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The History of Westside Children’s Therapy

 

westside children's therapy farm house in Homer Glen Illinois

Westside started in the Cassidy Family farmhouse in Homer Glen.  

Shari started Westside with the mindset to not just get good clinical results, but to change families’ lives forever. That mindset is instilled in everyone that works at Westside.

Shari did not have much of a “business plan” early on. She just wanted to make sure that anyone who needed services was able to get them. 

Her four children are also a vital part of the success of Westside.  The first to join was Corynn in 2011 (BCBA and Director of ABA), next was Mark in 2013 (CEO), Devin in 2014 (BCBA), and lastly, Neilan in 2015 (currently focused on business growth and development).  

For Shari, it has always been about quality. It never mattered when the child was able to walk, but that the muscles and the way they walked was done correctly and safely when they did.

“We want the families we treat to feel like they are family,” Shari said. “We want them to feel the warmth and feel welcomed.”

Westside has a team of therapists that Shari wants to never stop learning and growing, and always feel that they are part of the family, too. 

So with over 400 employees, majority of which are therapists, why does Shari, as the owner, still treat?

“You can change these kids’ lives,” she said. “I want all the PTs to ask me questions if they need help. They want to grow and it’s important to have someone there to guide them.”

Only time will tell what Westside will be like in 10 years from now, but Shari wants to always keep the reputation with families and doctors that you will get the help you need at Westside. 

“I didn’t do this alone,” she said. “This took a village. It’s hard to imagine that you look around and so many kids need help. It is a satisfying feeling that we are able to reach more families in need.”

25th anniversary logo for westside children's therapy of illinois

 

Westside Children’s Therapy celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2021. Shari Cassidy, owner and founder, who still works in the clinic, opened her first pediatric outpatient clinic in 1996.

 

1984-1998: Shari saw patients through Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

1986-1987: She started picking up private patients through Children’s that doctors at the hospital referred to her. She saw the patients at their homes.

1988: To improve efficiency, she began treating patients in an apartment off of her family’s farmhouse. There were too many homes to drive to and from.

1993: She moved sessions to her home in New Lenox when her family tore down the farmhouse. 

1996: She entered a partnership with another clinician to open a clinic in Frankfort called “Children’s Therapy Specialists.”

2006: The partnership began to split and Shari opened the first “Westside Children’s Therapy” clinic in Joliet. It was just her and a few part-time employees. Westside got its name because it opened on the westside of Joliet on Essington Road. 

2008-now: The partnership dissolved and Westside began its growth to 16 clinics in 2021 with more than 400 wonderful people who work here.

Exterior picture of Glen Ellyn Westside Children's Therapy ClinicWestside’s Glen Ellyn clinic opened in 2021.

At Westside, we always try to keep up with the high demand for services in the area. A way that we keep up with the growing need is opening clinics around areas we currently serve. We hope this provides families with more convenient options without having to travel too far. 

We currently have 16 locations in the Chicagoland area with plans for more in the future.

  • Frankfort: August 2015 – We were at another location for years prior.
  • Joliet: April 2016 – The first “Westside” clinic opened in Joliet at a different location in 2006. The current Joliet clinic is just a few doors down in a bigger space in the same strip.
  • Wheaton: October 2017
  • Plainfield: December 2018
  • Orland Park: November 2019
  • Willowbrook: May 2020
  • New Lenox: August 2020
  • Schaumburg: October 2020
  • Shorewood: November 2020
  • Plainfield-Downtown: November 2020
  • Tinley Park: February 2021
  • Glen Ellyn: February 2021
  • Carol Stream: June 2021
  • DeKalb (in-home ABA): August 2021
  • Downers Grove: September 2021
  • Naperville: October 2021
  • Oak Lawn: November 2021
  • Homer Glen: December 2021
  • Rockford (in-home ABA): September 2021

Sensory gym in Westside’s Carol Stream clinic.

We also keep up with the need for services by expanding and refreshing current clinics.

As time goes on, our older clinics need refreshes and some need a little extra space so we can continue to provide the best service to our families.

  • Wheaton got a second location specifically for Diagnostics Testing on its campus in November 2019
  • Frankfort received a refresh in April 2021
  • Schaumburg expanded in May 2021
  • Joliet moved to a bigger space just a few doors down in September 2021 
  • Willowbrook’s expansion finished in September 2021
  • Wheaton’s 3rd space on the campus finished in September 2021
  • Plainfield moved to a new and bigger space in September 2021
  • Wheaton’s first clinic received a refresh in September 2021
  • Tinley Park is going to have more space in ~January 2022
  • Glen Ellyn is set for an expansion in 〜April 2022

aba therapy drawing photo with therapist and child at Westside in Illinois
Therapist and child working on a drawing activity.

When founder/owner Shari Cassidy opened Joliet and Frankfort, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, ABA/Autism Therapy, and Speech Therapy were all provided.

We expanded our services as we continued to grow as a company.

  • Feeding Therapy was added March 2016.
  • Serial Casting started more formally in November 2018.
  • Counseling was added in March 2019.
  • Diagnostic Services were added in October 2020.

Westside also offers a food school for children that are severe picky eaters.
It is a 12-session program designed to help a child with food exploration, learn about new foods, reduce aversions to non-preferred items, etc. After the 12 sessions, the child is assessed to see if more are needed.

Westside currently offers:

  • Physical Therapy – Physical Therapy also includes the Serial Casting service
  • Occupational Therapy
  • ABA Therapy – In 2021, Westside introduced its three Therapeutic ABA Programs for children and adolescents with Autism:  IGNITE (preschool-like program), RISE (Kindergarten-like program) and FOCUS (after-school program).  ABA Therapy continues to be Westside’s most-utilized service
  • Speech Therapy
  • Feeding Therapy – Feeding therapy can be done by a trained Speech Therapist for oral motor deficits (using the mouth muscles to chew, swallow, etc.) or by an Occupational Therapist for sensory-related feeding needs (texture, smells, hot or cold, etc.).