The Riverside team (from left) is Dexter McNally, owner of Comox Valley Speech Therapy (with office mascot, Ginger at his feet); Laura Forseth, owner of Laura Forseth Therapy Through Play; Erica Farrell, owner of Child’s Play Physiotherapy; and Erin Bishop, owner, Early Essentials Behaviour Consulting. They have all collaborated to provide the various therapy services under one roof. Riverside Therapy Services opened in June at 211C-750 Comox Rd. in Courtenay. Photo by Terry Farrell

Riverside offers range of therapy and development services

Office provides a place for families and others to get therapies under one roof

Finding therapy services can be daunting for families, but a new office in the Comox Valley is providing a kind of ‘one-stop’ shop, for children and adults, alike.

Riverside Therapy Services houses four different providers who offer a range of supports for children and families, including speech therapy, physio and occupational therapy, counselling and behavioural therapy.

The office opened its doors recently. Initially, Dexter McNally, owner of Comox Valley Speech Therapy, wanted to share space with Erica Farrell of Child’s Play Physiotherapy. Then the plan started to grow.

“We were looking to expand to a bigger space,” he says. “Having everyone together like this … it helps the families.”

He and Farrell had similar clients, so it made sense to share space, but he found a larger space that could accommodate more professionals. He used to work with the school district before branching off into his own business because he found there were no private speech-language therapists with availability north of Nanaimo. His clients now range from one-and-a-half and to their mid-90s, and his work can take into account a range of considerations, from autism to speech sounds to post-stroke recovery to gender-affirming voice therapy for transgender individuals.

“It’s a huge range. I try to help everyone I can,” he says.

The plan, says Farrell, was to open up Riverside earlier in the spring, but the pandemic put things on hold. For the meantime, they worked through telehealth before opening the doors. For her business, she had been meeting clients in homes before that.

“Now, we have an opportunity to offer clinic space to the clients,” she says.

Prior to that, she would have to plan what she could bring for equipment to help clients with physio or occupational therapy, but now she has everything at hand.

“It’s nice having more availability of different things for the children to try and to do,” she says. “I can only fit so much in my car.”

Riverside also includes Therapy Through Play’s Laura Forseth, whose background is in psychology and counselling psychology. She worked in the public sector as well as having her own practice, including a couple of years at a site in Tin Town before she joined Riverside.

“It sounded like an amazing opportunity for families to have so many services offered under one roof so I joined on with them,” she says.

Forseth provides services such as counselling for young children on up to adults, and advocates for approaches such as play-based learning for children.

“Counselling provides families with opportunities to learn new skills and tools that will promote healthier, more positive, more cohesive interactions at home, and these interactions will spill over or generalize into the child’s other environments,” she adds.

She can also work with parents who want to learn different skills to help their children. Because of her previous experience and education, she also works with children on the autism spectrum or with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Early Essentials Behaviour Consulting’s Erin Bishop is a behaviour analyst who works with clients to identify goals for children through behaviour and skills assessments, as well as a plan of intervention.

“Behaviour therapy is so important because everything that we do on a daily basis is behaviour, and it all serves an important purpose. It allows us to have our needs met, socialize, and express our feelings and opinions. If there are foundational skills missing in any of these areas, then the child will have a hard time mastering these skills on their own,” she says.

Often, Bishop works with children on the autism spectrum, though she also works with children having a range of other needs. Joining Riverside, she feels having a team can benefit families looking to help children create well-rounded skillsets – a sentiment shared by all the practitioners.

“It’s traditionally been quite hard for parents to find therapists on the Island,” says Farrell. “They have the funding, but they can’t find the person to do it.”

READ MORE: Telethon raises more than $94,000 for child development in Comox Valley

Riverside Therapy Services is located at 211C-750 Comox Rd. in Courtenay.

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