The director of a Webb City center that serves 13 Carthage children — among the 61 children it serves from three counties — came to the Wednesday Carthage Kiwanis Club meeting to thank that group for its support.


The director of a Webb City center that serves 13 Carthage children — among the 61 children it serves from three counties — came to the Wednesday Carthage Kiwanis Club meeting to thank that group for its support.

Christy Groves Graham, executive director of Cerebral Palsy of Tri-County, briefed the Kiwanians as to what the center does with group’s approximately $3,600 annual allotment.

She said the group’s donation pays for therapy services for children whose parents can’t afford to pay.
“Everything the Kiwanis club sends us is spent on children who have no other funding sources,” Graham said. “I spent $11,000 for unfunded therapy for children who couldn’t afford it last year. We don’t turn any child away because they can’t pay for the services they need.”

Graham talked about the 53-year history of Cerebral Palsy of Tri-County, from a small group founded by five families with children fighting the disabling disease, to three separate homes that served children in Joplin, Neosho and Carthage, to the current, comprehensive facility that operates from Webb City, but reaches out to Jasper, Newton and McDonald counties.

“Starting with five families, we now serve 61 special needs children every day in Webb City,” Graham told the Kiwanis Club at its weekly meeting at the Ulmer Community Room. “Our students don’t just have medical diagnoses of cerebral palsy anymore. Yes we have students who do have cerebral palsy but they run the gamut. We have nine students who have autism diagnoses, we have students with special medical needs such as being born with one leg or one kidney, we have one little girl who has a genetic disorder that is so rare they are actually going to name it after her.”

She said the center provides a number of different thereputic services, as well as a pre-school, for the children it serves.

“We provide early childhood developmental therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, language therapy, and we do it all in a licensed preschool setting,” she told the group. “Right now, what we do is we have our children in the pre-school setting and when it’s time for you to go for your physical therapy, the therapist comes and gets the child and the child goes and ‘plays with that person for a while.’ We call it go play with Miss Martha or go play with Miss Melissa, whomever the therapist might be.”

Graham said the center works with the area school districts to supplement the early childhood services and services for disabled children provided in the public schools.

“We work with the Carthage and Webb City school districts, children who are involved in educational programs through the public school system. If we can coordinate, we do,” Graham said. “We have children who go in the morning to early childhood special education classes at the Joplin, Webb City and Carthage school districts and then they come to us in the afternoon and we trade some out and they go to afternoon sessions in the public schools.”

She said the center has served almost 5,000 children over the 53 years it has been open.

It also serves as a teaching facility for nurses and educators who might work with developmentally disabled children.

“We had, and this is an exact number, 151 student nurses to practicums with us this semester,” Graham said. “We also had dental hygenists and some education folks work with us as well. Yes it’s more work for myself and the development center director but it’s usually the nurses who are the ones in the doctors’ offices who talk to the families and catch what’s going on and help translate what’s going on from the doctor to the patient. We want those nurses out there to know that we exist so they can refer people to us.”