Jia Jia Ye, co-founder and CEO of Springfield Child Development | #specialneeds | #kids

Earlier this month, Springtide Child Development opened its second Fairfield County location at 35 Copps Hill Road in Ridgefield. Springtide focuses on autism treatment for children between ages 2 and 18 through applied behavior analysis therapy, as well as occupational and speech therapy within a single facility. Springtide also focuses on specific needs, including language acquisition, social skills, school readiness and functional living skills.

“There are few parental pressures more staggering than trying to coordinate schedules, insurance and proper care for a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder,” said Jia Jia Ye, cofounder and CEO of Springtide.

In this edition of Suite Talk, Business Journal Senior Enterprise Editor Phil Hall speaks with Ye about her organization’s approach to working with children on the autism spectrum.

Congratulations on the opening of your second Connecticut facility in Ridgefield. What is the story behind this new location?

“We started in Trumbull in 2020 and then we expanded to Ridgefield and we just signed a lease for a third location in West Hartford. We came into Connecticut, because we really saw that there was just such a dearth of quality providers in Connecticut.

“We launched in partnership with our clinical director, Dr. Tiva Pierce, who is a Ph.D. in the field of behavioral analysis, which is pretty rare; about 2% of the population of the therapists out there. She is a super-experienced clinical director and she knew the Connecticut market really well. We realized there’s a lot of opportunity for us to come in and really provide a differentiated quality product.”

What is your approach to working with young people who have autism? How does your center differ from other centers that have the same mission?

“What’s really unique about Springside is that we offer multidisciplinary care in one location — it’s sort of a one-stop shop. For a lot of kids with autism, they have a bunch of different types of therapists they have to go to. Imagine being a mom with three kids — two that you’re homeschooling, a third with special needs, and you’re trying to coordinate three different therapists for this child. You’re trying to drive to all these different locations and make sure that you’re on time and also trying to coordinate all of the insurance paperwork — it’s just a huge nightmare for a family.

“We do it all under one roof, with all of the therapists in one location. So, you can get ABA therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy in one location. And then all of our therapists work together to make sure that you have the most coordinated care. That’s another really big impact, because then you have care coordination and we can make sure that there’s no overlap and no gaps in your therapy.

“Our therapists work together on the same kind of electronic medical records, so they plan the child’s program all together. And then they have weekly things where they talk about a child’s progress and make sure that they’re supporting each other’s program.

“The other thing that we’re doing that’s really innovative is we’re implementing new technology in the space that makes it a lot more efficient for our therapists to work. This eliminates a lot of the overhead, so they’re much more focused on the actual care instead of having to deal with paperwork and insurance. And then we’re also using technology to help us better understand outcome measures of what’s happening inside the clinic, which I think is really different.”

How many young people are you currently working with both in Ridgefield and in Trumbull?

“We are currently serving between 50 to 100 families at the time.”

Your facilities also encourage parents to participate in the treatments for their children. How does this work?

“Parents really love it from a convenience factor because it’s a lot easier being organized with one center that is coordinating across all their different types of therapy and all the different insurances. And we have biweekly parent coaching where they can work directly with a therapist to understand how they take some of the therapy that we offer in the center and apply that into the home setting.”

How has your work been impacted by the pandemic? I know a great many children have been negatively affected by not being able to go to school and to be with their peers, so one could imagine for children with autism it must be doubly stressful.

“That’s exactly right. It was very tough for a lot of our kids. Because we’re an essential business, we were able to reopen June of last year and we’ve stayed open through this whole period.

“When you have kids with autism, being able to create an environment that is predictable and steady is super important. And Covid really can jumble all that up. It was important for us to create a safe, consistent, predictable learning environment.

“In-center environments are really good when you need a managed, controlled, high-intensity learning environment. When Covid hit, what we saw was that a lot of families’ homes became so unpredictable that the center was a very important safe space for the kids to be able to come and have the same people in the same environment, with the same schedule that they were able to plan for.”

What is the state of autism today?

“The CDC says one in 54 kids has autism. Twenty years ago it was about one in 150, and 20 years before that is something like one in 2,500. There’s a lot more awareness and there’s a lot of decreasing stigma.

“The incidence rates are going up very high and the professionalism of the therapy scientists also has been following. A big thing that’s changed is the professionalism of the therapists themselves. They are board-certified behavioral analysts who actually lead the therapy and they hire technicians who are registered behavior technicians. And this is a new kind of formalized class of employees where they go through specific training.

“The general trend has gone from a very kind of one-size-fits-all type of therapy to a much more customized therapy. A lot of therapy is much more focused on what your kid is experiencing and the goals that your kid needs. We see autism as a lifelong journey and we need to be able to meet the families where they need assistance.”

You mentioned earlier that a third center is coming to West Hartford. What else do you have planned for the remainder of 2021?

“We are still looking at markets that are have unmet needs. We are expanding much more broadly across the East Coast — we have a site that we’ve signed for in the Boston metro area and there probably are going to be more in Massachusetts, as well.”

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