Local mom Vanessa Warrior helps children with developmental delays improve their gross motor skills while offering hope to families.
Vanessa Warrior fights for children to have the best life possible regardless of their circumstances.
“I get to play with kids who have developmental delays,” says the Lake Forest resident who helps local children as young as 4 months and adults up to age 22 develop and improve their gross motor skills.
Warrior, a mom to a 16-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl, is the manager of physical therapy at Unlimited Possibilities where she’s worked for a decade now. The Santa Ana-based nonprofit delivers services, resources and support for children with disabilities as well as their families. Last year, the organization worked with more than 3,500 kids and parents in the process of almost 18,000 therapy sessions. The trained professionals deal with conditions such as autism spectrum disorder, developmental delays, Down syndrome, rare genetic disorders and more.
Warrior started her career in the field 20 years ago in acute care in a hospital setting in Los Angeles. There, she worked with adults and children alike and while both were rewarding experiences, she discovered helping the latter to be her true passion. These days, she works with two to three patients a day.
“I just love what children bring. They just bring a different spirit about life and it’s just a wonderful reminder of how to see the world through their innocence to a degree, and I love supporting their parents,” she says. “They [children] give back to me just as much as I feel like I give to them.”
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When she’s not helping children directly, Warrior manages a team of seven other therapists and three therapy aides, and assists with a student program as a site coordinator. Outside of work, she gives back to the community during beach clean-ups, packaging food at local food drives and supervising students during off-site child readiness fairs.
Physical therapy often comes with a hefty price and for Warrior and her team navigating the health insurance system to get their patients what they need is an ongoing challenge and the toughest part of her job. But then, there are those moments when a child with cerebral palsy reaches a milestone and his face lights up with pure joy or an adolescent girl overcomes her fear of falling and learns to walk again that make it all worth it.
“A lot of our families come here and sometimes they haven’t been given any hope,” Warrior says.
More often than not, there is some hope though, and finding it is a matter of discussing the diagnosis and building goals around what the parents would like and what the child is able to do and then advocating for the whole family. The best case scenario for a therapist is to work with the family on finding the right balance to allow life to happen for everybody involved at home.
Family involvement is crucial for success, Warrior says as she spends only a brief amount of time with the kids while the parents and sometimes siblings are left to continue the work for the rest of the day.
“That’s what it’s all about with all of our kids. It’s trying to figure out what’s the best quality of life that we can provide for the child and also for the families that are loving these beautiful children every day.”
By Magda Hernandez