RiteCare Childhood Language Center of Santa Barbara
RiteCare Childhood Language Center of Santa Barbara, founded in 1984, is the only nonprofit in Santa Barbara County offering free language and speech therapy for children. As might be expected, the need is great, and with only two Speech-Language Pathologists on staff, RiteCare has waiting lists much longer than they would like.
That’s because the public school system has strict parameters on who qualifies for services provided internally. Many young children, those who might need support in their speech and language skills and would benefit greatly from individual therapy, are simply falling through the cracks.
“To qualify for speech therapy services at the school district, you have to fall within the bottom seventh percentile on standardized testing,” explained Summer Calvert, RiteCare’s Program Director who has worked as a Speech-Language Pathologist for nearly 20 years, including seven at the Santa Barbara County Education Office. There are some kids that definitely have a speech and/or language delay but they’re not qualifying because their scores aren’t quite low enough.”
In addition, the research shows that early intervention is key in helping young kids at preschool age be ready for school, Calvert said. Evidence shows that undiagnosed, untreated childhood language disorders – difficulty understanding or communicating language – put children at a higher risk of social, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive problems in adulthood.
“Intervening as early as possible, even below age three – when the district can start testing – is best for their success.”
To bridge those gaps, RiteCare has an easy access intake process. Children must be aged between two-and-a-half and five years old, and must not be receiving speech and language therapy from more than one source (speech therapist, private therapist, special day class). Once a parent contacts the center, Calvert or Speech-Language Pathologist and Center Director Julie DeAngelis schedules a screening within the month to determine the child’s priority level for the nonprofit’s programs; following which, the child is invariably placed on the waitlist.
“In the interim, we refer them out to the school district if they haven’t yet been screened there, as well as to other agencies, to private therapists, and to other resources that might help them while they wait,” Calvert said. “We help the families navigate that process because it can be a bit daunting for parents. We want to give them the tools that they need to find all the resources possible.”
And RiteCare starts supporting the child even before they are officially part of the program, she said.
“We don’t want them just to sit on this crazy waitlist that we have without anything happening. If – when they come in for this screening – we can instantly see that they’re pretty mild, we might do a little bit of therapy with them within that screening hour and teach the parents some things they can take home; some activities that they could do on their own to start working. We have them check in with us again after 30 days and let us know what’s happening so we can check the progress and see if there’s more we can offer.”
Once under RiteCare’s umbrella, each child receives extensive private individualized speech and language therapy, while the center also provides parents all the tools and essentials necessary for carrying out the skills learned in therapy each week. Parents are provided an opportunity to sit in on each session with their child, or to observe through a two-way mirror and listen in on their child’s session through a speaker system.
“Our center is really fun,” Calvert said. “The families are part of the session. We do a different theme every week and the kids are so excited to come and see what the theme is. There’s always an obstacle course, something that involves fine motor skills and literacy in addition to their speech and language goals. We work on that while they’re doing all of this fun stuff. For the kids, they’re coming to dress up and play with us and do all these fun activities. Most of the time they don’t realize how hard they’re actually working on learning how to say the ‘s’ sound, for example.”
Those efforts are also augmented by three programs: Camp Chit Chat, a socially interactive summer camp for preschool-age children with mild-to-moderate speech and language delays, created a dozen years ago to support school kids during summer break; Brain Lab, an after-school literacy program for older students ranging in age from first grade through sixth grade; and Super Brains, a small group of kindergarten through first-grade children working on social skills.
The RiteAid Center’s kids aren’t the only ones who are learning. Indeed, Calvert, who has multiple degrees in Speech-Language Pathology, just earned a dyslexia certification – a year-long process she said will increase the effectiveness of the center’s programs, as it aligns efforts with the science of reading. It’s part of the total effort of the Santa Barbara Center – one of 180 across the country – to respond to the needs of the community. It is this acute attentiveness to the community’s needs that earlier resulted in the three aforementioned programs to augment the core speech therapy.
Of course, having the capacity to help more kids earlier would be even more valuable.
“Our dream is to be able to hire one more therapist,” Calvert said. “If we had another person, our waitlist would be reduced by a pretty good amount. We’d be able to serve more children. That’s what we’re here for.”
Santa Barbara RiteCare
16 E. Carrillo Street, 4th Floor
Julie DeAngelis, Center Director
Summer Calvert, Program Director
Executive Vice President: Arthur Salazar
Help children find their voice. The California Scottish Rite Foundation is dedicated to support and assist children in California by providing childhood speech-language, literacy and education programs for a lifetime of improved communication and confidence.
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Santa Barbara RiteCare Language Center is an amazing organization that helps children with language and reading in fun and engaging ways, utilizing both gross and fine motor techniques. This success is attributed to their caring staff and unwavering community support. It’s crucial to sustain this center so that all youth, regardless of their financial situation, can access the strong educational fundamentals they need for a thriving future.
A Small Investment Makes a Big Impact in Giving a Child a Voice
RiteCare Childhood Language Center’s ongoing speech and language therapy programs, along with its summertime Camp Chit Chat, are all provided at no cost to the families. They rely entirely on donations and grants to offer these life-altering sessions to those who don’t have the means for private help. With only two Speech-Language Pathologists on staff, the ever-expanding waitlist means many youngsters aren’t getting their needs met at a critical time in their lives.
Just $60,000 would enable RiteCare to hire a third Speech-Language Pathologist, allowing the small organization to instill another 30 children with communications skills that increase learning and make a dramatic difference in their lives going forward.
“It’s our dream to be able to bring on another therapist and help more children,” says Summer Calvert, program director.
Sidney E. Frank Foundation
Santa Barbara Foundation
Roy and Ida Eagle Foundation
Mark & Amy Frank
Scottish Rite – Valley of
Hutton Parker Foundation
Santa Ynez Band of Mission Indians
Santa Barbara Lodge of Perfection
David Bradley & Chelsea
American Riviera Bank
King David’s Lodge
Carpinteria Masonic Association
Maurice & Mary Sourmany