Detroit Institute for Children

Year Founded
Local Leader/Exec. Director
Heather Martinez, CEO
Mike Rhoads, COO
Primary Contact Name
Desiree Garagiola
Main Address

Business Office
2045 E. West Maple
Suite D407
Commerce Township, MI 48390
United States

Marygrove Center
8425 West McNichols
Student Center - Suite 116
Detroit, MI 48221
United States

What We Do

Founded in 1920 and governed today by a 16-member Board of Trustees with a modest 7% indirect cost rate, the Detroit Institute for Children (DIC) currently provides more than 60,000 hours of speech, occupational, and behavioral therapy each year to children enrolled at 192 K-12 schools, Head Starts, and Early Childhood programs across Detroit, Southeast, and West Michigan.  Detroit and Wayne County are home to 150 of these locations.

The K-12 school districts where we work enroll 49% of Michigan's more than 200,000 special education students (based on state data).  In addition, data indicate 73% of the students in these districts are considered to be children of color, with 77% classified as “economically disadvantaged” making them eligible for free or reduced lunch programs.  (These numbers do not reflect additional children served by DIC in Head Starts and Early Childhood programs across Detroit, which by definition serve disadvantaged children and families).

Two profound principles guide us and the care we offer:

  • Provide compassionate, expert care to children with special needs.
  • Concentrate on treating the whole child, not just the disability.

These founding principles remain at the cornerstone of our mission and vision today:

  • We empower children to overcome challenges.
  • Children with special needs and their families are all thriving members of the community.

The services provided by DIC’s team of 70+ field professionals in educational settings address an array of neurological, developmental, emotional, and behavioral special needs associated with specific learning disabilities, emotional behavior disorders, developmental delays, communication disorders, autism spectrum disorder, and more.  Because they are not readily apparent to the naked eye, many consider these conditions to be "hidden disabilities" that, without appropriate therapeutic intervention, will negatively impact a child’s ability to reach their full potential.

LEAP (Learning, Enrichment, and Achievement Programs) is our multifaceted community-based initiative that is offered without cost to under-resourced children with special needs in an effort to help them “catch up and keep up” with their peers.  Summer LEAP takes place at multiple locations in Detroit and West Michigan and provides five weeks of remote and in-person services and enrichment activities that address problems related to participants’ Individualized Education Plan (IEP) developed by their school.  Afterschool LEAP provides academic and therapeutic support during the school year.  Students work on reading, writing, and math skills while building their critical thinking skills, engaging with others in a collaborative environment, and gaining confidence through skill development.  LEAPing Together with Families uses the nationally recognized best practice Parents as Teachers (PAT) model to help parents of young children with special needs better assist their child in the home so that they realize their full potential.

In addition, with many services for students with special needs delivered in school, parents and family members find themselves struggling to understand and deal with their child at home.  Using our full menu of targeted training programs, we also help families (as well as educators and administrators) to have additional tools to better assist each child.  For example, having a comprehensive program that addresses the impact of trauma on children is one of our key priorities.  Currently, DIC has one staff trainer who holds the certification of Certified Trauma Practitioner-Education through the National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children (TLC).  Because the TLC approach is not specific to addressing early childhood trauma, however, DIC is now also certified as a Trauma Smart (TS) partner by the Crittenton Children’s Center.  With these two certifications, we have linked the TLC and TS models to form a comprehensive Trauma-Informed Care training program for teachers, parents, and families.

Altogether, "We ARE What Special Needs!"

Interesting Info
  • 60,000+ hours of Speech, Occupational, and Behavioral Therapy provided each year, with 97% of IEP goals achieved.
  • With 70+ field professionals and a 7-member Admin team, 90% of every dollar raised directly supports our programs.
  • Our key goal is to fundraise $1.5 million annually so we can service ALL Head Starts in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb counties and 250 schools across Michigan.
Geographic Location
Photos and Videos