New wheels a weight off family’s shoulders
8 year-old Noah von Bergheim and his family can access their community more easily thanks to their new wheelchair-modified van, which was funded with the assistance of Therapy Focus’ GIVE Program.
Noah has Lissencephaly and Epilepsy, and endured a number of prolonged seizures at the start of 2015, which required emergency medications. These seizures and their potential for recurrence meant that Noah could no longer travel on the school bus, which made things a little tricky for his parents Gavin and Belinda.
“Noah’s a growing boy and his increasing height and weight meant that getting him in and out of our small SUV was a twice-daily safety risk for him and his mum” Gavin said.
“Because of this, Belinda and the kids were largely housebound and limited car trips to medical and therapy appointments, which was very restrictive and unfair on them.”
“Belinda and I realised that we urgently needed a vehicle that would allow us to transfer Noah to and from his wheelchair safely so that our family could start enjoying the community again.”
The von Bergheim’s received a $5000 grant through Therapy Focus’ GIVE Program to help purchase a second-hand Kia Carnival, which was modified to accommodate Noah’s wheelchair. Additional funding from Variety WA, Telethon, Independent Living Centre and WA Charity Direct also helped cover costs, which totalled $37,000.
Since receiving the modified vehicle, the von Bergheims say family life has greatly improved.
“We are now able to get Noah to school and medical appointments safely and easily,” Gavin said.
“The vehicle has given us more opportunities and made it easier to get around, which is not only important for Noah, but also his younger sister Ayla, who we don’t want to be disadvantaged or unnecessarily housebound.”
Additionally, the von Bergheim’s can now enlist additional family members to provide transport assistance, such as Noah’s grandparents who were unable to transport Noah before the family received their modified vehicle.
Gavin said his family were eternally grateful to the funding bodies that helped them.
“The funding Therapy Focus provided and helped us acquire, as well as the assistance and guidance throughout the process, has saved us months of further fundraising and has given our family back invaluable time. Our heartfelt thanks to everybody involved. You may never fully appreciate the magnitude of what you have helped us achieve – but we do every single day,” Gavin said.
Pictured: Noah has prime position in his family’s new wheelchair-modified van.
Theo’s Telethon Trike
4 year-old Theodore Legg can now enjoy the community with his family and friends thanks to his customised trike from Telethon.
Theo has autism and a genetic disorder which causes muscle weakness and makes it difficult for him to participate in activities without assistance. Theo’s mum, Sharon, said that his health issues had limited his ability to enjoy an active outdoor lifestyle with his family.
“Theo’s medical needs have taken priority in his life and it’s meant that he has missed out some experiences,” Sharon said.
“Since Theo received his bike our family has been able to spend more time outdoors which has been great.”
“It’s wonderful to see Theo so happy, riding his bike and waving at the passing trucks, cars and buses.”
As a beneficiary of Telethon, Therapy Focus receives generous funding to assist children with disabilities. Theo received a portion of this funding in 2015 to purchase the customised trike. The kitted-out set of wheels has rear steering controls so that Sharon can help push, adjustable handle bars, back support with a chest strap and foot cups with straps; all of which provide Theo with the postural support he needs to ride his bike.
The Telethon Weekend is being held on the 15th and 16th of October at the Perth Convention Exhibition Centre. For more information visit www.telethon.7perth.com.au.
Pictured: Theo enjoying his new bike with his Mum, Sharon, and Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist Shanae Guppy.
Freemasons help Brock dive in
The Freemasons of WA have generously provided funding for 7 children with disabilities to complete a term of specialist 1:1 swimming lessons.
One of the children who received funding was 8 year-old Brock MacDonald-Bevan, who has autism and receives support from Therapy Focus. Brock has difficulty with his coordination and motor skills, which has affected his ability to learn to swim.
Brock’s Occupational Therapist, Tiffany Colbran, said that prior to starting the 1:1 swimming lessons Brock was reluctant to participate in lessons through school, after failing to pass stage one a number of times.
“Understandably, Brock’s self-confidence was affected as his peers progressed into higher grades and he remained in level one,” Tiffany said.
“We explored the option of 1:1 swimming lessons with an instructor qualified in disability, who could design a program specifically for Brock’s needs, but these lessons are very expensive and too costly for the family.”
Having worked with Therapy Focus for a number of years, the Freemasons of WA were happy to assist and generously donated $4,760 to cover the cost of 1:1 swimming lessons for Brock and 6 other children.
Freemasons member, Eddy Ward, met Brock and his mum Katrina at Cannington Leisureplex where Brock attends lessons each Saturday, and said that meeting the families who benefit from donations was “a very rewarding opportunity that really hits home.”
Katrina was tearful in thanking Eddy, saying that Brock has made incredible progress as a result of the 1:1 lessons.
“Within one term Brock had passed level 1 and was over the moon about it. I’m so thankful to the Freemasons and Therapy Focus – we simply wouldn’t have been able to afford this otherwise,” Katrina said.
Pictured: Freemasons member, Eddy Ward (R), with Brock MacDonald-Bevan.
iPad helps keep Ben on task
14-year-old Ben Henson is doing better at school and becoming more independent with the help of an iPad he received through Therapy Focus’ GIVE Program.
Ben, who has Down syndrome, uses a number of apps on the iPad to develop his literacy and numeracy skills, as well as prompt him to complete his daily tasks.
Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist, Natasha Duncan, said the iPad is having a positive influence on Ben’s participation at school.
“Ben is highly motivated by technology and since he started using the iPad at home to improve his literacy skills, his classroom participation has increased,” Natasha said.
Ben’s mum, Kristie, says the iPad is helping Ben to become more independent, particularly with regard to his daily schedule.
“The Choice Works app has been great at prompting Ben to complete his daily tasks. Even though we already had a schedule on the wall, he is far more fascinated with the iPad app and more likely to complete things using that,” Kristie said.
Ben was one of 17 applicants awarded a share of $30,000 in the May round of the GIVE Program, which assists with the purchase of equipment, activities and resources for individuals and families accessing Therapy Focus services.
“When we found out Ben got the grant, we were so excited. The iPad is such a great learning tool, as well as a great reward tool to encourage Ben to complete his schoolwork or chores,” Kristie said.
But it’s not all work and no play for Ben, who also likes to use the iPad to show off his dance moves.
“Ben’s a bit of a filmmaker. He sets the iPad up and records himself dancing,” Kristie said.
Therapy Focus’ GIVE Program is made possible by donations from the WA community. For more information, or to donate, visit www.therapyfocus.org.au/GIVE.
Pictured: Ben with his Therapy Focus therapists, Ashleigh Sibbald (L) and Natasha Duncan (R).
Garden renovation helps John find his feet
Perth-based project management company, NS Projects, have installed a custom backyard for Balga teenager John Sturzaker, who has a complex seizure disorder known as West Syndrome.
John’s condition affects his ability to walk so he often crawls around the family home where space is too limited for his wheelchair. John’s Mum Elizabeth said that prior to the garden renovation the family’s backyard was “basically all loose dirt”, which meant that John would often miss out on spending time outdoors.
“It was really upsetting having to leave John inside playing with his toys because we didn’t want him to have to crawl through the dirt or get his wheelchair stuck,” Elizabeth said.
Over a weekend in June staff from NS Projects and Therapy Focus volunteered their time to install paving, synthetic grass, a shade sail, raised garden beds and a sensory wall in the family’s backyard. Most of the materials used in the renovation were generously donated by NS Projects and other organisations, including Georgiou and Phase 3.
John’s Therapy Focus Physiotherapist, Shannen Stanes said she had been working with John to improve his mobility when she recommended the family for the garden renovation, viewing it as an opportunity to increase his access and independence at home.
“John had been using a walker at school with great success, but there wasn’t enough room for him to continue practicing at home,” Shannen said.
“The large paved area in the newly renovated backyard will provide John with more opportunities to practice using a walker, which will really help his strength, coordination and give him an overall sense of independence.”
Senior Project Manager Tracy Mackay said the garden renovation not only provided NS Projects with an opportunity to assist financially, but also gave employees an opportunity to donate their time to and “get their hands dirty.”
“The renovation enabled us to draw on our unique skill set and express the care and professionalism we take in delivering all our projects. The exceptional team delivered such an incredible outcome for John and his family, and seeing him outside and able to access the backyard at the end of our work was fabulous.”
Elizabeth said that in addition to practicing walking, John can now also enjoy making music on the sensory wall, smelling the herbs and flowers in the garden and relaxing on the grass with his family.
“I’m so grateful to NS Projects and Therapy Focus. The transformation is amazing and will make such a difference in John’s life.”
NS Projects partners with Therapy Focus to provide financial assistance for projects or activities that are not eligible for regular Government or alternative funding assistance. Find out more about our Partners.
Pictured: John in his new backyard with his family, Therapy Focus and NS Projects staff. View more photos on our Facebook page.
Sensory swing helps calm Corey
14 year-old Corey Hipper is better equipped to manage his emotions since receiving specialised sensory equipment through Therapy Focus’ GIVE Program.
Like many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, Corey experiences difficulty when it comes to his sensory processing. Loud noises, bright lights and large crowds can be overwhelming and often result in Corey dropping to the floor and rocking, or even banging his head in extreme circumstances.
In an effort to support Corey’s sensory regulation, Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist, Emily Greenwood, assisted the Hipper family in applying to the GIVE Program for an Airwalker swing, Co-Oper blanket and Body Sox.
“All of the items provide Corey with deep pressure, which has a calming effect. The movement back and forth in the swing also replaces his need to rock, and the way it encloses around him provides a dark, hidden environment away from the noise and light that he can find distressing,” Emily said.
“Corey had been using the items at school with great success, and would always ask to go on the swing when he was at home. It was so heart-breaking saying no, so we applied to the GIVE Program so that he could continue to enjoy the benefits at home.”
The $5000 grant not only funded the sensory items themselves, but also the installation of the swing, which required a support beam be placed in the roof of the family’s home to ensure it’s safe use.
Corey’s Mum, Kylie says that having the equipment at home has meant that Corey can independently regulate his emotions and manage his sensory needs.
“Corey no longer experiences the extreme highs and lows when he’s at home, and can calm himself when he’s feeling hyper[active],” Kylie said.
“The swing is by far the best thing he’s ever had and I’m so grateful to Emily for her support.”
Emily has also seen vast improvements in Corey, saying that in the three years she has worked with Corey he is now at his calmest.
“The flow-on effects are truly amazing. Everyday activities like catching the bus to and from school are made that much easier for Corey thanks to the calming effects.”
For more information about the GIVE Program or to apply visit www.therapyfocus.org.au/give.
The GIVE Program is made possible by the generous support of our partners and the wider WA community. Make a donation today.
Freemasons give Ryan new wheels
8-year-old Ryan McCarthy can now enjoy rides through his local neighbourhood thanks to a modified tricycle donated by the Freemasons.
Ryan has Phelan-McDermid syndrome and has been receiving support from Therapy Focus since 2012. As a result of his condition, Ryan has an intellectual disability, vision impairment, hearing impairment, is non-verbal and has delayed gross motor skills.
The Charity Committee of the Freemasons’ Lodge St Andrew generously provided $1670 to purchase Ryan a modified tricycle after learning about his love for bike riding, which he enjoys regularly at Kenwick Education Support School.
The tricycle is fitted with a wide seat and waist strap to help Ryan remain in an upright position, as well as foot cups to help him keep his feet on the pedals. It also has an attendee handle that his Mum, Denise, can use if Ryan needs assistance.
Ryan and Denise can now enjoy regular walks through the neighbourhood, which will be made easier by the tricycle and access paths recently installed by City of Gosnells following requests from Denise to make it more accessible.
Marshall by name, martial by nature
13 year-old Marshall Frankis is a new man since receiving funding for martial arts lessons through Therapy Focus’ GIVE Program and the Barrows Foundation.
Marshall has an intellectual disability and started martial arts tuition at Premier Martial Arts and Fitness Academy after being awarded the charitable funding.
Marshall’s mum, Leah, says Marshall’s therapist suggested martial arts after an unsuccessful attempt at athletics. She has been pleasantly surprised by the positive effect it’s had on all aspects of Marshall’s life.
“Martial arts has helped Marshall more than I could have imagined. He’s more confident, is socializing better and is doing better at school, therapy sessions and at home,” Leah said.
“Marshall has grown to love martial arts and has learnt what a difference it makes to his life when he goes compared to when he doesn’t. He is also learning self-defense, which is an important skill for him to have.”
Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist, Natascha Muehlberg, has also witnessed the changes in Marshall.
“Since he became involved in martial arts, Marshall has made significant gains with his communication skills, including speech clarity, which has been an ongoing goal for a number of years. His balance, coordination and fine motor skills have also improved and he is socialising well with his peers,” Natascha said.
Over the last year Marshall has attended a number of gradings, which are assessed on skill, technique, taekwondo patterns, sparring (kickboxing) and self-defense. He is steadily progressing through the belt system and enjoys the recognition he receives for how far he has come.
Marshall’s goal is to achieve a black belt one day.
Therapy Focus’ GIVE Program is only made possible by donations from the WA community. For more information about the GIVE Program visit www.therapyfocus.org.au/GIVE.
Find out more about Therapy Focus’ Barrows Fund, which has been created following the closure of the Barrows Foundation.
New wheels provide new found independence for Jasmin
15 year-old Jasmin Steiner has discovered her inner confidence and a new sense of independence after receiving her very own bicycle through Therapy Focus’ GIVE Program.
Jasmin was one of 13 applicants awarded a share of $20,000 in the June round of the charitable program, which assists with the purchase of equipment, activities, resources and additional supports for individuals and families accessing Therapy Focus services. The Steiner family applied for a $500 grant to purchase the bike for Jasmin, who has a rare genetic condition that affects her development.
Prior to receiving her bike, Jasmin took part in lessons at school using a borrowed bike with training wheels. Progressing to a two-wheeler was a daunting prospect for Jasmin, whose confidence would fall whenever she did, but after a couple months of perseverance she mastered the skill and left the training wheels behind.
Jasmin’s Mum, Monika, applied to the GIVE Program in the thought that a bike of her own would assist with further development of Jasmin’s balance and coordination, as well as increase her confidence and independence. “Bike riding not only gives Jasmin an opportunity to develop physical skills, it also gives her an enjoyable activity she can do regularly in everyday life,” Monika said.
“We can now enjoy going for family bike rides along the South Perth foreshore on the weekends and it’s great to see how much her confidence has improved.”
Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist, Bernadette Safe, has also witnessed the many benefits of the new bike saying “Jasmin can now independently access her community and spend time with her siblings. She really enjoys the activity and it’s a good form of exercise for her physical health and wellbeing.”
For more information about the GIVE Program visit www.therapyfocus.org.au/GIVE.
GIVE helps Lilyan tune into her future
15-year-old Lilyan Smith is focused on the path to stardom thanks to her new Phonak’s Roger Focus and Pen FM Hearing System, which was purchased through Therapy Focus’ GIVE Program.
Lilyan was one of 14 Therapy Focus clients awarded a share of $20,000 through the Program, which aims to support independence, participation and social inclusion of people with disabilities and their families. Lilyan received a $5000 grant to purchase the amplification system, which will help combat the auditory processing difficulties she experiences as a result of her Autism.
Whilst Lilyan has normal hearing, her brain has difficulty processing information, meaning she is easily distracted and finds it difficult to understand and retain information in class. Lilyan has noticed a big difference since she started using the Phonak’s device, saying that it helps her to stay focused in the classroom where there is a lot of competing background noise.
“My concentration has really improved and I can understand what my teachers are saying much better, especially in a noisy classroom.”
The Phonak’s hearing device is comprised of two parts: a Roger Pen and Roger Focus. The teacher wears the Roger Pen microphone, while Lilyan wears a very discreet Roger Focus behind-the-ear receiver in each ear. The microphone clarifies the teacher’s words before sending the instructions directly to the receivers in Lilyan’s ears, minimizing any distracting background noise.
The amplification system is also wireless and uses Bluetooth technology; allowing Lilyan to connect it to multiple devices in different learning environments. This versatility is appreciated by Lilyan, who says “I love using it to listen to music on my iPad.”
In addition to helping with her schoolwork, the system has also helped Lilyan with her music. A talented singer, Lilyan is a member of the Variety Youth Choir and is currently completing a Certificate 2 in Performing Arts. She has her heart set on studying a Certificate 4 in Musical Theatre next year, so the GIVE grant has come at a good time.
“I can now hear the conductor over the music which makes it a lot easier to follow along with what’s happening” Lilyan said.
Are you a family receiving Therapy Focus services and wish to apply to our GIVE Program? Applications for the third round of funding are now open!
For more information and to download an application form, visit our GIVE Program page.