Partners in Learning gets head start on new therapy program

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 12, 2021


Partners in Learning has hired a board certified behavior analyst to provide a service that currently does not exist in Rowan County.

The nonprofit child care center is using the new hire to build its own applied behavioral analysis program. The specialized therapy technique is an early intervention for children with autism that can help improve communication and social skills.

Nowhere else in Rowan County provides this therapy for children.

PIL’s program is months away from being able to accept patients and the nonprofit is in the process of setting up policies, procedures and billing options to take insurance and Medicaid. The program will need to hire registered behavior technicians as well.

PIL Executive Director Norma Honeycutt said behavior analysts are so scarce the organization looked for a year before finding Kelsie Vaughn. The nonprofit plans to have a clinical wing in the new center it is raising funds for, but in the meantime it plans to serve a small number of children at home.

Honeycutt said the organization found the money to get Vaughn started, but once billing is set up insurance and Medicaid will cover salaries for the program and provide additional funding for things like support staff in classrooms and additional equipment.

Honeycutt said the nonprofit “grows its own people,” and has a student working part time with PIL while pursuing a master’s degree in clinical psychology. The nonprofit also hopes to bring on board teachers who want to return to school and pursue board certification to provide therapy.

“It’s not just months, this is years,” Honeycutt said. “It has to start now. You have to be a visionary and think where are we going to be in two years, three years, five years, because if you don’t start now you won’t be where you want to be.”

The nonprofit is about 64% toward its fundraising goal for a new facility, with about $5.1 million raised. It is also pursuing grants. State Employees Credit Union committed $1.5 million for the clinical services section of the new facility.

PIL began the public phase of its capital campaign for the new facility but just wrapped up its annual special needs fashion show, which raises funds specifically for its programs.

Development Director Amy Vestal said with the show wrapped up the nonprofit is refocusing on the capital campaign. It is about to launch a memorial fundraiser with a donation of 600 bricks for the facility that can be purchased to honor the memory of a loved one. PIL will also looking to raise $5,000 for its educational supply room on Giving Tuesday and will have other fundraising pushes in April for the Month of the Young Child.

Vestal said the organization wants everyone in the community to feel like they are part of the capital campaign whether they give a dollar or $100,000 and pointed to what PIL already does with in home programs and the support it provides to families throughout the county.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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