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Pender Pediatric Therapy: A Place for Families

Courtney Gibbs, owner and operator of Pender Pediatric Therapy, started her speech therapy work as an independent contractor. During this time she worked with pre-schools, early intervention agencies, within the school system, and in family homes. It was through this experience that she realized the scarcity of pediatric services in Burgaw, and set off to do something about it. In 2016, Pender Pediatric Therapy was born. The therapy center has expanded rapidly since opening, moving between three different locations before finally settling into its current home at 101 E. Satchwell Street. Last February Gibbs had the ability to hire another Speech-Language Pathologist (Ruth Gates) to assist her in meeting the needs of the community. Their practice sees a range of ages (0-18) and a range of needs: from those who have general speech delays to difficulty producing speech sounds, or who are considered “late talkers”. They also work with a variety of children who have developmental delays such as autism, cerebral palsy, and hypoxia, as well as other diagnoses and behavioral concerns.

Pender Pediatric also employs Robin Dunbar, a long-term client turned Office Manager. Dunbar, who’s son is on the autism spectrum, provides a beacon of hope for other parents. As Gibbs explains, the early stages of intervention are often fraught with uncertainty on “whether it’s just a speech layer or if there is really something more going on”. In the cases where parents do get an autism diagnosis, Gibbs can say, “go talk to Robin”. Dunbar is a parent who has lived it, and who openly shares her son’s experiences, set-backs, and progress with those who have just started the journey. The importance of this cannot be overstated. It’s clear that Dunbar loves what she does, especially her ability to quiet parents’ nerves when their kids’ are (sometimes quite literally) “off the wall”. “This is the one place that they don’t have to be on edge,” Dunbar explains, “a grocery store is stressful, a restaurant is stressful, going clothes shopping is stressful… but not here. Here it doesn’t matter. Here it’s fine. Here it’s expected.”

It’s perhaps this holistic approach to care that has driven Pender Pediatric's success in Burgaw: a small town where word of mouth is everything. “The work we do here, not only with our children but with our families, and how they’re treated, it’s really important to us because it’s through their experiences that people are going to hear about us”, Gibbs describes. Pender Pediatric has built a name for themselves in Burgaw and the surrounding areas, providing care that would previously have required a commute into Wilmington. “I’m a big believer in if it doesn’t work for the whole family, then it just doesn’t work and it’s not going to work”,Gibbs states. With some children needing services two to three times a week, that drive could often become care-prohibitive. Having these services at home means more children can get the care they need, without an unnecessary strain on the family.

Caring for the whole family is at the heart of everything Pender Pediatric does, which means services are by no means confined to the center. Gibbs spends time just up the road at Little Town Learning Center, and partners with Creative Hands for Occupational Therapy. Pender Pediatric also has a contract with Children’s Developmental Services, an early intervention agency run through the state. Their coaching model brings Pender Pediatric into the home, where Gibbs and Gates work with parents and children in what Gibbs calls “Family-Centered Therapy”. “I don’t want the parents to just have their role be transportation,” Gibbs clarifies, “I want them to be involved, know what we’re working on, and how we’re working on’s got to be in all aspects of their lives.” Gibbs carries this ideal with her in all of her work, making it a point to get out into the community whenever necessary. She’ll take clients grocery shopping, to the park, to McDonald’s play place, or even to get a haircut. “If that’s what [the family] need[s] help with, I’m going to try and make it functional,” Gibbs explains.

That care and commitment has not gone unnoticed by the town of Burgaw. As Gibbs puts it, Pender Pediatric has “only been able to work with all these other organizations to expand our services because our families show us so much love.” Everyone gives, and everyone wins. “We’re not here to put a label on anything, we’re not here to judge your parenting style, we don’t care what you did last night… we’re just here to help your child and it’s as simple as that.” The overwhelming success of Pender Pediatric is a testament to their dedication to the town… and they’re just one more thing that makes Burgaw a special place to live. And, as always, please head on over to their website @ if you are interested in their services or would like to learn more!

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