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Chances are that you know someone who has been diagnosed with Autism or a special need. In fact, 1 in every 59 children are on the Autism spectrum.* For the past 4 years on the first Sunday of each month, The Discovery has opened its doors early from 10 am to Noon for the Discover Your Way Program.
Discover Your Way offers exclusive admission for families with children with Autism or those who can benefit from sensory-friendly time at the museum. The program also creates an opportunity for parents to network and share resources within the space. The goal of Discover Your Way is for these families to orient themselves to The Discovery during sensory-friendly time so that they are more empowered and confident in their ability to return to The Discovery at any other time.
The world has a funny way of connecting people, and that’s exactly what happened when The Discovery crossed paths with Dr. Perry Francis and his dental practice, Wild About Smiles. Wild about Smiles has partnered with The Discovery to sponsor this unique and one-of-a-kind experience in our community.
Because of Dr. Francis’ generous philanthropic ways, we wanted to find out more about him and share the story of why he chooses to give back to kids, their parents, and the community. Here is what he had to say:
The Discovery: How and why did you get into dentistry for patients with special needs?
Dr. Francis: When you choose to care for children, a percentage of that population includes children with special needs. I came to the conclusion early in my career that if I chose to specialize in caring for children, that meant I would also have to learn the best practices for caring for children with special needs. I find it very fulfilling to help a special needs child overcome their fears, given that anxiety is often more intense for this community. I recognize that raising a child with special needs is much more challenging for parents, so I will always do what I can to provide those parents with the support they need. This may include tailoring the timing of appointments to their schedules, or making sure they have the extra time on our schedule so that they do not feel rushed.
The Discovery: What extra equipment, rooms, processes, training, or other items are needed to serve that audience?
Dr. Francis: We always schedule these patients in our private rooms. This gives them their own space. Most children who are confined to special chairs get their exams and cleanings in their chairs, which we feel is more comfortable for the patient and the parent — we know sometimes it is difficult for a parent to have to lift children in and out of their chairs. We have special equipment and lights that can help us accomplish our tasks.
We look at every child’s level of disability and decide what can be done in the office and what — if anything — needs to be done in a hospital setting. In many cases, an office visit for a special needs child is limited to a visual exam, as restorative dental work will often need to be rendered in a hospital setting. There are some rare patients that can be taken care of under moderate sedation.
I have attended conferences on how to care for children with special needs. I also work with a team of orthodontists in town who have the necessary skillsets to effectively work with these patients.
The Discovery: Can you please elaborate on your involvement and philanthropy in the community?
Dr. Francis: Over the years, I have been involved in different philanthropic organizations, where I volunteered my time and talents to care for children. I am currently on the board of the Down Syndrome Network of Northern Nevada. I am involved in fundraising, and for the first time this year, my wife and I, along with the staff at Wild About Smiles, are hosting a Spaghetti and Bunco night. All proceeds from this event will go toward this local non-profit that helps children in our community.
The Discovery is so grateful for the amazing asset Dr. Francis is to our wonderful community. We can’t thank him and his staff enough for the work they do and their generosity and support for The Discovery and The Discover Your Way Program.
If you want to find out more, meet the Wild About Smiles team at one of these upcoming Discover Your Way programs:
The Discovery relies on the support of our community to help us continue to inspire through hands-on science, and providing unique programs like Discover Your Way. Please consider donating here or contact Development Officer Adam Wiley via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.