Therapy place opens barn doors

Mindy Dunlevy with her children and friends at The Therapy Place's new facility in Montevallo.

By KATIE HURST/ Staff Writer

MONTEVALLO — A new nonprofit organization in Montevallo is offering an escape for special needs children and their parents all in a family farm setting. The Therapy Place, set to open its doors on Oct. 30, will offer a multitude of therapy programs for children with developmental and physical limitations including animal-based therapy.

Mindy Dunlevy, an experienced occupational therapist, founded The Therapy Place in Florida and is now opening the location in Montevallo. Dunlevy said her family moved to Montevallo a year ago and she thinks the new location will meet a need in the area.

The Therapy Place is a multipurpose facility that will offer occupational, physical and speech-language therapy, she said. Programs include therapeutic horseback riding, an indoor therapy barn, small petting zoo, hayrides and free play area.

Dunlevy said the farm is the perfect environment for this kind of therapy because it offers many sensory elements for children.

“I think the kids relate better to animals than to people sometimes,” she said. “They’ll often have communication problems with people but with animals there’s just the sense of being connected on a different level through touch and movement. The sensory elements happen naturally on the farm, the textures, the lights, the sounds. You can’t create that in a clinical setting.”

Dunvey said therapeutic horseback riding has proven to be beneficial for children with both physical and developmental limitation.

“The horses simulate sensations they can’t get any other way,” she said. “It can encourage a child who can’t walk to start walking.

“It’s a motivational environment for them,” she added. “They feel more free and at peace in this setting.”

Dunlvey said The Therapy Place will offer more than just therapy sessions for children but will seek to meet the needs of the whole family.  Respite care will be available through longer sessions and day camps and parent seminars will offer education for parents on therapeutic care.

“We’ll give parents suggestions and feedback on different things they can do with their kids in the community to continue helping them improve,” she said. “We want to empower parents to be their kid’s therapist, to be their kid’s teacher. I think they just don’t have the tools. That’s what we want to give them.”

The Therapy Place will host its grand opening Oct. 30 from 2-6 p.m. in a carnival setting where parents and children can try out the organization’s programs.

“We’re trying to introduce what we’ll be having on a regular basis so parents can see how their kids react in the environment and see what the programs are all about,” Dunlevy said. “This is an opportunity where every kid can get up and try it out themselves.”

For more information on The Therapy Place visit Thetherapyplace.com or call 205-789-8436.