Photography Provided by K1ds Count & Amy Payne
Lindsay Knez has had a passion for working with children with autism since she was a teenager. She worked her way through college as a Community Living Specialist at a group home for children with autism. During this time, she discovered that many children with autism struggle with communication, which prompted her choice to pursue a career as a speech-language pathologist. After earning her master’s degree in speech-language pathology, she felt blessed to find a position at a large residential facility for children with autism. Her caseload consisted of approximately 60 children with severe autism during her years at this facility.
“I took pride in helping the children find their “voice” whether it was through speech, PECS or a communication device,” Lindsay says. “However, problem behaviors often interfered with learning during therapy, which is why I returned to school to become a board-certified behavior analyst or BCBA.”
Lindsay always had a passion to own a business similar to where she worked in college, a place that could holistically serve children. After driving past an old farmhouse for sale in Brownsburg for two years with a dream to serve kids, she and her husband, Frank, knew it was the perfect place. In January 2015, they opened K1ds Count LLC with a goal to provide pediatric speech, occupational, physical and ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy services.
Initially, K1ds Count consisted of one house that was used primarily for ABA, speech and occupational therapy. The couple soon realized, however, that the needs of the community were much bigger than what just one house could serve.
“We felt a calling to do more so that we could help as many families as possible,” Frank says.
Today, K1ds Count has grown from a farmhouse into a small campus of blue buildings on Main Street in Brownsburg with a second facility in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Together the two locations serve approximately 100 children in the autism services program and approximately 300 children within the outpatient speech, occupational and physical therapy program.
K1ds Count’s ABA and autism services program focuses on teaching children speech, language, social, play and daily living skills while also decreasing barriers to learning through consistent application of ABA principles and strategies. Each building on the K1ds Count campus simulates different settings, including an actual house as well as two other buildings with classrooms, to assist in generalizing skills to the natural environment. The children have many opportunities to engage in group learning with peers throughout the day.
“We look to add an additional classroom to Brownsburg this year,” Lindsay says.
All children with autism in the ABA program also receive speech and occupational therapy regardless of insurance coverage. A collaborative approach to serving each child is such an important part of the K1ds Count mission. It takes a whole team to reach each milestone, big and small. That team consists of the child, family, RBT (registered behavior technician), BCBA, speech therapist, occupational therapist, physical therapist and teacher.
“We want our therapists to feel that they have not just a team, but an extended family at K1ds Count,” Frank says. “They lean on each other each day to serve not only children and families but also each other.”
K1ds Count cares about each team member’s personal and professional development as well as their feedback to continue making K1ds Count the best employment experience possible. Each quarter, K1ds Count administers anonymous surveys that measure culture and engagement to gain feedback from all team members.
“That feedback has really taken our culture to the next level,” Frank says.
Throughout the year, K1ds Count hosts multiple events that are open to all children — children at K1ds Count as well as all children in the community. For instance, they invite the community to Fall Fest, Bubble Day and Doughnuts with Santa (which attracted a whopping 250 people in 2018).
“It is important for us to be invested in the community we serve,” Lindsay says.
In addition, K1ds Count provides parent training for families at K1ds Count and will soon provide open house training for all parents in the community. These trainings include BCBAs, speech therapists, occupational therapists and physical therapists as well dentists, dietitians, financial specialists and more. The training consist of booths that focus on a variety of topics related to autism.
“Parent training is a fundamental part of our program,” Lindsay says. “It is important for parents to attend the group and community training we put on, but we also provide individualized training on the child’s treatment and behavior intervention plans at the center.”
Frank and Lindsay, parents to sons Franklin (4) and twins Asher and Oscar (3), are sure to also keep K1ds Count moms and dads in the loop through daily communication with therapists, monthly newsletters and social media.
“It’s important that parents know and understand the goals that their child is working on as well as what goes into that behavior intervention plan so they can carry those out outside of this environment,” Frank adds. “The end goal is for the child to be successful at home, at school and in the community.”
Through the years, Frank and Lindsay have witnessed a transformation in the children they have served.
Kids may come into therapy at K1ds Count without basic communication, play or social skills. These difficulties lead to frustration and sometimes problem behaviors. Give them time at K1ds Count, however, and that can change. Though every child walks a different path, many see improvement. In fact, many children have transitioned out of therapy and successfully into a school setting. Also, several of their older children participate in vocational opportunities at the 1911 Grill in Speedway, helping with various restaurant tasks. Another helped the Brownsburg Parks & Recreation Department plant flowers last summer.
Lindsay has one student whom she has worked with since he was seven years old, before K1ds Count even existed.
“He proudly tells people he was the first K1ds Count kid,” Lindsay says. “Now he drives a car and has grown to become a peer mentor. Last year, he was employed here for his first real summer job. That was really cool to see.”
Over time, Frank and Lindsay have established strong partnerships with the Brownsburg School Corporation, the Town, the Parks & Recreation Department and, of course, all of the K1ds Count families.
“No one organization can do it alone,” Frank says. “It’s been an overwhelmingly welcoming experience, and, going forward, we want to make things even better.”
K1ds Count is located at 1353 E. Main Street in Brownsburg. For more information, visit kidscounttherapy.com.