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Abilities first at Anne Carlsen Center

North Dakota Living report

Anne Carlsen Building
The Anne Carlsen Center in Jamestown (above) is one of the seven Anne Carlsen Center facilities in North Dakota

 In service locations, and numbers of people served across North Dakota, the scope of services of Anne Carlsen Center may have grown, but it has not outgrown the influence of its namesake.

“There are many stories of how Dr. Anne Carlsen approached her life, how her philosophy translates into challenging everyone who comes through the doors in our system – and that is to reach for your highest potential,” says Tim Eissinger, CEO for Anne Carlsen Center (ACC).

The story of Dr. Anne Carlsen is one of accepting physical limitations, living with them, but not letting them define you.  Born without forearms and lower legs, Carlsen, who did exceptionally well in school, would go on to acquire an education, and accept a teaching position at the first school for special needs children in North Dakota, in the 1930’s.

By the 1950’s, Dr. Anne had become superintendent of this newer facility, moved to Jamestown, continuing to serve and provide living arrangements for children with special needs.

Today, in addition to Jamestown, ACC services are delivered from locations in Fargo, Grand Forks, Devils Lake, Bottineau, Minot and Bismarck. Individuals receiving ACC service are typically diagnosed with one or more physical or intellectual challenges. These include, but are not limited to: premature birth, developmental delays, autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, vision, hearing and other sensory impairments, and speech/language challenges.

“We see abilities, first,” Eissinger says, describing the core approach ACC professionals take to serving clients, most of whom are children. Eissinger says ACC staff, in collaboration with other health care providers, perform evaluations of often complex medical and behavioral issues presented by a child, and formulate a care plan in that child’s and family’s best interests.

“We work to fully understand the family’s specific situation, and provide both a short-term and long-term strategy that restores hope for a positive future,” Eissinger says, adding the goal is always to do so in a manner that is least intrusive and restrictive for both child and family, allowing for continuity and the goal of a successful return to the family and their home community. Not limited to children, ACC also provides an array of care and treatment services for individuals throughout the life span.

Eissinger points out that the ACC tag line - “Nurturing abilities. Changing lives.” – illustrates the abilities first approach. He cites progress in something as basic as a child’s ability to learn new words, as an example.

“The fact that someone’s non-verbal doesn’t mean there isn’t an active mind present, capable of caring, communicating and contributing. You just have to find the mechanisms by which you can connect with them,” Eissinger says. “You can help open your world to them and they can share their world with you. It is truly amazing to come to understand and appreciate the many gifts and talents that these young people have.”

Eissinger says broadband telecommunications is indispensable to the care and services ACC furnishes clients. ACC in Jamestown is served by Dakota Central Telecom, with headquarters in Carrington. “Using the technology and the connectivity that we’re able to get through Dakota Central, we’re able to maintain robust networks,” Eissinger says. He says Skype and Facetime connections keep clients residing at ACC’s Jamestown facility in close touch with family members. “It’s become a very critical part of what we do,” he said.

Eissinger adds that the modern fiber optic network that rural cooperatives, including Dakota Central Telecom, have installed in North Dakota has also been critical to ACC’s expansion to six communities besides Jamestown. “Anne Carlsen Center would not have expanded as it has, without the infrastructure that has allowed us to operate seven locations as one network,” he says.

“We’re pleased to be able to furnish the broadband telecommunications service which is furthering the important record of achievement at Anne Carlsen Center,” says Keith Larson, Dakota Central Telecom general manager.