Success to us is when they are reaching their full potential – whatever that looks like for that individual child. We have to be there when they need us and allow them to flourish while they’re getting our support, but also when they don’t need us because that’s what it’s all about, to flourish. And, really, that’s every parent’s goal for any of their children.
Tammy says her passion for this work and this population grew organically from when she started as a speech therapist working out her home. Listening to her clients and their families’ needs, she recognized a need for more support. Tammy felt rewarded by each child’s success and realized that, with the right team and the right resources, the program could serve more people over time. Quick to acknowledge her team for delivering the intervention services, she sets the foundation to provide maximum support to fulfill the ACCESS mission in client classrooms, therapy spaces, vocational training sites and homes.
Critical to development for a child with IDD, ACCESS Early Childhood focuses on intense early intervention and treatment from age 6 weeks through kindergarten. The ACCESS Academy program for children focuses on essential academic subjects using specialized teaching methods and a team approach to tailor its curriculum to each student’s needs. The organization also offers vocational training to high school-aged individuals and young adults with disabilities to prepare them for employment in competitive environments.
ACCESS begins with young children because by second grade, you are not learning to read, you are reading to learn. And when these young students become teenagers, the focus shifts from life skills like communication to vocational skills and a focus on being part of the local community. After high school and vocational training, these individuals then need job training – you cannot learn better than on the job, Tammy notes.
Thirty years ago, Tammy could not get a $17,000 loan to purchase therapy equipment without a man’s signature. Today, she feels respected as a business leader. Even more significantly, she feels greater community acceptance for her clients and their families.
Tammy often references a donor who once told her, “A community is not a complete community without a place like ACCESS. And it’s a good business decision to have places like ACCESS because we can't attract top neurosurgeons if they have a child with IDD but there’s no organization that can meet their needs.”
- ACCESS operates in 35 counties in Arkansas.
- It serves more than 250 students and outpatient clients each week; from 2021-22, it served more than 875 individuals.
- Programs include evaluation services, full-time education, therapy services, mental health, vocational training, and activities for individuals with special needs ages 6 weeks through adulthood.
- ACCESS has almost 300 full- and part-time employee; its operating budget is nearly $18M.
- More than 91% of ACCESS Early Childhood programming students meet or exceed the required skills to move on to kindergarten the following year.
- Since 2013, the Project SEARCH Arkansas: ACCESS Initiative vocational training program has had an average 93% job placement success rate.
- Students logged more than 115,000 minutes focusing on mindfulness, hygiene, nutrition and physical activity, during ACCESS’s annual Healthy Habits Week.
- More than 45% of ACCESS Academy students rely on financial aid for education services they need to achieve academic success.
Health Equity Heroes
Meet the 2023 Health Equity Heroes
Bridget Saffold, MSN, MPH, RN
Founder, Focus on Diabetes
Executive Director and CEO, Sacramento District Dental Society and Foundation
Christina T. Rosenthal, DDS, MPH
Founder, Determined to be a Doctor Someday (DDS)
Gail Tessier Brown, JD, MSW
Director, NH Oral Health Coalition
Joel Bervell, MD Candidate
Social Media Medical Educator, Washington State University
Vice President of Integrative Program Development and Clinical Innovation, Commonwealth Care Alliance
Richard C. Black, DDMS, MS
Rick and Ginger Francis Endowed Dean, Woody L. Hunt School of Dental Medicine & Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso
Tammy Simmons, MS, CCC-SLP
Co-Founder, Executive Director, ACCESS
The newsletter designed for anyone who wants to improve oral health for themselves, their families, customers or communities.