Stefanie Pemble

Chilliwack rehab clinic becomes one-stop shop for neurological disorders

The Abilities Neurological Rehabilitation clinic in Chilliwack offers several different therapies for both adults and children.

When the Abilities Neurological Rehabilitation clinic opened in Chilliwack last fall, a weight was lifted off Reta Buchanan’s shoulders.

For six years, the Agassiz mom had been driving to different clinics throughout the Fraser Valley, Lower Mainland and Vancouver to get her daughter the medical services she requires.

When Abilities opened, it became the one-stop shop Rita had dreamed of.

Her six-year-old daughter Marissa was born two-months premature with a congenital heart deficiency. At two years old, she was diagnosed with pervasive developmental disorder on the autism spectrum. Rita suspects even more genetic deficiencies that haven’t yet been diagnosed.

As such, Marissa requires speech therapy, occupational therapy, physiotherapy. She also requires a respite worker, behavioural intervention team, and orthotics. Most of which she now gets at Abilities.

“It’s a balancing act trying to get her in to the services she needs,” said Buchanan. But by having a place in Chilliwack, “it’s just easier.

“Right away I felt a connection with Marissa seeing them, and them assessing her. They gave us options right away, they gave me a game plan. Having that guidance was so important for me, because often you feel like you just don’t know where the heck you are.”

Heather Branscombe is the brainchild behind Abilities Neurological Rehabilitation. For years she worked in public and private clinics, as well as schools. She worked with both kids and adults with neurological disabilities. But it wasn’t until one of her own children was diagnosed with a disability that she truly understood the struggles parents and adults with disabilities have.

“I could see there was a need for a place like this for both kids and adults,” said Branscombe, director of the clinic.

“For me, it was about creating a place that’s safe. My intent was for it to be a place that families and adults could go and find the resources they need, as well as a place to obtain the different therapies they need.”

Abilities works with both children and adults who have ailments such as cognitive, congenital and other developmental delays, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, autism, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, spinal cord injuries, have survived strokes, and more.

It provides physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy, and also has an orthotist on staff. As well, the clinic works in consultation with the Fraser Valley Developmental Centre, hospitals, and other such public services to help clients navigate the system more efficiently.

“We are the only clinic in B.C. that has all three disciplines in one location,” said Branscombe.

When six-year-old Marissa, who resembles a Curly Sue lookalike with her wildly, tight, hazelnut curls, first started at Abilities in the Abbotsford location three years ago, she was only just beginning to crawl. She had orthotics that extended all the way up to her knees, something her team at Abilities suspected was preventing her from walking. She was fitted for ankle orthotics, and instantly had more mobility. She is now “very close” to walking.

“It’s been a volatile journey,” said Rita. “It can consume you, it really can. Letting other people take over has been a blessing.”

Abilities Neurological Rehabilitation is located at #2-45950 Cheam Avenue. For more information, call 604-392-2255.

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