In July 2021, Beautiful Gate Center — the first multidisciplinary, integrated developmental learning center in the state of South Carolina — will open in North Charleston and begin serving tri-county area children and youth with Developmental Disabilities (DD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
Founded by parents who know firsthand the frustrations and shortfalls of working within an imperfect system, the Beautiful Gate Center (BGC) was born out of a desire to improve the quality of life for families of children with developmental disabilities. Co-founders David and Angela Muirhead understand the unique challenges families with special needs face, and BGC was designed to deviate from traditional learning methods in that it will provide coordinated, cooperative, interdisciplinary services under one roof.
While children in the state of South Carolina who are diagnosed with a developmental disability may qualify for an Individualized Education Program (IEP) through the public school system, IEPs can be confusing and challenging to obtain and follow and can be subject to changes or modification each year when a new teacher and IEP team is introduced, or if the family moves to a new school district. Children who qualify for special education services through school may also need additional support after the school day has ended. In many circumstances, appropriate care and educational support will involve different specialists and therapies. Families may be caught in an endless cycle of meeting with medical providers and shuttling children to different types of therapy appointments, in addition to trying to manage their own careers, homemaking and other extracurriculars. “Beautiful Gate will meet the needs of families who cannot get aid anywhere else. When mom and dad drop the child off, they are no longer the mediator, the case manager, and don’t have to figure things out all over again the next year,” said Angela Muirhead, who serves as the executive director.
The Beautiful Gate Center received its name from the scripture verse in Acts 3, where the disciples showed mercy and compassion to a disabled person outside of the temple’s “beautiful gate.” The staff envisions an environment of both protection and transition. It values the inherent dignity of all people who are created in the image of God and as such, are worthy of dignity, respect and compassion. If you look closely, the logo also reflects the beauty of Charleston’s iconic wrought iron gates that can be found throughout the city.
BGC will feature two components, the first of which will be a multidisciplinary outpatient practice offering appointments for Speech and Language Pathology (SLP), Occupational Therapy (OT) and Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Committed to providing its services to all people regardless of economic background, BGC will accept several commercial insurance plans including United, Cigna, TriCare and Blue Cross Blue Shield in addition to accepting SC State Medicaid. There are also future plans for the nonprofit charity to establish scholarship accounts to ensure that qualifying families will be able to access the quality care they need.
The second component will be an intensive, year-round developmental program designed to give students maximum access to complementary, evidence-based practices and cutting-edge care through a full day treatment program. Students enrolled in the yearlong program at Beautiful Gate Center’s facility will receive one-on-one instruction with integrated therapies for up to 30 hours each week with board-certified clinicians and teachers.
The year-round program is designed to bridge the gap for children who may not qualify for school services or who may not thrive in a neurotypical environment. By attending Monday through Friday, eligible students will have routine access to ongoing education and therapy, thus reducing the frequency of regression or seasonal slides. In addition to receiving care from clinicians and associated supportive therapies, students will have specialized learning plans and receive instruction across many stages of their development, including improving cognitive skills, developing functional communication skills using hi-tech speech devices if needed and improving health and daily living skills (dressing, eating, toileting, etc.), with access to outdoor health and environment training. The program will also impart social and group participation skills, including peer modeling and mentoring, community readiness skills and pre-vocational training for teens and young adults. Additionally, the program will provide economic cost benefits by helping these individuals learn independent life skills earlier in life, reducing the level of support and accommodations that might otherwise be required down the road.
A grand opening and ribbon cutting is tentatively planned for July. For more information on Beautiful Gate Center, how to apply for admission or to make a donation, visit beautifulgatecenter.org.