In May of 1991, I received an invitation to teach English at an orphanage in Taiwan for the summer. I was just about to graduate from college with majors in political science and journalism, and my dreams of becoming the next Cokie Roberts had not yet materialized.
The Onesiphorus Children’s Home was home to 40 children in a farming community just outside the southeastern city of Taitung. About 10 years prior to my arrival, there was an outbreak of polio in the surrounding communities. Many impoverished families - unable to care for their children- handed them over to the local government or simply left them by the side of the road in hopes that someone would care for them.
A note from our director
Over the course of the summer, I taught English but also became increasingly involved with the children’s therapy appointments at the nearby hospital. There, an older man, known simply to me as The Rehab Director, took me under his wing. Despite the massive language barrier he showed me the ropes of stretching, gait training, and functional mobility training with children whose leg muscles had been ravaged by the virus.
I was hooked. Having played sports through college, I was familiar with physical therapy for athletes looking to return to sport. But here, a whole new world emerged. I watched kids who had been scooting on the floor to get around take their first steps with lofstrand crutches. I watched The Rehab Director make adaptive equipment for the kids out of anything he could find. Back at the orphanage pool, I spent hours teaching kids to swim. The orphanage in Taitung changed the course of my life. I returned home knowing I would reset my plan with the goal of becoming a physical therapist.
More than 30 years later, I feel luckier than ever to be a pediatric physical therapist.. I love knowing how our bodies work. I love the puzzle of matching a child’s personality to a PT activity so goals can be met faster. I love watching my fellow BAC clinicians in their element and I love the joy that reigns in the BAC gyms.
The Boston Ability Center is a dream come true for me. In meeting children and families through my work at Boston Children’s Hospital, the Wellesley Public Schools and in home-care, I heard often about how parents had to piece together therapies in a variety of settings. I didn’t fully know what I was getting myself into, but I had a feeling that fun and adventurous play based therapy would lead to good outcomes. At BAC, a good outcome is defined as when a child has fun while developing skills and independence according to their measurable goals and their caregivers find themselves empowered by knowledge, community, and support.
Check out Stanley's therapy dog Instagram!
I often find myself in awe of you, the parent. I’ve been lucky enough to have a front row seat to the many ways you fight for, support and encourage your children. They are learning tenacity from you and their willingness to persevere makes our job easy!
I’m grateful to have had unwavering support from my own parents. My mom has loved every child within her reach unconditionally for as long as I can remember. Her grandchildren will attest to her outstanding play skills and her preference for being at the “kids” table. Her kindness inspires all things BAC. My father has been the best business partner anyone could ask for. Part voice of reason, part sounding board and always so encouraging in the face of turbulence (or a pandemic, or a fight with insurance companies, or collapsing ceiling). He is a leaper of faith and I’m thankful he encouraged me to leap with him! He taught me that businesses can and should be built by leading with your heart.
Today, the BAC is run more and more by our amazing supervisory team, our gifted clinicians and an awesome front office team. I’m blown away by the talent and dedication of every individual who comes to work here each day.
The children we work with...YOUR children...are extraordinary. Thank you for sharing them with us!
Jan Wade, DPT, PCS