Monarch House delighted to re-connect with families again

By Ian Hunter

After five months apart, staff at Monarch House were thrilled to be back in the office to help support families with special needs. Just last week, Monarch House re-opened their doors at their Waterloo centre for the first time since March.

It’s been a challenging time, helping parents and children with autism navigate online services, but with in-person services available once again, they can provide one-on-one support to kids who need assistance.

Rachel Koffman is the director of Monarch House, a centre that offers high-quality, evidence-based treatment services for kids that have autism and developmental disabilities. She marvelled at how well their clients adapted to online services during the first wave of the pandemic.

“Our staff and our clients and our parents in particular were so resilient and dedicated to working with us to make it work,” Koffman said. “They stuck with us and we had some bumpy starts at the beginning. But we are at a point where parents have given us feedback that it’s been really empowering to be able to support their children to learn in a different way.”

In some cases, the online method worked better for the older demographic of children, like adolescents and teenagers. Where they may not have been present during in-person sessions, Koffman noted that some teens were more engaged through online virtual care.

Monarch House opened their Waterloo location last June, their third centre based in Ontario. They also have locations in Alberta and British Columbia.

This month, Monarch House will run social programs for adolescents who are interested in developing social skills and connecting with other kids. Those programs will be offered online for those looking to develop conversation skills after school, Monday to Thursday.

However, the one-on-one interaction is paramount for rapport-building at Monarch House, so they were ecstatic to welcome some of their clients back in the building as of last week. It’s like the first day of school of sorts, as kids were reunited with their therapists after a five-month hiatus.

“Our staff are so excited to see the kids again,” Koffman said. “We’ve spoken to parents, and we know that the kids are excited to see us. It’s going to be a sweet reunion, I think. We’re really excited to get back to the work that we do.”

Monarch House prides themselves on offering interdisciplinary programs for all the children they serve. This means all clients with autism receive Applied Behaviour Analysis, and a speech-language pathologist and occupational therapist. This provides all-encompassing care for their clients with developmental disabilities.

“We really believe strongly in an interdisciplinary approach,” Koffman said. “We know that individuals with autism benefit from an interdisciplinary approach, and we’ve prioritized that as part of our treatment program.”

As the Monarch House centre in Waterloo opens again, there will be additional safety measures in place. Everyone coming into the building goes through a screening process. Staff will wear facemasks and eye protection, and capacity will be limited.

Despite the new physical barriers put in place, it’s just a minor inconvenience for the clients and staff, because being in the same room brings back some sense of normal for these patients.

Koffman confessed that the staff at Monarch House can’t wait to get back to doing what they do best; connecting with kids. “We’re really excited to be back, to open our doors and to help support the families in the Kitchener and Waterloo area who need us.”

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