Posted on August 5, 2019

‘Full Peds Ahead’ initiative betters access to care, creates brighter futures for Mary Free Bed kids

Improving the lives of children and teens with disabilities has been an important part of Mary Free Bed’s mission for more than a century. Recently renamed Mary Free Bed Kids, specialized programs and services continue to evolve with exciting potential.

Mary Free Bed is the only inpatient rehabilitation hospital in Michigan with a secure unit just for children and teens. Each year, the hospital provides comprehensive rehabilitative care for about 130 inpatients and offers specialized outpatient services and resources in Grand Rapids and Holland.

Full Peds Ahead – An Initiative for Kids at Mary Free Bed is a robust undertaking to improve access to specialized care. The Mary Free Bed Foundation’s goal is to raise $10 million over the next 10 years to grow programs and increase support for uninsured and under-insured children. Foundation staff also want to increase the Pediatric Endowment to $20 million over the same 10-year period so the programs will be funded in perpetuity.

While Mary Free Bed Kids provides care for young patients recovering from a wide range of illnesses and injuries, there are new and expanding specialties. Here’s a glimpse:

Autism Spectrum Disorder
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a developmental disability that can cause behavioral, communication and social challenges. The number of kids diagnosed with ASD is growing rapidly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which estimates that one in 59 children in the United States has the disorder.

  • Mary Free Bed Kids offers specialized diagnostic and intervention services for children with ASD and other neurodevelopmental disorders. Treatment may include Applied Behavioral Analysis, a scientific model of care that uses specialized interventions to build necessary skills and reduce or eliminate problem behaviors.
  • Mary Free Bed recently became an Approved Autism Evaluation Center, having met criteria developed by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network to provide comprehensive assessments to make or confirm an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis.

Cerebral Palsy
The most common childhood motor disability, cerebral palsy affects one in 323 children in the United States, according to the CDC. It primarily affects movement and posture, but also can cause problems with vision, hearing and speech.

  • Mary Free Bed Kids provides comprehensive rehabilitation and a proactive rehabilitation plan to promote movement, self-care and communication skills.
  • Children with muscle spasticity caused by cerebral palsy or other movement disorders may find help in the Advanced Management of Pediatric Spasticity Program, a collaborative partnership with Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

Chronic Pain
Chronic pain – defined as persistent and recurrent – doesn’t always have a physical source. The most common conditions are headaches, musculoskeletal or abdominal pain. Sometimes it’s associated with a long-term illness or health condition; sometimes there’s no known cause.

  • Mary Free Bed is developing a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary program to assess and treat children with chronic pain.
  • Specialists will work with patients and their parents to develop a personalized rehabilitation plan that incorporates innovative treatments such as physical and occupational therapies with cognitive behavioral therapy, which is a mindfulness-based treatment approach.

Early Development
Babies learn skills and grow at different rates, but if parents are concerned about their baby’s growth or development, they can have him or her evaluated by the Mary Free Bed Kids Early Development team.

  • Specialists provide comprehensive medical assessments for babies from birth to the age of three to determine if development is normal or whether there is a problem that suggests services and support are needed.
  • Experts are trained to perform an emerging technique called General Movement Assessment that analyzes movement patterns in babies three months old and younger. The non-invasive test can detect neurological problems and help clinicians diagnose cerebral palsy and other conditions much sooner.

To learn more about Full Peds Ahead – An Initiative for Kids at Mary Free Bed, please contact Darrow Goodspeed at 616.840.8196 or

To make a donation, please click here.