Imua Family Services
“We began in 1947 by helping children with polio,” says Dean Wong, Executive Director for Imua Family Services. “Here we are, 68 years later, and we’re still doing what we started out doing—which is helping children with very special needs.” The team at Imua Family Services categorizes three different areas of needs, all equally relevant but very different in approach: developmental delays, developmental concerns, and physical disabilities.
“When families come to us, they don’t always initially know what their concerns are,” Wong says. “Our biggest message to families today is that there is no normal. We don’t compare children to each other. We all have things that we’re disabled at doing—so we don’t make that our focal point. We focus our attention, instead, on our abilities and share a model of inclusion.”
That very model of inclusion has led to some big news for the nonprofit organization that works on Maui, Lanai`i, and soon Molokai`i. A Maui campus, in partnership with Easter Seals of Hawaii, opens this month in Kahului with an Early Childhood Center and inclusion preschool at its heart.
In the new preschool, children with special needs are learning alongside typically developing children instead of being pushed to the fringes. And the children who are developing on pace learn new skills like assistance, compassion, and leadership— qualities that are most easily assimilated when developed in the early years. The results? All of the children, actually, end up developing at a much faster rate than they otherwise would.
The significant expansion represents the increasing demand for the services of the nonprofit, and Wong says he’s always searching for caring, compassionate early childhood leaders, including speech pathologists, social workers, and a variety of other experts. In addition to the right certifications and accreditations, all team members must display expertise in pediatrics as well as cultural sensitivity.
“Our team is so incredible and completely dedicated to our mission,” Wong says. “Early intervention, before six years old, is the most important thing you can do for a child. We take that to heart and do everything we can to make sure the children of Hawaii get every possible advantage as they grow up.”
161 South Wakea Ave
Kahului, HI 96732