ECEC & Oakwood Collaboration

The UM-Dearborn and Oakwood Healthcare partnership was initiated in the Spring of 2006 through the efforts of Jane Schwyn, an educator familiar with both programs.  She recognized complementary needs, opportunities, resources and a commonly held passion for helping all children, particularly challenged children, and their families.  Jane Schwyn introduced both parties to begin a dialogue for the partnership.

Oakwood Healthcare and UM-Dearborn entered into a collaboration agreement in December 2006, focused on building a comprehensive, long-term relationship to support each others missions for education, clinical care, research and service to the community.

As part of the collaboration, the two institutions work together to transform the former UAW/Ford Dearborn West Family Service and Learning Center, a 38,000-square-foot building, into a learning center housing clinical and educational programs for kids, families and future teachers.

Working together with Oakwood and its Center for Exceptional Families will broaden the opportunities for our students and faculty members.  The new facility is not just a better space for both of our programs, but a genuine manifestation of our commitment to work together to provide better care for all children, not just those in our programs, but those who will benefit from the research we will be able to do, and from the education and service our graduates will provide to children in the generations to come.

Dr. Mary Trepanier-Street, 2006, UM-Dearborn Reporter

Oakwood's Center for Exceptional Families

The Oakwood Healthcare System’s Center for Exceptional Families (CEF) provides comprehensive, coordinated, culturally competent healthcare for children with multiple disabilities throughout Southeast Michigan.  It is unique in the region for the scope and quality of care it offers.  By housing specialized staff and a multidisciplinary team at one site, young patients have all their needs addressed in a single visit rather than in multiple visits to different specialists throughout the Metropolitan Detroit area.  The program serves over 1,000 children through office medical consultation and multidisciplinary team consultations.

The CEF cares for children with major developmental disabilities or chronic complex disorders.  These conditions include diagnoses such as cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and autism as well as congenital/developmental disabilities, chronic illnesses, acquired disabilities and orthopedic conditions.  In addition to regular, complex consultative medical visits, children at the CEF also benefit from the care delivered from its multi-disciplinary team consisting of a physician, psychologist, social worker, physical therapist, speech and language pathologist, occupational therapist, dietician, nurse and orthotist.

Collaboration Video

The Center for Exceptional Families also seeks opportunities for social activity and peer interaction among its patients.  Since many children with disabilities experience social isolation from peers and limited social activities, the CEF offers opportunities such as “Wheelchair Basketball”, Family Funday at the park, “Sibshops” for siblings of children with disabilities, and “Teenage Girls’ Night Out”.

UM-D/Oakwood Collaborative Mission Statement

The collaboration between Oakwood Healthcare, Inc. - its Center for Exceptional Families - and the University of Michigan-Dearborn - its School of Education and Early Childhood Education Center - seeks to become a nationally recognized model of service and education. Each partner brings to the effort its special expertise, passion and commitment:

  • University of Michigan - To develop children, families and teachers to the fullest, with special attention to young children and those with special needs.
  • Oakwood - To maximize the health and empowerment of children with disabilities and their families.

Combining these talents, resources and purposes - leavened with the shared joy of helping children thrive - the collaboration generates more and better impact than either partner can produce individually.  This impact is realized most fully in these ways:

  • For children with disabilities and their families in the region, the partnership facilitates an increasingly integrated and effective suite of services - clinical, educational, social, rehabilitation, emotional.  Through this approach, the partners help young people shape their maximum levels of health and self-determination.  At the same time, this approach creates new models of best practice that can be shared on a national and international basis.
  • The partnership prepares a new generation of teachers who excel in helping children with and without disabilities thrive.  It creates and takes great pride in an environment of inclusion.  From the building entrance to the classroom to the playground, clinicians, faculty, staff and University students learn about and model inclusion, helping children of diverse talents and varying ability learn to be perceptive, accepting, appreciative and successful together.
  • Through collaborative and trans-disciplinary research, the partnership adds significantly to the knowledge and evidence base in relevant fields, disseminates its work and brings important new perspectives to the intersection of education and health care.
  • Innovative, high-impact programs for children, families and community members arise from the clinical, educational and research activities of the partnership.  These programs, created to meet the needs of our region, also set new standards and benchmarks at the national level.