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Saline Co. woman creates fully mobile occupational therapy clinic

Madeline Dunlap started TheraPeds to meet her patients in their natural setting, making it easier on parents who've spent hours sitting at the clinic.

SALINE COUNTY, Ark. — Madeline Dunlap knew she wanted to be an occupational therapist early on. Her skills have grown to become a saving grace for Saline County families. 

Dunlap finds joy in everyday work travel.

"We do not have a clinic," she said. 

Her inspiration to help children is packed into a suitcase that tags along with her from homes to daycares.

TheraPeds is the first fully mobile therapy clinic in Saline County.

It's what parents like Jordan Mathis say is a game-changer for her kids, Maddox and Kenzie, both of whom rely on occupational therapy.

"We sat, sometimes for hours, at clinic," Jordan said.

That is, until she found Madeline.

Madeline's working with Jordan's kids now at their school, Ms. Lisa's Childcare, saving the Mathis family about four clinic trips a week.

"It's very hard when you have multiple kids in therapy to get everybody where they need to be and still be active in the fun things they want to do as well," Jordan explained.

Madeline knows Jordan's struggle all too well. Her brother Jacob, who has special needs, inspired her to create TheraPeds.    

Growing up, Madeline watched her mom struggle to keep up with his therapy appointments.

"It was difficult for her to work a full-time job, so she was literally living at the clinic," Madeline said. 

So now, Madeline meets her patients in their natural setting for convenience, but also for better learning. 

"Kenzie Mae has more fine motor issues; Maddox is more sensory," Jordan said. 

Jordan's children are different, each requiring specific learning techniques. Some days they sort colors; other days, they work on movements. 

And teachers at their school are noticing a difference in the classroom.

"They are so independently working on something and it's just quiet," said Tara Byram, director and curriculum coordinator at Ms. Lisa's Childcare.

Like a domino effect, Ms. Lisa's has picked up on Maddox and Kenzie's success from mobile therapy.

Teachers there are now implementing many of Madeline's learning techniques to help other children grow.

"They think it's just a game. They don't know we are actually doing therapeutic stuff," Byram said. 

Madeline's next goal is to expand to rural counties that don't have access to therapy. 

She said the cost of TheraPeds is covered by a number of insurance companies. 

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