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Making a difference one child at a time

It wasn't until Kyle Ziegler was two, that his parents Kasper and Donna realized there was something wrong.

"He wasn't talking like a lot of kids do at that age," Donna Ziegler said. "He had many ear infections and our doctor told us that once Kyle had tubes put in his ears, he'd probably be talking before we left the hospital. But that wasn't the case."

Over the next decade, the Zieglers were referred to several agencies and received diagnoses that required coordinating with specialists scattered all over the state. When Kyle was 10, he was diagnosed with mild cerebral palsy, and things started to click. Donna, coordinator for MSU's Communications Disorders Clinic, heard that a disability clinic was moving into Memorial Hall, and immediately thought, "When can I get my kid in?"

The Minot Child Disability Clinic was conceived by providers Marita Hoffart and Melissa Messerly, who had served the Cleft Lip and Palate Clinic, associated with Children's Special Health Services of North Dakota. Hoffart, an MSU pediatric nursing professor, and Messerly, a pediatrician, realized the need for a clinic to serve families with children who have development disabilities that addressed movement, speech and self-care problems.

Hoffart and Messerly secured federal and state funds, and in 2000, the Minot Child Disability Clinic became operational.

"The idea is that children come to the clinic and get assessed by many professionals in one place," said Hoffart. "In the past folks have gone to Bismarck for assessment, Grand Forks for another and Fargo for another. The Disability Clinic brings professionals under one roof, and in a three hour period, clients can be seen by everyone."

The clinic accepts any child with a developmental delay, birth through age 18, and is offered five times a year on MSU campus. The child meets with a multidisciplinary dream team that includes a pediatrician, optometrist, dentist, audiologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech-language pathologist, dietician, social worker and orthotist. MSU nursing students also assist. As follow up, the team provides a summary report outlining treatment recommendations and program referrals. There is no cost for services.

Kyle Ziegler is congratulated by his mom, Steve Hodgson, orthotist, and Marita Hoffart for his hard work and accomplishments. Kyle, age 18, has completed the program.

"We try to give a complete picture," Hoffart said. "Many of the families will say to us, 'you've given us answers to questions we didn't even know we had.'"

That rings true for the Zieglers. During one visit, an occupational therapist suggested Kyle join Tae Kwon Do for special abilities to improve his balance and strength. Donna was skeptical, but Kyle embraced the challenge and now holds a second-degree black belt.

"I don't know what we would have done without it," Donna Ziegler said about the clinic.

The Disability Clinic serves children from northwest North Dakota through referrals from professionals, families and word-of-mouth. For more information, contact Hoffart at or 1-800-777-0750, ext. 3253.