidsAbility staff are finding purpose in giving back to our community.
In partnership with the Region of Waterloo and Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph
Public Health Units, each Special Accommodation Clinic location in Guelph,
Cambridge, and Waterloo provides a positive vaccine experience by
offering a calmer, quieter environment for families with children who struggle
in a larger clinic setting. Clinicians and administrative staff at KidsAbility are
thrilled to lend their expertise and skills to make it a success.
Getting a vaccination can be a highly emotional moment for a child.
Children who come to the Special Accommodation Clinics typically have severe
needle anxiety, general anxiety or have sensory, behavioural or other special
needs that require a little more time during the vaccination process.
“Some of the kids at these clinics were deferred three times,”
explains Sarita Pandit, Clinical Manager, Region of Waterloo Public Health. “For
example: from the mass vaccination clinics, their local pharmacy and their
doctor’s office. So, these clinics are such an amazing place for them – they
have more time, and they have more toys to play with. The therapists are so
good; they work with the children to distract them and support them. If we
didn’t have these types of clinics, these kids would be left behind.”
Parents like Charity Frey appreciate how KidsAbility clinicians
quickly recognize a child’s unique needs and develop their trust through caring
“Our family’s experience was great because the staff were patient
and could sense our daughter’s apprehension from the moment we came in,” said
Frey shortly after her child received her vaccination. “It was definitely at a
pace that worked for her. It didn’t feel as chaotic as the previous environment
where it was so big, and she was hearing the sounds of other children as they
got their shot.”
For Regan Ross, a Communication Disorders Assistant whose role
began at KidsAbility during the pandemic, extending her skills to any
child who needs extra support beyond the speech and language needs of her
current clients brings her a deep connection to the community.
“A young six-year-old friend I made one weekend shared that
getting his vaccination gave him ‘the opportunity to be brave,’” said Ross. “He
admitted he was both scared, but excited, because he could make a difference by
rolling up his sleeve. Afterwards, he was thrilled he would be able to tell his
friends that he was vaccinated. We celebrated by dancing together in the
Ross is one of more than 50 KidsAbility staff volunteers who
have lent their time at the Special Accommodation Clinics that began in
December and have carried on in 2022. The clinics are an example of
KidsAbility’s vision of potential realized as each child and their family is
empowered to face their fear and walk away with a new confidence that comes
with getting vaccinated to protect themselves and others.
Ross is grateful to be surrounded by a well-rounded team of
clinical volunteers in social work, speech and language, occupational and
physiotherapy, or instructor therapy within Autism Behaviour Services. She also
credits the contributions of administrative staff for greeting children and their
families as well as celebrating vaccine success with stickers, a little candy,
cheers and some high-fives.
“We work off our strengths to support each child and each other in
each of these moments,” said Ross.
For those appointments that sometimes end without a vaccination,
Ross shared her perspective on the meaning of success.
“I met a little friend recently who was highly anxious, at
an anxiety level of 10,” explains Ross. “When he first arrived, every part of
his body showed he was extremely apprehensive. I sat at his level and asked him
to share things that he was interested in and liked to do. I did the same. In
time, his anxiety dropped to about a three. While he wasn’t ready that day to
get his vaccine, he left with a smile on his face and agreed he would seek me
out to try again at our next clinic.”
As Pandit reflected on the collaborative efforts of all
involved in the Region of Waterloo clinics, she said: “At the end of each
clinic, instead of feeling tired, we all feel refreshed. We feel like we have
done such a great job to help our community. I go to bed and sleep very well as
I know my day was well spent. That sense of satisfaction is so fantastic.”
Special Accommodation Clinic partnerships with the local
public health units have resulted in approximately 500 children receiving a
vaccine and signal an exciting step towards ending COVID-19.
For KidsAbility, there is no greater reward
than celebrating these moments with a committed and connected community of donors,
supporters, partners and staff volunteers who bring smiles to the tiny faces
behind the masks.