Helping Children GROW

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In 2019, LifeLab Kids began with the mission to empower children of all abilities to lead their fullest life. Through its process of continuous review and improvement, LifeLab Kids found there were still barriers and gaps to services that prevented this mission from becoming a reality. To address these deficits, in 2020 LifeLab Kids created the Growth Requires Overall Wellness (GROW) Initiative.

GROW was born out of the knowledge that the four pillars of overall wellness are the same for children with developmental disabilities as it is for their typical peers: Mental Health, Social Connection, Physical Health, and Financial Health. However, the roadmap to success in these areas is different. Through its experience in providing therapeutic treatment and after receiving input from its families, LifeLab has identified challenges in each wellness pillar and created new programming to address these challenges.

Challenge: Children with developmental disabilities experience higher rates of mental health setbacks, such as experiencing more anxiety, depression, and academic-related distress than their typical peers. Children with developmental disabilities may also lack the ability to express their feelings, which can also cause mental distress.


LifeLab Kids Solution: Since its inception, LifeLab Kids has worked from the premise that mental wellness is critical to the progress of children with developmental disabilities. Understanding that certain mental health therapies may not work for each child, LifeLab Kids offers both the traditional, such as Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), as well as the creative, such as art, music, and technology. By offering this wide array of mental health therapies, LifeLab Kids customizes each treatment plan to fit the child instead of the child fitting the plan.

Challenge: Children with developmental disabilities are often excluded from social interactions due to their functional and behavioral boundaries. As a result, they tend to experience more loneliness than their typical peers. Social isolation limits a child’s ability to interact with their social environment, delaying their ability to learn communication tools and social norms. Social isolation and loneliness also impair physical and mental wellness.

LifeLab Kids Solution: Belonging is a basic human need, and social interaction is crucial to the human experience. Social connections play a critical role in physical and mental wellness and are the biggest determining factor of living a “happy” life. LifeLab Kids understands that its children may struggle to make connections with other people outside their immediate circle. For this reason, LifeLab Kids offers social connection affinity therapy groups to allow its children to interact and find common ground through recreation, art, music, and technology. Overseen by trained therapists and licensed counselors, children in the group are taught and practice social interaction skills and encouraged to use these skills with people they meet outside of LifeLab Kids. As programs expand and new programs are onboarded, LifeLab Kids always ensures that social connection is at the forefront of all program design.

Challenge: Children with developmental disabilities face higher rates of obesity and diabetes and, on average, experience a 20-year shorter life expectancy than their peers. This life expectancy disadvantage can partially be attributed to poor health literacy, such as insufficient physical opportunities and habits as well as lack of nutritional education and training.

LifeLab Kids Solution: Create Health Literacy program focusing on improving LifeLab Kids facilities and expanding programming to address physical activity and nutritional deficits in children with developmental disabilities, including:

  • Creation of a Recreational Therapy Program to create opportunities for children with disabilities to experience the joy of positive physical activity experiences and the camaraderie that comes through group recreational play. (Program launched in January 2023)
  • Construction of a Sensory Garden and Therapeutic Playpark at the Ferndale location to provide a safe, adaptable play space for children to experience positive physical activity experiences. (Program Launch in June 2023)
  • Renovation of kitchen and flex space at Ferndale location to expand Feeding Therapy Program and Nutritional Education and Training opportunities for families. (Expected Completion Date: September 2023)
  • Renovation of Kitchen and creation of exercise lab space at the Clinton Township location to expand feeding and create positive inside play space for children (Expected Completion Date: December 2023)

For more information on our Health Literacy Program, click here.

Challenge: One of the most pressing issues with children with developmental disabilities is developing financial independence and money management knowledge and skills. Additionally, entering the workforce is especially challenging for children with disabilities who face barriers to stable employment. While the general employment rate has hovered around 60% post-pandemic, only 30% of adults with disabilities are actively employed. Few programs offer the targeted, specialized education and training necessary to teach them skills to help them be gainfully employed, and those programs usually focus on those over 18 years old.


LifeLab Kids Solution: Children with developmental disabilities need extended individualized education and training to obtain desired workplace “soft skills.” Waiting for these programs to begin when they are adults puts them at a disadvantage as the ideal time frame to begin has already passed. LifeLab Kids seeks to create a pre-vocational program for children ages 11-19 to help them become job ready on a timeline more like their typical peers. Pre-vocational training will allow these children to obtain jobs that match their interests and give them purpose. LifeLab Kids will look to support this initiative in the following ways:


  • Open a third location, which will be dedicated to pre-vocational programming. (Expected Completion Date: Fall 2024)
  • Launch a pilot program. During the initial program launch, LifeLab Kids will focus on five areas: technology, culinary, financial literacy, daily workplace skills, and workplace social connecting skills. LifeLab Kids will work to identify and collaborate with partners who will help identify or create career pathways for children in the program. (Expected Program Launch: Fall 2024)

LifeLab Kids remains committed to identifying and creating programming that addresses barriers that prevent children with developmental disabilities from obtaining overall wellness