Pilates reformer helps Liam in more ways than one

A Pilates reformer funded through Therapy Focus’ GIVE Program has kept 17 year-old Liam Hidding on his feet and allowed him to improve his strength and mobility in the comfort of his own home.

Liam has both Down Syndrome and cerebral palsy, which affect his muscles in conflicting ways. His Mum Ingrid said that he’s had to undergo a number of orthopaedic surgeries which have at times been very debilitating for her son.

“Liam has low muscle tone as a result of having Down Syndrome and high muscle tone due to the cerebral palsy. He’s had a number of surgeries and really struggled to bounce back from a hip surgery in 2012 which had him off his feet and unable to weight bear for 6 weeks.”

A Physiotherapist from Wize Therapy suggested using a Pilates reformer to assist with recovery and the exercises proved to be very beneficial for Liam. But the round trip to and from the Booragoon clinic took almost 3 hours for the Byford based family, and was costing them $300 for 2 sessions each week.

So Ingrid applied to Therapy Focus’ GIVE Program for a $5000 funding grant to purchase a Pilates reformer for use at home, plus 3 therapy sessions with a Wize Therapy Physiotherapist to help get set-up.

Liam now comes home early from school 3 days a week to complete a 1 hour session with assistance from his Mum and either his teacher’s aid or physiotherapist. Ingrid said that since receiving the reformer Liam is stronger, has better balance and can independently transfer from his walker or wheelchair to standing.

“The reformer exercises have been amazing for Liam. We’re able to isolate the muscles we want to work on and Liam can’t trick us by compensating with other muscles. We can physically feel which muscles are working,” Ingrid said.

“We had 6 weeks off over Christmas and we really saw the effects of that break. Having not done the reformer exercises for so long Liam was struggling to transfer and pull himself up to stand. It’s been invaluable to the maintenance of his muscle tone and keeping his strength up.”

Ingrid also thanked supporters of the GIVE Program, saying that without the grant the family would not have been able to afford the reformer sessions that had made such a difference in Liam’s life.

“We are so thankful as a family that we have the independence to manage the exercises ourselves and can do them at home. Liam has progressed so much and can do the simpler exercises independently with only verbal prompting, which is so great to see.”

For more information about the GIVE Program, or to make a donation, visit www.therapyfocus.org.au/GIVE.

Pictured: Liam using his reformer with the help of his Wize Therapy Physiotherapist (L) and Mum, Ingrid (R).

New leadership brings new chapter for Board

After five years at the helm of the Therapy Focus Board, Mr Pete Mildenhall has handed over the role of Chairperson to Ms Fiona Payne, who was formally appointed on 27 March, 2017.

In reflecting on his time as Board Chair, Pete said that whilst there were many highlights he was most proud of the way in which the organisation had managed growth and change.

“Seeing the organisation undergo significant growth, and cope with that growth while maintaining such positive staff culture, has been a wonderful thing to witness. Now I look forward to watching on from the outside as the organisation goes from good things to great things.”

Therapy Focus CEO Matt Burrows echoed this sentiment saying that Pete’s “reliable, diligent and steady-handed” approach to matters regarding the national reforms was much appreciated by all.

In thanking his fellow Directors for their support, Pete offered some advice saying, “We’re all here to serve the people in our community and so long as we bear that in mind in all we do, then I think everything slots into place with the assistance of the talented people we have on the Board.”

Stepping into her new role as Therapy Focus Board Chair, Fiona said that she was excited to be part of the team that will lead Therapy Focus into a new phase.

“The Board is challenged with the task of really adding value to the work of the management team and staff at Therapy Focus, and there’ll be a strong focus on delivering positive outcomes and making a real difference in the lives of consumers and their families.”

Learn more about the Therapy Focus Board of Directors.

Pete Mildenhall, Matt Burrows and Fiona Payne

Pictured L-R: Outgoing Therapy Focus Chair Pete Mildenhall, Therapy Focus CEO Matt Burrows, and incoming Therapy Focus Chair Fiona Payne. 

Sunflower Sunday draws bloomin’ big crowd

On Sunday 9 April more than 1500 people descended on Point Walter Recreation Centre to enjoy a day of free entertainment and activities for all abilities as part of our annual family fun day, Sunflower Sunday. 

The wheelchair-accessible flying fox, cuddly animal farm, inflatable climbing wall, virtual reality experience and face painting proved particularly popular with the crowd. Guests were also treated to musical performances by Catch Music and had the chance to meet Therapy Focus mascot, Sunny the Sunflower.

Therapy Focus’ partner organisations, Rise, Identitywa, Interchange, Intelife and Technology Assisting Disability WA (TADWA) also hosted inclusive and accessible activities and provided guests with information about services available to people with disabilities.

The event wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of Lotterywest, the City of Melville and a Youth Week Grant from the Department of Local Government and Communities.

A special thank you also goes to Therapy Focus staff and volunteers who assisted at the event, and also to the team at the Point Walter Recreation Centre whose support was greatly appreciated.

Therapy Focus would also like to thank everyone who took the time to provide feedback about the event to help plan for future years. 

To find out more watch the video recap or view photos of Sunflower Sunday 2017.

Sunflower Sunday

Pictured: Over 1500 people attended Sunflower Sunday 2017.

Workplace learning leads to library employment

18 year-old Lachlan Smart has landed himself a job as a Library Assistant after impressing his future employer during a work placement.

Lachlan, who has autism, loves his job at the Gosnells Knowledge Centre where he can be found cleaning and restocking shelves, and helping customers find books.

“I do the shelving and sort the books by the alphabet. I like looking at the books when I put them away – especially the dinosaur ones,” Lachlan said.

Lachlan’s mum, Jodie said her son was offered the casual position after completing work experience training at school.

“When Lachlan was in Year 10 he participated in his school’s work experience program. With the support of an Education Assistant, Lachlan learnt the basics of the job.  It was then that the library offered him a casual position,” Jodie said.

The City of Gosnells Chief Executive Officer Ian Cowie said the City was very pleased to have Lachlan as part of its library services team.

“Lachlan made such a great impression during a school work experience placement that the City did not hesitate to welcome him as an employee on a casual basis when he finished school,” Ian said.

“He has great enthusiasm and a terrific attitude, and while I’m sure Lachlan has benefited from being in the workplace, his colleagues too have gained significantly from working with him.”

And it seems Lachlan is in high-demand.

“Lachlan was also fortunate to be offered a position at McDonald’s; however his passion is books so this is the path we took,” Jodie said.

Jodie said their family is thrilled that Lachlan has found fulfilling employment to suit his needs.

“Knowing that Lachlan has a purpose every day is extremely important to us.  We are so proud of what he has achieved, and we have comfort and relief in knowing that there is a place for Lachlan in the working world,” Jodie said.

“The people he works with are amazing, each with endless support and patience. This little causal job for Lachlan means the world to him and to us.”

Lachlan also has a paper route which came about from the same work experience program.

Lachlan library

Pictured: Lachlan Smart with his Gosnells Knowledge Centre colleague, Kate. Photo credit: City of Gosnells.

Yoga group has om-mazing benefits for teens

A relaxation and yoga group run by Therapy Focus’ Joondalup Team is helping teenagers with disabilities become more mindful and cope better with stress.

Therapy Focus Family Connect Worker Kym Pascal designed the program in collaboration with Therapy Focus Physiotherapist Emily Brock and said that participants are taught a range of techniques to help them relax.

 “We teach wellness practises that promote self-regulation and combine these with a yoga sequence that encourages calm movement of the body,” Kym said.

 “We also teach mindfulness, which encourages participants to focus on the moment while calmly accepting their feelings and thoughts.”

 In addition to being great for emotional wellbeing, the yoga group also provides participants with many physical benefits, including improved muscle strength, flexibility and balance.

Teenagers in yoga position

 Participants are also educated about the ‘fight or flight’ response and how it’s triggered in stressful situations.

“With this knowledge they can better understand what happens in their brain and body when they’re stressed, as well as how to manage this response,” Kym said.

“We provide simple techniques that can be practised daily and used in challenging situations, and we’ve found that participants generally use these skills in all areas of their life,” Kym said.

 In addition to yoga, meditation and breathing techniques, participants are also taught about other ways they can manage life’s stresses.

 “We talk about the benefits of journaling as a way to process their worries and discover better ways to manage and cope with challenges,” Kym said.

 “Positive self-image and self-talk skills are taught throughout the program also, and a number of participants have shared these skills with their families and practice at home with their parents and siblings.”

 The program has been provided to individuals and in group settings, with positive feedback from participants, parents and teachers.

 For more information about the group please contact Therapy Focus’ Joondalup office on (08) 9400 6400.*

 *Please note this opportunity is only available to Therapy Focus clients at this time.


Pictured: Therapy Focus Physiotherapist, Emily Brock leads the group in a yoga pose.

Board welcomes new Directors

The Therapy Focus Board of Directors has welcomed the addition of two new members, Ms Fiona Payne and Mr Tony Vis.

Staff at Therapy Focus’ Central Office greeted the two new Directors with a morning tea where they had the opportunity to find out more about Fiona and Tony, and what they hoped to bring to the Board.

Fiona has worked tirelessly to support children and families in the WA community for many years, having held a number of roles in the government and health sector. In joining the Therapy Focus Board she said she hoped to optimise outcomes for families accessing services.

“I was involved with Therapy Focus as a Physiotherapist before the service was outsourced by the government, and have a strong alignment with the Therapy Focus’ values. I am very passionate about people with disabilities being given every opportunity to achieve their full potential, and believe this can be done effectively through partnerships.”

Tony has more than 30 years’ experience as a Board Chair and Director with particular expertise in disability, insurance, property and governance. As the former CEO of Activ Foundation, Tony is passionate about the NDIS reforms and believes he can add value with regard to the reshaping of service delivery.

“I am firm believer in early intervention and really value being part of an organisation that can support individuals to help set them up for their lifetime. Therapy Focus is an effective and efficient organisation whose services are valued by its customers and stakeholders, and I am excited to be able to provide input during this time of change.”

Find out more about Therapy Focus’ Board of Directors.

Director morning tea

Pictured: Therapy Focus’ Central Office welcomes their new Board Director, Fiona Payne.

Alderson Place Open Day celebrates partnership

In late February staff from Rise and Therapy Focus came together to host open day in celebration of a new shared office in Cockburn called Alderson Place.

Guests were invited to take a tour of the office and enjoyed a range of activities including craft activities, face painting, a sensory room and caricature artist. A sausage sizzle was also provided by the team from Zenith Insurance.

Pictured: A guest enjoying craft activities at the event.

In officially opening the office, City of Cockburn Mayor Logan Howlett highlighted the importance of partnerships in ensuring efficient and effective service delivery to people in need.

“Partnerships have and will secure investments into the future, and I am pleased to see partnerships between Rise, Therapy Focus and other organisations who have come together to share their service delivery models in the rapidly growing south metropolitan area.”

Rise CEO Justine Coyler also addressed guests at the event saying that office was named after former Board Chair, Anna Alderson, who greatly valued community.

“Anna was a person who lived our values. Her passion for community inspired us to name the building after her and we look forward to making a difference in the lives of many people in this region,” Ms Coyler said.

Pictured: City of Cockburn Mayor, The Honourable Logan Howlett.

A team of 12 Therapy Focus staff including members of the PEBBLES Continence Team now operate from Alderson Place, providing services to people with disabilities in Cockburn and surrounds.

Therapy Focus Cockburn Team Leader, Claire Nailer said the new office has reduced travel time for therapists and encouraged collaboration with Rise staff.

“Moving into Alderson Place has meant more time to provide therapy, as we’re closer to our clients and can offer them the option of visiting our clinic space,” Claire said.

“The opportunity to work alongside Rise has been invaluable. Most of our team live in the local area and are passionate about building links with other organisations to better support the community.”

Alderson Place is located at 6/1 Merino Entrance, Cockburn Central. For more information about Rise and their range of services they offer visit www.risenetwork.com.au.

Pictured: Rise CEO, Justine Coyler (centre) with Therapy Focus Executive Managers Ruth Lee (left) and Brian Chapman (right).

View more photos from the event.

People’s Choice Award nominations now open!

Our Parent Reference Group is inviting Therapy Focus clients, their families and carers to formally acknowledge Therapy Focus employees who, in their opinion, have gone ‘above and beyond’ by nominating them for the 2017 People’s Choice Award.

The annual award aims to highlight exceptional service and recognise employees who have exceeded expectations with regard to independence, empowerment and inclusion of a Therapy Focus client and their family. Any individual employee of Therapy Focus may be nominated for the award, excluding the Executive Team and Board of Directors.

Nominations are now open and close on Friday 31 March at 5pm.

Download a nomination form (PDF)

Download a nomination form (Word)

The Parent Reference Group will review nominations to select a winner who will be awarded $2,000 and a framed certificate of recognition at Therapy Focus’ Anniversary Breakfast in July. The nominating client and their family/carer will also be invited to attend the breakfast.

For more information or assistance completing the form, contact Penelope Wakefield on 1300 135 373 or email penelope.wakefield@therapyfocus.org.au.

Parent Reference Group member, Amanda Reed with Physiotherapist, Janesta Stobbe

Pictured: 2016 People’s Choice Award winner, Janesta Stobbe (R) with Parent Reference Group member, Amanda Day (L).

Dietitians make healthy eating fun

Children and adults accessing Therapy Focus services can now benefit from the support of qualified dietitians who assess nutritional needs, provide dietary advice and develop customized meal plans and strategies.

One person who is already seeing the benefits of dietetic support is 14 year-old Ryker Biffin, who has been working with Therapy Focus Dietitian, Maddie Todd, to overcome dietary issues that stem from having autism.

When Maddie first started seeing Ryker his diet only included 1-2 types of fruits and vegetables and he was very resistant to trying new foods.

“Research suggests that children with autism have significantly more feeding problems than children who don’t, and that they also eat a significantly narrower range of foods,” Maddie said.

“Additionally, Ryker was suffering from a condition called ‘food jagging’ where he would only eat the same food presented the same way every day, and then suddenly not want to eat this food for a period of time. This led to him only eating chocolate and carbohydrates with low nutritional value, which was putting him at risk of developing health issues long-term.”

Maddie has been using a combination of nutrition counselling and cooking lessons to educate and encourage Ryker.

“It’s important to involve Ryker in food preparation so that he feels more comfortable eating what’s prepared – especially if it’s a new food. We did some practical cooking lessons where we modified recipes to include fruits or vegetables, such as chocolate muffins with zucchini or kidney beans,” Maddie said.

“Since the cooking lessons, Ryker’s ability to follow and prepare a recipe has improved and he can now do this with minimal assistance. His motor skills are improving too – he can now crack an egg into a bowl.”

Maddie also collaborated with Therapy Focus Physiotherapist, Dan Prigmore, to develop a fitness program for Ryker, and teach him about the relationship between food and exercise.

“Ryker is very logical so once Dan and I explained how much exercise it would take for him to work off a Pop Top for example, he was less likely to want one,” Maddie said.

For Ryker’s Mum, Julie, the addition of a dietitian to her son’s therapy team has made a world of difference.

“I’ve seen a huge improvement in Ryker’s attitude to food. He’s eating very different lunches now; instead of white carbohydrates and chocolate he’s enjoying ham and salad wraps, and snacking on chopped fruits and vegetables,” Julie said.

 “We still have ‘white carbohydrate days’ every now and then, but the important thing is that Ryker’s diet has improved for the better. We even had our first family dinner where we ate the same meal recently and it meant the world to me.”

“And it’s not just Ryker who has benefitted; having the opportunity to learn from Maddie has reinvigorated my cooking! She’s given me some great new ideas to try which is really helpful,” Julie said.

For more information about how Therapy Focus can support the dietary needs of people with disabilities visit www.therapyfocus.org.au/mealtime-management/.

Ryker Biffin - Dietitian

Pictured: Ryker and his mum, Julie are enjoying cooking new healthy meals together.

Isaac takes on the Ultimate Challenge

Last November, 15 year-old Isaac Cramp boarded the Leeuwin ship to take part in a five-day ocean adventure known as the ‘Ultimate Challenge’, which is specifically designed for young people with disabilities.

During his time aboard the Leeuwin, Isaac and his shipmates were kept busy looking after the vessel, learning sailing skills and participating in fun team activities such as a mini Olympics.

Leeuwin Ultimate Challenge

Therapy Focus Physiotherapist Ollie Thomas praised the  program for the valuable skills it teaches participants.

“The Ultimate Challenge is a terrific program. It gives participants the opportunity to make new friends, work as part of a team, learn to follow routines and instructions and learn new skills such as setting sails, steering the ship, climbing masts and standing watch. It’s also great for their confidence,” Ollie said.

Isaac’s mum, Leonie, said Isaac had never been on a boat before the challenge.

“Isaac was really nervous but once we go to the dock his excitement took over and he was happy to board,” Leonie said.

“I was thrilled for him.  I felt the opportunity would help him grow and give him a life experience he could talk about long after.”

Leeuwin Ultimate Challenge

And it seems the five-day journey was the positive experience Leonie hoped for.

“To see the smile on Isaac’s face when the Leeuwin docked was a proud moment,” Leonie said.

“Isaac was on Cloud 9 and he was absolutely glowing with joy.  He was so excited to take us on a tour of the ship and talked nonstop all the way home. His cousin Kayley even wrote an article about Isaac’s experience for her school assignment.” 

Given Isaac’s progress, it’s unsurprising that Leonie would recommend the program.

“Seeing how much Isaac’s confidence and language skills have improved and how positive he’s feeling gives me great joy. Isaac has really matured and grown from his experience aboard the Leeuwin,” Leonie said.

“I highly recommend this trip to any family; it has a forward reward experience that the whole family benefits from.”

Applications for the next Leeuwin Ultimate Challenge close Sunday 19 February, 2017. For more information or to apply visit www.sailleeuwin.com/voyage/ultimate-challenge.

Leeuwin Ultimate Challenge

Public transport training promotes community inclusion

A first-of-its-kind collaboration between Transperth and Therapy Focus is helping to make catching the bus safer and easier for people who use mobility equipment.

On January 24, Transperth kindly arranged for an accessible bus to be available for an hour so that Chelsea Ong, Israa Atti and Naomi Parker could practice using their wheelchairs and scooters on the bus.

Therapy Focus Adult Services Coordinator, Ruth Leong approached Transperth with the idea after seeing a need for this kind of support.

“When our clients first receive mobility equipment they don’t really get an opportunity to practice using it on public transport. It can be very difficult to manoeuvre a wheelchair or scooter in a crowded environment, and having to learn these skills on the go can be intimidating. Particularly with the time and space constraints that come with boarding a bus,” Ruth said.

“We approached Transperth to see if they could make an accessible bus available so our clients could practice without the rush and crowd you’d usually find on a bus route, and thankfully they were extremely helpful and accommodating.”

With the assistance of Therapy Focus therapists and Transperth bus driver, Derrek, the group were are able to rehearse using bus ramps, tagging on and learning how to park their mobility equipment within a confined space.

“Participants were able to take their time problem solving any issues they encountered, which helped them feel more confident. And having the confidence to catch public transport goes a long way in helping people with disabilities participate in the community.”

This was the case for Israa Atti, who uses a mobility scooter and attended the session to feel more confident about catching the bus to TAFE, where she is studying a Diploma of Business.

“Before attending the practice session I was very afraid of catching the bus, but now I feel a lot better about it. I learnt how to park inside the bus and how to get off easily,” Israa said.

The session was also beneficial for Transperth, who are reviewing feedback that the grab rails on the bus are suited to people who can walk up and down the ramps, but are too high for someone in a wheelchair to reach.

For more information or to register your interest in future sessions, email Adult Services Coordinator Ruth Leong at ruth.leong@therapyfocus.org.au.


Pictured: Israa practicing using her mobility scooter on the bus with the help of her support worker. 

Christmas gift wrapping raises a whopping $32,000

Thanks to the support of volunteers and the generosity of Westfield, $32,000 was raised for Therapy Focus’ GIVE Program as a result of gift wrapping at Westfield shopping centres over the Christmas period.

More than $16,000 was raised by gift wrapping stations at Westfield Innaloo, Carousel and Whitford City shopping centres, with volunteers wrapping shoppers’ gifts for $2 each. Westfield then generously matched the total funds raised dollar for dollar, bringing the total donation to $32,000.  

The funds have been contributed to Therapy Focus’s GIVE Program, which supports independence, participation and social inclusion of people with disabilities and their families

Therapy Focus Events & Volunteer Coordinator, Megan Davis attributes the amazing result to the 90 dedicated volunteers who donated their time to man the gift wrapping stations throughout the festive season.

“We are lucky to have so many volunteers support our organisation, especially at such a busy time of the year,” Megan said.

“Without volunteers and the continued generosity of our partner, Westfield, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve such a fantastic result. Thank you to all who helped or donated to the cause.”

For more information about volunteering at Therapy Focus, contact Megan on 1300 135 373 or email volunteer@therapyfocus.org.au.

Gift wrapping

Quality evaluation feedback welcome

In November, Therapy Focus’ major funding body, the Disability Services Commission (DSC), conducted an independent quality evaluation of Therapy Focus’ School Age Intervention services. The purpose of the evaluation was to assess whether Therapy Focus is meeting the needs of the children and families we support and are helping them to achieve positive outcomes.

Therapy Focus would like to invite our clients and families to review the draft report and provide your feedback. Once the report has been finalised, interested families and staff are welcome to attend a presentation on the key findings of the evaluation. If you would like to provide feedback or are interested in attending the final presentation, please contact Regional Manager Jonathan Ng on 1300 135 373 or email jonathan.ng@therapyfocus.org.au before 24 January 2017.

Download Quality Evaluation Draft Report [DOC]

Download Quality Evaluation Draft Report [PDF]

All independent evaluations commissioned by DSC are based upon the Commission’s Disability Services Standards. For more information about these standards visit the Disability Services Commission’s website.

You can view copies of our previous evaluation reports here. 

Jenny’s on track to work

16 year-old Jenny Trac is better equipped to transition from high school to adulthood after completing a 9 week work experience placement at Therapy Focus as part of Canning Vale College’s Workplace Learning Program.

Jenny, who has autism, was kept busy during the placement creating resources for the therapy team at Therapy Focus’ Maddington office. Her daily activities included cutting, copying, laminating and applying Velcro. Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist Brittany Maiolo said the therapy team used a variety of strategies to help Jenny stay on task.

“We used ‘box work’ to help Jenny move through the different activities. This involves the tasks being divided into individual boxes such as cutting, laminating and Velcro-ing. Once she’d finished cutting all the resources in the cutting box, we would use key-word sign and tell her that she’d finished that task and then ask her to move onto the next box,” Brittany said.

“We also used a visual schedule to help her transition between tasks. This was also helpful to outline the day’s activities such as getting to and from work, morning tea and lunch time.”

Canning Vale College Education Assistant Kelly Freeman said Jenny has shown many improvements since finishing her placement.

“The use of visual aids and schedules has been really helpful for Jenny, not just with her work tasks but also things like remembering to walk and not run inside,” Kelly said.

“Jenny has made great progress and really pays attention to her visual cues.”

Brittany agreed saying, “The workplace learning opportunity has helped Jenny work towards her communication goals. We created a resource called ‘My News from Workplace Learning’, which encouraged Jenny to talk to her family about what she’d been doing here at Therapy Focus.”

Jenny will continue to develop these skills when she begins her second placement at Therapy Focus in Term 1 2017.

For more information about how Therapy Focus can help people with disabilities navigate the transitions in their life visit www.therapyfocus.org.au/transitions.

Jenny Trac

Pictured: Jenny hard at work in the Therapy Focus Maddington office.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

The team at Therapy Focus would like to thank you for your support in 2016 and extend our best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Please note Therapy Focus will be closed from 3pm on Friday 23 December, 2016. Regular office hours will resume at 8am on Tuesday 3 January, 2017.

For emergency equipment repairs please contact:

  • Guy’s Mobile Wheelchair Services on 0410 480 481
  • AC Mobility on 0422 344 492 / 0421 782 522 
  • Improved Living Solutions on 0447 722 831

Therapy Focus will cover the cost of repairs that are eligible for government funding when we reopen in January.

We look forward to seeing you in 2017!

Have a Sunny Christmas!

Family Fun Day celebrates People with Disability

The weather couldn’t have been better on Saturday 3 December when around 40 families accessing Therapy Focus services came together at Perth Zoo to celebrate International Day of People with Disability.

Guests were provided with complimentary tickets to the Zoo to enjoy a BBQ lunch and a range of entertainment, including a visit from Santa’s helper, Sunny the Sunflower.

Therapy Focus Board Chair, Pete Mildenhall addressed guests at the event, acknowledging the importance of the day and providing an overview of the past year.

“It’s fantastic to see so many families come together on this special day. The last 12 months have certainly been eventful but, as a summary, hard work by staff has seen Therapy Focus deliver on it’s core government contracts and position the organisation to meet the needs of individual customers coming through the NDIS trials,” Pete said.

Parent Reference Group representative, Frances Marsden also spoke, highlighting the value of parent/carer perspectives in helping shape services.

“In 2017 the Parent Reference Group has shared ideas for strengthening relationships between therapists and families, and placed particular emphasis on accomodating families during the transition to adulthood,” Frances said.

Members of the Board and PRG also joined CEO Matt Burrows in meeting with families as they enjoyed the day’s activities.

Feedback from guests was very positive, with one parent saying; “The meal, entertainment, free ride on the carousel, face painting and Sunny the Sunflower were all thoroughly enjoyed by our boys. I was especially thrilled to see the boys laughing at the puppet show, which was a real hit with the kids.”

Following the success of the event Therapy Focus’ events team is looking to host the Family Fun Day at a larger venue in 2017 so that more families can attend and take part in celebrations.

For more information about International Day of People with Disability visit www.idpwd.com.au.


Pictured: Therapy Focus Administration Officer, Pauline Daems (centre) introducing 4-year-old Stella Eglington to Therapy Focus mascot, Sunny the Sunflower.

Playgroup gets kids kindy ready

Therapy Focus’ Kindy Readiness Playgroup is helping prepare children aged 3-5 with disabilities for mainstream kindergarten by providing therapeutic intervention through play.

The playgroup is a pilot program and was established to support a growing number of parents and carers in the Armadale area who did not feel confident sending their children to mainstream kindergarten.

Therapy Focus Family Connect Worker, Gretta Lane said structured sessions held weekly allow children to become familiar with a school environment, and support them to develop key skills.

“Each session uses the same routine approach to help the children understand what is expected of them, and we use visual schedules to communicate what is happening ‘now’ and ‘next’,” Gretta said.

“Activities are targeted at developing fine and gross motor skills, social skills, joint attention and sensory ability. We also use Key Word Sign and core boards as a form of alternative communication and for visual cues.”

The Kindy Readiness Playgroup is available to children accessing Therapy Focus services who have goals relating to school readiness. For more information please contact Gretta Lane on 9452 9600 or email gretta.lane@therapyfocus.org.au.

Kindy readiness program

Playgroup participants taking part in story time.

Careful planning key to a calm journey for Taliyah

A long car trip with the family might sound like the beginning of a migraine for many parents, but travelling long distance with a child who has autism can, in some cases, be even more stressful. This was certainly the challenge Ray Wheeler faced when he and his 9 year-old daughter, Taliyah, had to drive 370km on a return trip to Bunbury.

“After my wife Kylie found out she had to work the weekend we were supposed to make the trip, I realised I needed to start making plans to make the journey as easy as possible,” Ray said.

“Taliyah is a complex child and her reactions to situations can be very different one day to the next. Trying to predict how she’ll react to a journey and preventing any possible triggers is definitely the hardest part.”

Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist, Olov Falkmer said that car trips with a child with disability can be challenging for a variety of reasons.

“It can be hard to prepare the child for what is going to happen, like how long the trip is going to take. The boredom of long drives affects us all and it can be especially frustrating for children who don’t understand why it takes so long to get to the destination,” Olov said.

“There are also safety concerns to think of, such as the child unbuckling their seat belt. The child might also feel ‘trapped’ in the confined space and this may cause them to become overwhelmed and find it hard to regulate their emotions.”

Taliyah’s therapy team helped prepare Ray for the trip by providing communication tools and visuals aids, as well as ideas for activities and toys that would be calming for Taliyah. And with careful planning and preparation the trip was a great success.

“We had no problems the whole trip! Taliyah travelled well and there was no dangerous behaviour. We even went to a small restaurant for lunch and she sat and ate happily and quietly. I didn’t have to prompt her or do any countdowns all day,” Ray said.

In reflecting on the success of the trip, Ray offered some advice for families gearing up for a journey of their own saying, “Be prepared, think of every possible scenario and make sure you have solutions ready.”

“Plan your journey; consider which route is the easiest, whether there are places to pull over during the trip and if there’s somewhere your child can go to de-stress when you arrive. Allow enough time in case things go wrong and don’t forget to bring their necessary sensory or comfort items.”

Taliyah car trip

Pictured: Taliyah enjoying lunch after a successful car trip to Bunbury.

The benefits of bouncing

BlogThis blog article was written by Therapy Focus Physiotherapist, Natalie Burgess with the assistance of Vuly Trampolines, who have kindly donated a trampoline to Therapy Focus.

Trampolining can be a fun and effective way to improve overall health. It improves fitness, increases circulation, promotes weight loss and strengthens the body, but did you know trampolining can also aid in a child’s development?

In addition to being a lot of fun, jumping on a trampoline improves motor skills, coordination and balance. It also encourages socialisation with others, which is especially useful for children with autism. And as many parents will know, children with disability often respond positively to taking a different approach to a task. So a trampoline can often be used an effective educational tool and motivator for a child. 

Some other benefits of trampolining include:

Sensory regulation

Sometimes children with autism can become overwhelmed by the world around them, which can result in stress and difficult behaviours. Bouncing on a trampoline can provide sensory input for children with disability, and provide a safe place for frazzled youngsters to calm down.

Improved motor skills

Bouncing on a trampoline is a fantastic way to improve motor skills. Rebounding encourages muscle development, strengthens bones, reinforces joints, improves balance and fosters kinaesthetic awareness.

Trampolining is also great for fitness and can be a great motivator to play outside and get rid of excess energy.

Innovative engagement

Many children can find it difficult to learn in a traditional classroom setting. Some learn more effectively when learning is linked with physical movement. The use of trampolines can often be an effective tool for engaging children in learning.

For example, you might draw words on the mat of a trampoline and ask a child to jump from one word to another to form a sentence. Another example might be colouring certain sections of the trampoline with chalk and calling out the name of the colour as the child puts their foot on it. There are many variations of these games and they can be easily modified to accommodate all skill levels.

Improved social skills

Trampolining can be an excellent way to develop social skills. As well as providing a good topic of conversation to share, children can practise turn taking and games with rules. In addition,a trampoline can be an invaluable tool for encouraging interaction between children and their parents. Simple games like clapping or counting in time with the bounces or making up songs can encourage healthy and fun interaction.

Vuly offer a variety of different sized trampolines, including a transportable 8ft trampoline that is convenient to move and store. This mobile option can be comforting for children when they are away from familiar environments.

To view the range visit www.vulyplay.com

Vuly trampoline

Early intervention a great support in the South West

In early 2016 Therapy Focus expanded service delivery to support people with disabilities living the South West region of WA. For local families like the Newbolds, whose 4-year-old son Cody was recently diagnosed with autism, access to Therapy Focus’ early intervention program couldn’t have come at a better time.

Cody was diagnosed in February after his Mum, Narelle, noticed he wasn’t reaching the usual developmental milestones.

“I know that all kids are different, but there were a few things that Cody was doing, which his siblings hadn’t, like constantly spinning his milk bottle and flapping his hands,” Narelle said.

“At first we thought it was just excitement and something a little funny, but after meeting with the paediatrician and looking back on certain things he did, we agreed that there must be more to it.”

South west

Narelle contacted WA NDIS and local service providers to see what assistance was available for her son, and spoke with Therapy Focus’ South West Team Leader, Danelle Milward.

“Therapy Focus stood out to me straight away. Danelle was very helpful and really put my mind at ease during what was an anxious time for my family.”

Cody now receives weekly visits from his Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist and Occupational Therapist, who are supporting him to develop the skills he needs to attend mainstream kindergarten next year.

“In discussing Cody’s goals with his therapy team, it wasn’t so much about making sure he keeps up with the other kids, but about making sure he doesn’t get frustrated or overwhelmed,” Narelle said.

“I was worried about him sitting and staying engaged in activities, but his therapy has been going really well – particularly as he gets to know his therapists and becomes more comfortable with them. As a parent, the therapists have really eased me into it too.”

South west

Cody’s Occupational Therapist, Rebekah Wallace, has also seen great progress, saying that Cody “is moving forward in leaps and bounds” each time she visits him.

“When we first started working with Cody it was very much about what he wanted to do, but now he’s much more engaged and open to being guided through the activities we offer him,” Rebekah said.

“Right now we’re working toward school readiness, targeting his fine and gross motor skills, then once he transitions to kindergarten we’ll work with education staff to assess his needs and identify any support areas we need to target.”

Learn more about Therapy Focus’ Early Intervention Program.

For more information about the services and support Therapy Focus offers in the South West, contact Team Leader, Danelle Milward, on 0438 642 802 or email danelle.milward@therapyfocus.org.au

Variety Scholarship helps business blossom

As Year 12 students across the country begin making plans for their future post high school, 18 year-old Breanna Kramer is ahead of the curve, having recently set-up her own print and design business with the help of a Variety WA Scholarship.

Breanna, who has autism, came up with the idea to start her company ‘Breannimals’ during a family brainstorming session. Combining her love of animals with her artistic abilities, Breanna creates and prints bright animal designs on mugs, caps and T-shirts, as well as taking custom orders.

Her mum Nicole said Breanna has always known that she wanted to do something with her artistic talents.

“Breanna loves to draw animals. She has an eye for the finer details and will spend hours getting her designs just right. She especially loves using her computer for digital drawing and animation. It has been so rewarding for her to be able to combine her interests and skills and turn them into a small home business,” Nicole said.


Therapy Focus supported Breanna to apply for a Variety Scholarship so that she could purchase the necessary equipment to set up ‘Breannimals’.

“Breanna’s therapist encouraged us to apply for the Variety WA scholarship because she recognised Breanna’s talent and ability. She supported us with writing the application and guided and encouraged us throughout the entire process. Therapy Focus has always encouraged us to work to Breanna’s strengths and allow her to develop and use them as much as possible,” Nicole said.

Although it’s still early days, Breanna and her family are thrilled with how the business is progressing and it has become quite the family affair.

“Breanna has just set up a Facebook page and customer orders have started coming in. She received several order requests around Father’s Day and she handled the pressure really well,” Nicole said.

“She has the full support of her family as well as her church community. We are all incredibly proud of Breanna’s achievements and everyone has been more than happy to do their part. It’s been a really rewarding experience.”


Nicole said making the transition from high school to employment can be overwhelming and scary, but has the following advice for parents in a similar situation.

“Find the things that bring your child joy, consider their strengths and talents, and together you can come up with amazing things. A small home business may not make a lot of money but it brings things far more valuable; purpose, education, a sense of inclusion, creativity and opportunities to connect with others. Start small, but think outside the box. It can be a beautiful thing!”

Now that she is a business owner, Breanna has started saving for a trip to Bremer Bay and is hoping to realise her dream of seeing Orcas.

To see Breanna’s designs visit her Facebook page.


New Zealand exchange invaluable

Earlier this year Therapy Focus clinicians Lauren Redman and Natalie Elias travelled to New Zealand to work alongside staff at partner organisation, Autism New Zealand.

Throughout the two week exchange, Lauren and Natalie visited Autism New Zealand’s North Island offices to experience service delivery first hand and attend the organisation’s signature training programs for professionals and parents of individuals with autism.

Lauren and Natalie share their experience:

We arrived on a cold and rainy day in Auckland and were launched straight into home visits as part of Autism New Zealand’s Early Bird Program. We noted similarities in the way Therapy Focus and Autism New Zealand promote play as an important developmental stage for young children with autism, and spoke to parents about how they incorporate their child’s unique interests in play. This was a great way to start our exchange, as we were able to see first-hand the coaching support the organisation provides to families.

Another program we gained an insight to during our time in Auckland was Autism New Zealand’s Chat and Chill Parent Support Group. The group empowers parents to support one another and is a great environment for sharing experiences. We also met with some of the organisation’s Outreach Coordinators, whose role is to help families navigate the services available to them and provide guidance around all things autism.


Pictured: Natalie and Lauren enjoying a break at Mission Bay, Auckland.

Following our time in Auckland we visited Autism New Zealand’s national office in the beautiful suburb of Petone, Wellington. We thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to meet with Joanne Dacombe, who sits on the Autism New Zealand Board and has a son with autism. Joanne reminded us of the important insights parents can provide in guiding service provision. Parents play a key role in the operation of Autism New Zealand, through their role as Outreach Coordinators, and assist with support groups and training. We also learnt about the Board’s vision for the Autism Resource Centre, which will be a ‘one stop shop’ for families to access diagnostic assessment, therapy services, training and parent support.


Pictured: Lauren (left) and Natalie (right) meet with Joanne Dacombe to discuss parent input at Autism New Zealand and the Autism Resource Centre.

Whilst in Wellington we also met with the CEO of Autism New Zealand, Dane Dougan, and the Finance Assistant for Membership and Funding, Mary-Therese Nalder. Dan and Mary-Therese were very generous with their time and spoke to us about the challenges of operating in a system reliant on charitable funding. Despite these challenges, the organisation continues to provide relevant and valuable supports across New Zealand that are customised to the needs of each local community.

We finished our time in Wellington observing the Tilting the Seesaw Program, which teaches primary school educators about strengths-based strategies to support children with autism in the classroom. This was a great opportunity to revisit simple systems that can be used in any classroom to provide structure and routine in an often dynamic and unpredictable environment.

The remainder of our time in New Zealand was spent shadowing the Autism New Zealand National Educators, Neil Stuart and Tanya Catterall, as they delivered a range of training programs for parents, early childhood educators and therapists. Neil and Tanya are truly engaging presenters who each have a wealth of knowledge and experience. They strongly advocate the need to provide all children on the spectrum with genuine and quality engagement through play, and a common theme that resonated throughout their training was ‘show me what I can do, don’t tell me what I can’t do’. This really reinforced our role as clinicians to promote a positive, strengths-based approach to everyone we work with.


Pictured: Neil Stuart explains the ‘seesaw’ analogy  to early childhood educators.

We particularly enjoyed the ‘proud books’ resource Tanya spoke of, which involves compiling an album of successes and special moments as a means of celebrating a child’s achievements. But our final take home message came from Neil, who taught us that while play should be child-led, it needs to be adult-guided. Our role is to be interested in their interests, know when to present new experiences, and strive to create moments of harmony.

We learnt so much during our exchange experience and thank Autism New Zealand for their kind hospitality and generosity in sharing their knowledge. We would also like to extend our sincere gratitude to Therapy Focus for their commitment to lifelong learning in providing us with this opportunity.

Seamless Transition support for school leavers

For students with disability, leaving school can be a very daunting prospect. That’s why Interchange WA has developed a cost-free transition program for students with disability in their final year of secondary school.

Interchange is a partner of Therapy Focus and specialises in providing community inclusion and independent living support to teenagers and young adults with disabilities. Their Seamless Transition Program was developed in collaboration with schools and families over many years, and helps students imagine what life after school might look like.

The first step in the program involves Interchange Community Facilitators (Support Workers) spending time in the student’s school environment to gain an understanding of their unique personality, interests and abilities. Students are then invited to take part in inclusive community activities tailored to each student’s individual goals, interests and abilities with support from their Community Facilitator.

At the conclusion of the program the student can choose to continue receiving support from Interchange if they wish. Interchange will develop an individualised program in consultation with the student’s family and their school, which aligns with goals and builds on the specific behavioural and communication programs. This process gives students and their families peace of mind as they leave school with a clear picture of who will be supporting them and what that support will look like.

Interchange has vacancies available for 2016 school leavers who are interested in taking part in their Seamless Transition program. Please contact Jess Brodie-Hall on 0404 017 385 or email office@interchangewa.org.au to register your interest or for further information.

For more information about the range of services and support Interchange provides, visit their website.


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.

Theo's bike

Pictured: Theo enjoying his new bike with his Mum, Sharon, and Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist Shanae Guppy.

‘Quiet Hour’ a success with shoppers

The TVs were switched off, the fluorescent lights dimmed and the speakers disconnected when The Good Guys Clarkson store held their first ever ‘Quiet Hour’ on Wednesday 21 September.

Recognising that the average shopping experience can be overwhelming for someone with autism, The Good Guys Clarkson partnered with Therapy Focus to make shopping more accessible.

The Good Guys Clarkson Store Executive, Dinesh Mepani, said he was excited to offer the experience to customers in Western Australia after seeing how well a trial of ‘Quiet Hour’ was received at a store in South Australia.

“When we heard how successful the Mile End store event was, we were really excited to get on board and try it ourselves. Our store manager’s son has autism and receives support from Therapy Focus, so we approached the organisation to support our own ‘Quiet Hour’ event,” Dinesh said.

“On the evening our team dimmed the fluorescent lights, turned off TVs, computers and music to help create the best possible shopping experience. Therapy Focus clinicians also spoke to our store staff about autism and how to best support shoppers before the event began.”

Therapy Focus CEO Matt Burrows said events such as a ‘Quiet Hour’ can help make shopping more manageable for families of children with sensory processing issues.

“Going shopping with children can be a stressful experience for any family, but when your child is overly sensitive to lights, sounds and smells, it can be really overwhelming,” Matt said.

“Having a shopping hour that takes this into account for people with autism and sensory processing issues is mutually beneficial, because people with disabilities and their families can choose to spend their money at businesses who value their custom.”

Paula Ryder’s attended the event with her family, including her son, Jake, who has autism. Paula said the Therapy Focus staff were a great support and the resources, such as social stories and fiddle toys, helped keep Jake relaxed.

“Normally Jake would run off when hearing loud sounds in stores, but it was such a calm and relaxing environment for him,” Paula said.

“It was great experience for our family. ‘Quiet Hours’ are a great idea and more stores should be doing it!”

Matt echoed Paula’s sentiments saying, “We were thrilled to partner with The Good Guys for this event and hope to see more events like this in the future. We see it as an important step to making shopping inclusive and accessible for all.”

Good Guys

Pictured (L-R): Front row: Paula Ryder, Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist Katie Sala Tenna, Phoenix Hamlin and Jack Hamlin. Back row: Jackson Hamlin, Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist Laura Edmonds, Good Guys employee Grant Girdwood.

Volunteers make a difference in Vanuatu

In July Therapy Focus supported Physiotherapists Emily Brock and Nicky Scott, Occupational Therapist Caitlin Williams and Speech Pathologist Caitlin O’Meara to volunteer in Vanuatu through an organisation called Joint Therapy Outreach (JTO).

In partnership with Perth-based volunteer organisation, Wheelchairs for Kids, JTO coordinated a team of health professionals to travel to Vanuatu with wheelchairs and other mobility equipment for people living in the remote village communities of Malekula and Ambae islands. The team assessed and treated people in the hospitals in Port Vila, Malekula and Santo, who had conditions such as club foot, Hydrocephalus, Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome and other birth defects. They also worked closely with adults who had suffered strokes and other degenerative conditions.

Speech Pathologist Caitlin O’Meara said there were many memorable moments made during their two week stint.

“During the first week working on Malekula Island we met a 6-year-old boy named Peter. Peter had bilateral club feet, which restricted his ability to walk, attend school and participate in village life. We were able to provide Peter with a customised wheelchair that allowed him to participate in village life,” Caitlin said.

“The following week we were on Ambae Island and met 17-year-old Jonathan. Jonathan has undiagnosed Autism and was also completely blind. His family did not understand his disability and did not know how to support him within the community. Soon after meeting Jonathan we learnt he had never left his hut. We discussed with his family how they could support Jonathan to participate in the community and provided some sensory strategies to help with regulation.”

Caitlin said the volunteering opportunity was a profound and validating experience for her and her fellow therapists.

“It was an incredible trip and we are so grateful that we were able to be a part of it. This opportunity reinforced how important the work we do at Therapy Focus is in order to maximise an individual’s quality of life,” Caitlin said.


Pictured:  Therapy Focus staff with the rest of the 2016 JTO team.

Southwest benefits from expansion

Therapy Focus has expanded service delivery to the lower southwest region of Western Australia to support people with disabilities living in Busselton, Dunsborough, Margaret River and surrounds.

Occupational Therapist Danelle Milward coordinates service delivery in the lower southwest and said that the expansion will help fill gaps in current service provision and give families more choice.

“Families living in the southwest region can now benefit from the significant experience and expertise within Therapy Focus, with access to a full service, mobile therapy team” Danelle said.

“We’re working to fill the gaps, particularly in terms of early childhood and school-age intervention, and we’re doing a lot of work to support adults with disabilities to live more independently.”

In addition to NDIS and contract-funded services, Therapy Focus also offers private services for children who have developmental delays, as well as adults who require rehabilitation or suffer from chronic pain.

“The establishment of the new Southwest Team will mean that so many more people and families will be able to access the support they need, including those without disabilities who wish to purchase our comprehensive therapy services for a fee,” Danelle said.

For more information about the range of services and support available visit www.therapyfocus.org.au/how-we-can-help or call 1300 135 373.




On the pathway to employment

Therapy Focus has been working closely with National Disability Services (NDS) to host information sessions about the Pathway to Employment Framework, which is aimed at supporting teenagers with disabilities to find meaningful work.

The framework provides participants of the NDIS trials with activities, strategies and resources that support a goal of securing work after finishing school. It’s designed to support service providers, school leavers with disability and their families to work together during the development and implementation of their NDIS Plan.

Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist, Glenna Tan, coordinated separate information sessions for both Therapy Focus clinicians and families receiving services at the Goollelal School office in August.  She said the sessions, which were hosted by NDS Project Officer, Gaelen Williams, were an opportunity for both clinicians and families to gain an in-depth insight into the transition to employment.

“The framework is twofold, covering both pre-employment preparation and on the job support. This includes exploring interests, skill building, interview preparation, application processes, communication with employers and collaboration with support agencies such as disability employment services,” Glenna said.

Sessions have also been held at Therapy Focus’ Bassendean, Mirrabooka and Bentley offices, with feedback from both staff and families very positive.

“Families found the sessions to be very useful, as the transition from school to employment can be a very daunting and uncertain time. They appreciated the opportunity to ask someone all their questions and gain some direction about the next steps,” Glenna said.

“Clinicians and support staff were also able to gain great insights from someone as knowledgeable as Gaelen, who was able to provide specific strategies and ideas for individual clients and their families.

For more information and access to a range of resources visit the NDS website. To find out how Therapy Focus can support teenagers and adults in the transition to employment visit our Transitions page or call us on 1300 135 373.

 Participants at an NDS Employment information session

Pictured: Helen Cairns and her son, Christopher (R), with NDS Project Officer, Gaelen Williams (L) at an information session.

Book launch celebrates diversity

The ninth title in Therapy Focus’ Help a Child Grow storybook series has been unveiled at a book launch event on Thursday 25 August at the Perth Town Hall.

Entitled Outback Jack’s Great Race, the rhyming storybook features characters with disabilities and encourages readers to celebrate the unique talents and abilities of every individual. The illustrations were created by WA primary school students selected as winners in Therapy Focus’ 15th annual Art Competition.

This year close to 4000 entries were received from 59 schools across the state, including schools as far as Kununurra, Coolgardie and Albany. 100 finalists were selected and went on display at Westfield shopping centres in the July school holidays, where the community was invited to help select the winners by voting.

Storybook author, Krystal Cotterill, grew up in the remote town of Leonora and said that in writing the narrative she reflected on her childhood and shared an insight into indigenous culture.

“Writing this story has been an amazing experience and I’m honoured to have been a part of a project that embraces diversity and encourages inclusion of everyone in our community,” Krystal said.

“I’m just so impressed by the quality of the artwork and loved meeting all the talented artists who brought the story to life. They really captured the essence of the story, which was inspired by this year’s National Book Week theme, Australia.”

Therapy Focus Chairperson, Peter Mildenhall, joined Krystal in celebrating the outstanding achievements of the winners by awarding each student with a framed copy of their original artwork, a copy of Outback Jack’s Great Race and a prize bag courtesy of Art Competition sponsors.

Lake Joondalup student Paige McKenzie, whose artwork was chosen to feature as the cover, also received a $250 Youth Saver account courtesy of Commonwealth Bank.

With support from Art Competition Principal sponsor, The Stan Perron Charitable Foundation, a complimentary copy of Outback Jack’s Great Race will be provided to every primary school in Western Australia.

Copies of Outback Jack’s Great Race and previous titles in the Help a Child Grow storybook series are available for purchase from the Therapy Focus website. All proceeds from the sale of the storybooks go towards supporting the Art Competition and storybook project in future years.

Book Launch

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.

Freemasons member, Eddy Ward, with Brock

Pictured: Freemasons member, Eddy Ward (R), with Brock MacDonald-Bevan.

Community helps build Lego program

With the support of local government and community organisations, Therapy Focus is continuing to build on the success of its popular Lego therapy program, which helps children and young people with disabilities develop their social skills. 

North of the river, the City of Joondalup generously provided a $2000 grant to cover the cost of Lego and volunteers. In the south, Therapy Focus has partnered with The Brick House to host the program in Willetton. 

The program encourages children to interact with each other in a structured setting using Lego. Participants learn the importance of team work and take on different roles in order to construct various Lego sets.

Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist, Natasha Maseyk runs the Joondalup program and says that evidence-based Lego therapy is an effective way to support the develop play and social skills.

“Lego therapy can help participants improve in areas such as verbal and non-verbal communication, joint attention, sharing, turn-taking and collaborative problem solving,” Natasha said.

In addition to funding for the Lego itself, partnerships with local organisations such as The Brick House support community participation and provide a welcoming venue for activities.

Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist, Claudette Brandis said the staff at The Brick House are also a great support to the therapists who facilitate the program, particularly in terms of their knowledge and resources.

“The Brick House team prepares specific Lego kits and projects that are suitable for each participant and helps them achieve certain goals. For example, using robotics technology to give some of our ‘engineers’ a more challenging role,” Claudette said.

Therapy Focus’ Lego program is available to children and young people accessing services. Find out how to access Therapy Focus services and support.

For more information about The Brick House visit www.thebrickhouse.com.au.


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.

Ben Henson with his therapists
Pictured: Ben with his Therapy Focus therapists, Ashleigh Sibbald (L) and Natasha Duncan (R).

Anniversary celebrates staff

On Wednesday 20 August, Therapy Focus employees came together at Fremantle Sailing Club to acknowledge the outstanding achievements of colleagues as part of the organisation’s 18th Anniversary celebrations.

The event saw a number of employees receive recognition for 5, 10 and 15 years of dedicated service, as well as the presentation of Therapy Focus’ annual Board Award and People’s Choice Award.

The Board Award recognises the significant contribution of an employee who exceeds expectations and continuously achieves excellence. Therapy Focus Board Director, David Cox, had the honour of presenting the 2016 Board Award to Occupational Therapist, Alice Kettle.

The following is an excerpt from Alice’s nomination, which was submitted by Therapy Focus Team Leaders, Niamh Fitzmaurice and Nicole Seath.

“Alice is one of the most dedicated clinicians that we have the pleasure of working with. Despite her own heavy clinical caseload, Alice can consistently be relied upon to support other staff and contribute to new activities and projects. She will generally volunteer for new roles if she is not first sought out for her insight and knowledge.”

Read the full nomination.

Board Director, David Cox, with Occupational Therapist, Alice Kettle
Pictured: Therapy Focus Board Director, David Cox with 2016 Board Award winner, Alice Kettle.
Nominations for the People’s Choice Award are submitted by Therapy Focus clients, families and carers who wish to acknowledge exceptional service and recognise employees who have gone ‘above and beyond’ in their personal opinion. Therapy Focus Parent Reference Group member, Amanda Reed, presented the 2016 People’s Choice Award to Physiotherapist, Janesta Stobbe.

The following is an excerpt from Janesta’s nomination, which was submitted by Geraldine Lim whose son Kal-El receives services from Therapy Focus.

“Janesta is someone who has inspired us through her attitude and persistence. She has empowered us as parents by providing education, creative ideas, knowledge and her strong experience in working with kids like Kal-el. We can testify that from day one, Janesta has guided us and supported us, keeping us updated about her observations of Kal-el’s progress, her ideas to help his progress and, most of all, what she has been able to achieve for Kal-el through hard work, perseverance and a passionate commitment to see our son live the life we want him to live.”

Read the full nomination.

Parent Reference Group member, Amanda Reed with Physiotherapist, Janesta Stobbe
Pictured: Therapy Focus Parent Reference Group member, Amanda Reed with 2016 People’s Choice Award winner, Janesta Stobbe.

Janesta was selected as the winner by Therapy Focus’ Parent Reference Group, who reviewed a total of 14 nominations. Thank you to the individuals and families who submitted a nomination for the following employees:

Alice KettleNathan & Paisha Cook
Brittany MaioloAudrey Uren
Emily GreenwoodBernadette Woodman
Jaime OffordKozue Nakada
Sarah HartmannNichole & Nicholas Datzberger
Staci FisherChrissy Holly
Victoria JohnsonLinda Pearse
Carmel McDougall         Shane & Myriam Knight
Caitlin BryerKim Bidwell
Ciara O’NeillElie & Samar Sassine
Danielle CottamDawn Barker
Prue TaylorNathalie Thompson
Katy PayneBridgetah Mucharuza

Parent support group gives comfort

A program hosted by Therapy Focus is helping parents of children with disabilities come together to share their experiences and connect with others. Called Circle of Security, the program consists of weekly sessions facilitated by qualified therapists who support parents to build positive relationships with their children.

Lisa Cocks recently took part in the program and said that being a single parent and not being able to relate to others was one of the reasons she joined the group.

“I have a 14 year-old son who has Asperger Syndrome. He’s currently going through puberty and can be a real handful,” Lisa said.

“I felt really lost and frustrated, but then hearing what the other parents had to say and being able to relate made all the difference. Even though our children are at completely different stages in life, as parents we’re all kind of at the same stage in this journey.”

Another participant, Rosemary Jesset, has a 6 year-old daughter who has Down Syndrome who doesn’t speak. Rose said that in addition to connecting with other parents, the program helped her gain a better understanding of her daughter’s behaviour.

“For me it was about learning that when a child comes to you, it’s usually for a particular reason. I learnt how to read signs and non-verbal cues like body language and facial expressions to understand what she needs from me,” Rose said.

Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist, Tarryn Laver, said it’s not uncommon for parents of children with disabilities to feel like they’re the only one, which is why a support network can be so beneficial to parent wellbeing.

“These parents ultimately realise they’re facing the same challenges. And by discussing these challenges with one another they gain greater understanding of their strengths, areas that need development, and their own emotional needs,” Tarryn said.

One parent who’s seen positive changes in terms of both her own wellbeing and that of her 8 year-old daughter is Joanne Harding. Joanne said she joined the group in an effort to approach parenting in a more positive manner.

“The group encourages you to be reflective in terms of your parenting, and I love the idea of no blame, no guilt because you can easily find yourself in that kind of a scenario,” Joanne said.

“I’ve been able to use a whole set of new strategies, which have worked really well so far. I’ve surprised myself and I think my daughter is also surprised at how mummy approaches things differently now.”

For more information about the Circle of Security program, or to express an interest in attending, please contact Tarryn Laver on (08) 6240  6500 or email tarryn.stott@therapyfocus.org.au. 

Circle of Security

Pictured (L-R): Katie, Rose, Jo, Tarryn, Lisa and Donna.

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.

NS Projects and Therapy Focus staff in renovated garden

Pictured: John in his new backyard with his family, Therapy Focus and NS Projects staff. View more photos on our Facebook page.

Hanen provides family-focused approach to communication

Therapy Focus speech pathologists are seeing the benefits of family-focused programs ‘More Than Words’ and ‘It Takes Two to Talk’ for young children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and language delays.

Developed by Canadian not-for-profit organisation, the Hanen Centre, both programs teach parents practical strategies and skills to help their child communicate in every day routines and activities. The programs are available to families as part of Therapy Focus’ services, and are delivered by Hanen certified speech pathologists.

Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist, Monique Moreno said the home consultations and parent group workshops held as part of the 7 week ‘More than Words’ program provides a supportive environment where parents can develop their confidence and learn new skills.

“Not only do parents learn practical strategies to support their child’s engagement and communication interaction, they also get the opportunity to talk to other parents and workshop their ideas in a really fun and supportive forum,” Monique said.

A number of families have seen improvements after taking part in one or both of the programs, which are held throughout the year.

“Parents who completed the program said they enjoyed taking part and felt well supported to implement the practical tools and strategies they learnt at home,” Monique said.

For more information about the Hanen Centre programs visit www.hanen.org. If you would like to know more about the services and support Therapy Focus offers for people with disabilities who have communication difficulties, call 1300 135 373 or email enquiries@therapyfocus.org.au.

Hanen Group large

Pictured: Therapists Brittany Maiolo, Monique Moreno, Isabelle Campbell with participants from the Hanen program.

PEBBLES launches specialist program for bed wetting

Therapy Focus’ continence team, PEBBLES, has launched a specialist program for children and young people with disabilities aged 6-16 who experience bed wetting (enuresis).

The 14 week program involves a comprehensive assessment and the implementation of a ‘mat and alarm’ system, which wakes the child when they have a full bladder at night. Specialist Continence Nurses will also conduct regular meetings to provide support, counselling and evaluate how the child is progressing on the program.

For more information or to request a referral please contact Continence Nurse, Bernadette McCrann on 0427 142 038 or email bernadette.mccrann@therapyfocus.org.au.

Please note: children who are taking Minirin medication are not eligible to access the program and day time urinary and bowel symptoms must be resolved or well managed prior to applying.


Little Lily is one in a million

7 year-old Lily Fretwell may be the size of a 3 year-old, but she isn’t letting a rare genetic condition that has resulted in her small stature stop her from achieving her goals.

Lily was recently diagnosed with trichohepatoentric syndrome, an extremely rare genetic condition that affects growth, liver function, immune system and intestines, and can also cause skin spots and brittle hair. She is one of three Australians with this diagnosis and one of only 45 worldwide.

Lily’s diagnosis is the first made by Western Australia’s Undiagnosed Disease Program, an Australian first project. It marks the end of 7 years of invasive tests, hospital stays and stress for Lily and her parents, Adrian and Dorota, whilst they battled to find an explanation for her unusual health problems and small size.

“Lily was tiny from seven weeks into my pregnancy and had to be tube-fed for the first few years, and had lots of infections, but we never knew why,” Dorota said.

“We got used to lots of results which said ‘negative’ or ‘inconclusive’.

Lily’s Speech Pathologist, Niamh Fitzmaurice, is hopeful that the diagnosis is a sign of happier times ahead for Lily and her family.

“A diagnosis will hopefully mean better monitoring of Lily’s health, less time in hospital and more time enjoying life at school and home,” Niamh said.

And it would seem Lily is doing just that, having recently competed in her school’s 800m cross country challenge and receiving recognition through a school award for her willingness to try new things and help her peers.

“While she may be very small, her health is relatively OK now and she’s doing really well at school in Year 2,” Dorota said.

Having set goals that focus on developing independence in daily activities such as play, mealtimes and self-care, Lily and her family are now working with Niamh and a broader therapy team to develop her strength, oromotor and fine motor skills.

“With practice, discipline and help from her family and little sister Indi, Lily has already developed her core strength, which will really help support her digestive muscles,” Niamh said.

“She now eats solid foods after being tube fed for the first few years of her life, and is managing zips and buttons independently when she gets dressed. She’s a hard worker and very determined to achieve her goals and I’m really looking forward to next stage with this little one in a million!”


Pictured L-R: Lily Fretwell, 7, with her sister Indigo, 2.

Golf Day raises $137K for new clinic

The Westfield WA Community Golf Day has raised $137,000 to purchase a new Therapy Focus office and clinic rooms at Durham Road Education Support School.

183 guests took part in the event on Friday 29 April which included a four ball Ambrose competition followed by dinner and drinks at the picturesque Joondalup Resort.

Therapy Focus CEO Matt Burrows and Board Chair Pete Mildenhall flew the flag for Therapy Focus on the course, teaming up with Scentre Group (Westfield) Regional General Manager Nick Gatehouse and Melbourne Demons Player Development Coach Michelle Cowan.

At dinner Michelle gave an inspirational speech, sharing insights into her experience as the first female AFL coach. 19 year-old Anna Gray, who receives support from Therapy Focus, also gave a heart-warming speech that received a rousing reception when she shared some advice with guests, saying “never underestimate someone with a disability”.

Thanks to the support of generous sponsors, including Millenium Services Group and New Town Toyota, the $137,000 raised will be used to purchase and fit out a new demountable building equipped with clinic rooms and additional office space to support the staff and 180+ students with disabilities who attend Durham Road School.

“It was wonderful to see the spirit of giving at the Golf Day. It definitely shone brighter than the skills on the course!” Matt said.

“We’re very grateful to Westfield for organising such a fantastic day. Their ongoing commitment to our partnership goes a long way in helping us support people with disabilities.”

For more information about Westfield’s Community Program, visit www.westfieldcorp.com 

Golf Day

Pictured L-R: Scentre Group (Westfield) Regional General Manager, Nick Gatehouse, Melbourne Demons Player Development Coach, Michelle Cowan, Therapy Focus Chair, Pete Mildenhall, and CEO, Matt Burrows, on the Joondalup Resort golf course.

Volunteers who give happy, live happy

Held from May 9-15 this year, National Volunteer Week encourages Australians to embrace the theme ‘Give Happy, Live Happy’, as research shows volunteers live happier, healthier lives.

This is certainly the case for Therapy Focus volunteer, Douglas McLerie, who smiles as broadly as Therapy Focus mascot, Sunny the Sunflower, when he’s wearing the suit and entertaining the public. To celebrate Volunteer Week, we asked Douglas a few questions to share an insight into his experiences as a volunteer with Therapy Focus since 2013.

What do you enjoy about volunteering?
Firstly, you get to be part of a team. I’ve found the people I’ve met volunteering are some of the kindest I’ve ever met and great to work with. I also enjoy the fact I’m contributing to a greater cause and that I’m part of something. Most importantly, it always leaves me with a great feeling. Oh and it keeps me young!

Can you share one of your favourite memories of volunteering?
I always enjoy being Sunny the Sunflower of course, but I have a fond memory from Christmas gift wrapping, which I also help out with each year. A couple arrived at the gift wrapping stall with a bicycle they had purchased for their child. We all laughed at first, but then me and my fellow volunteers came up with a great idea to tackle the situation. We suggested they get a photo of the bike with Santa, who was in centre at the time, then place a copy of the photo in a card with a message from Santa that said the bike was too big to put under the Christmas tree, so it was out in the shed. The couple thought the idea was brilliant and made a sizeable donation to Therapy Focus to thank us. It might sound trivial, but this is one of the things I love about volunteering – meeting people and making them smile.
What would you say to others who were considering volunteering?
I tell people to look at it as a hobby. That’s what it is for me. Something I do in my spare time that I really enjoy. I also say to just get involved – you’ll be glad you did!

To find out more about volunteering with Therapy Focus, visit our Volunteer page.

For more information about National Volunteer Week visit www.volunteeringaustralia.org/nvw/

Therapy Focus volunteer, Douglas, in the Sunny suit

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.

Corey in his swing

Eva goes off-road

5 year-old Eva Molloy is looking forward to spending more time exploring the great outdoors thanks to a wheelchair attachment that allows her to tackle tricky terrain.

Eva has Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus and receives support from Therapy Focus through the NDIS My Way trial. Eva uses a walker to get around and requires a wheelchair when going out into the community with her family.

Seeing how difficult it was for their daughter to navigate difficult terrain in her wheelchair, Eva’s parents, Shane and Sylvia Molloy, sought help from Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist, Dearbhla O’Reilly.

“We are fortunate to have a property with a lovely sized backyard but it’s very sandy. Eva would always fatigue by the time she got to the trampoline, which discouraged her from going into the yard unless we were able to carry her,” Sylvia said.

This sentiment was echoed by her therapist Dearbhla, who noted that Eva’s lack of access to the outdoors was affecting her development, as well as her confidence and capacity to socialise.

“Eva loves to be active and it is very important for her physical development to be able to access outdoor play areas at home and in the community,” Dearbhla said.

With assistance from Dearbhla, Eva’s family applied for the wheelchair attachment known as a FreeWheel. The FreeWheel is an additional wheel that clamps to the front of a rigid or folding frame wheelchair to allow the chair to be pushed over rough and uneven terrain.

Since receiving the attachment, Eva has been able to experience Perth in a new light. She’s explored Kings Park, taken her dogs for walks and is looking forward to going camping with her family.

“Eva’s had an incredible boost to her independence. She’s still learning that she can now go where she couldn’t before and the impressed and surprised look on her face is incredibly heart-warming,” Sylvia said.

“I am so thankful to Dearbhla for recommending and supporting us through this decision. It has made an incredible improvement to how Eva accesses the public and how she accesses her home.”

For more information about the FreeWheel visit www.gofreewheel.com.

Eva Molloy using her FreeWheel


Micheal helps Glory on the road to a home final

One of Perth Glory’s biggest fans, 10 year-old Micheal McDonald, helped get his team off to a great start on Sunday when he flipped the coin in favour of Perth Glory in their win against Melbourne City.

Michael, who has spina bifida, attended the game as an ambassador for Therapy Focus alongside volunteers who collected donations from patrons. Therapy Focus also hosted a stall where soccer fans young and old had their faces painted with the Perth Glory colours for a gold coin donation.

All proceeds raised on the day will be donated to Therapy Focus’ GIVE Program, which provides equipment, activities and other valuable supports for WA people with disabilities and their families.

To find out more about the GIVE program visit www.therapyfocus.org.au/GIVE

Perth Glory

Pictured: Micheal McDonald with the official match ball.

Come on Board!

Therapy Focus’ Board of Directors is currently seeking expressions of interest from people with a personal experience of disability to join them on the Board.

The Directors work collectively to enhance strategic direction and support Therapy Focus’ Executive Team to provide strong leadership and management. Expressions of Interest to join the Board are being sought from people who have a disability themselves, care or have cared for someone with a disability to provide the Board with personal insights and perspectives of disability.

The Board meet on Monday afternoons at least 6 times a year, and there are a number of advisory committees that Directors can become members of.

Download an Expression of Interest form [PDF]

Download an Expression of Interest form [Word]

For further information or assistance completing the form please contact Company Secretary, Penelope Wakefield on 1300 135 373 or email secretary@therapyfocus.org.au.

Expressions of Interest close Thursday 21 April at 4pm.

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.


The Charity Committee of the Freemasons’ Lodge St Andrew (L-R: Bill Weird, David Begg, Kevin McKay, Dennis Fowles, Charles Wolrige Gordon, Tom Ross, Donald Wakenshaw, Clive Lynn) generously purchased a modified tricycle for Ryan.


People’s Choice Award nominations now open!

The Parent Reference Group is inviting Therapy Focus clients, their families and carers to formally acknowledge Therapy Focus employees who, in their opinion, have gone ‘above and beyond’ by nominating them for the 2016 People’s Choice Award (formerly Parent’s Choice Award).

The award aims to acknowledge exceptional service and award employees who have exceeded expectations with regard to independence, empowerment, inspiration, enablement and inclusion of a Therapy Focus client and their family.

Any individual employee of Therapy Focus may be nominated for the award, excluding the Executive Team and Board members.

Nominations are now open and close at 5pm on Friday 1 April.

The Parent Reference Group will review nominations and select a winner who will be awarded $2,000 and presented with a framed certificate of recognition at the Therapy Focus Anniversary Breakfast in July.

Download a nomination form (PDF)

Download nomination form (Word)

For more information or assistance completing the form, contact Executive Assistant Vicky Post on 1300 135 373 or email vicky.post@therapyfocus.org.au.

2015 Award winner, Claire Clegg, with Charmaine White, who nominated her for the award

Pictured: 2015 Award winner, Claire Clegg, with Charmaine White, who nominated her for the award.

Westfield helps PEBBLES hit the road

The specialist team from Therapy Focus’ PEBBLES continence service will be the first team to conduct regional visits in the new community outreach van funded by the Westfield Community Program.

In May last year Westfield hosted the inaugural WA Community Golf Day in support of Therapy Focus, raising $110,000 to purchase and fit out the custom designed van with a patient table, portable toilet, sinks, air-conditioning and an outdoor awning.

Continence Nurse Karina Smith will visit the Donnybrook and Collie areas of WA’s southwest in mid-March to provide bladder and bowel assessments for children who have continence issues. Over the course of the two day visit Karina will also deliver toilet training programs and support to parents and teachers.

PEBBLES Team Leader, Odette Gaynar said the community outreach van allows therapists to deliver services to regional and remote areas of the state where access to clinic rooms can be limited.

“The van essentially allows therapists to take the clinic with them, allowing us to meet with families in places that are convenient for them and provide support in where services may not have been available before,” Odette said.

Following the success of last year’s event, Westfield will once again host the WA Community Golf Day on Friday 29 April, with a goal of raising $150,000 to build Therapy Focus a new clinic onsite at Durham Road Education Support School.

Therapy Focus CEO Matt Burrows said the continued support of Westfield was invaluable to supporting WA people with disabilities and their families.

“It has been wonderful to be able to draw on the support of such a responsive corporate partner. The proceeds from events such as the Golf Day allows us to invest in service innovations that would otherwise not be able to be funded from traditional revenue sources” Matt said.

For more information about the 2016 Golf Day visit www.therapyfocus.org.au/golfday.


Therapy Focus’ PEBBLES continence management team with the new community outreach van.

Eye gaze technology gives Zeedy a voice

A revolutionary communication device controlled by eye movement is helping 5 year-old Zeedy Nichols find his voice and communicate with the world around him.

At a very young age Zeedy was diagnosed with transverse myelitis which left him quadriplegic and affected his ability to communicate verbally. However this has never deterred the cheeky youngster from using his facial expressions, gestures and grunts to express himself and communicate with the people around him.

With assistance from his Speech Pathologist, Amanda Pike, Zeedy successfully trialled an alternative communication device called the Tobii Dynavox I-12+. The device, which looks like any tablet computer, tracks the user’s eye movements and generates speech on their behalf.

“Zeedy can’t use his hands to reliably point at words or use a switch, so he had to rely on the people around him asking him yes or no questions to work out what he wanted,” Amanda said.

“With the Tobii Dynavox, Zeedy can select images or words on a screen by looking at them for a short period of time, and then the device will speak them for him. It gives him a way to tell everyone what he is thinking, how he is feeling, and what game he’d like to play.”

But owning such an advanced piece of equipment comes at a price, with the Tobii Dynavox retailing for over $20,000. It was because of this cost that Zeedy’s family were initially advised that the chances of obtaining funding to purchase the device were slim. Though Amanda was more hopeful, and with determination she obtained full funding via the State Government’s Community Aids and Equipment Program (CAEP).

“Amanda was so positive and helpful throughout the process. We’re so grateful to her for getting this life changing piece of equipment,” Tracy said.

“Without the device, Zeedy would be still be frustrated with everyone trying to guess what he wants. Now he has a voice of his own.”

It is hoped the device will also assist with Zeedy’s speech development, with Amanda optimistic that he will achieve verbal communication in the future.

“Since the arrival of the Tobii, Zeedy has started making new sounds and some are starting to sound a lot like words. It’s helping him learn more about language, participate independently in the classroom, and chat with his friends.”

For more information about the Tobii Dynavox visit www.tobiidynavox.com

Watch the Tobii Dynavox in action.

Zeedy using his Tobii Dynavox

You’re hired! Finding employment after school

A quick Google search of disability employment rates presents some pretty grim results. But 17 year-old Sam Linnegar is proof that school leavers with disabilities can land a job with forward-thinking organisations that truly value their contribution.

Sam, who has autism and delayed development, recently secured employment with Target Armadale. He got his foot in the door by completing workplace learning during his final year of school at Lumen Christi College. It was such a success that Target offered him the opportunity to commence paid employment as a Customer Service Assistant from January 2016.

Sam’s mum, Sue, said Target was supportive from the beginning, “Management made Sam feel at ease and their goal was for Sam to eventually obtain paid employment with them.”

Target Customer Service Manager, Christine Williams, said Sam’s work ethic is impressive.

“When Sam first started work experience with us, we weren’t sure what to expect. But he has really settled into the role and is a diligent and hard worker,” Christine said.

“It’s been very rewarding to see Sam’s progression in the role. He’s a pleasure to work with.”

For his part, Sam enjoys the work saying, “I like working in the sound department. It’s cool seeing all the latest technology and gadgets.”

Therapy Focus supported Sam throughout his work experience at Target and will continue to do so as he adjusts to paid employment. Sam currently works a three hour shift each fortnight, but Target is open to providing him with more work if he manages well without a support worker.

Sam’s family is thrilled by his smooth transition from high school to employment, especially after he struggled to find work that suited him in the past.

“Sam has completed extensive work experience in a variety of jobs, but has found it quite difficult to find one that was a fit for him,” Sue said.

“This is a major step for Sam and we are all extremely relieved and proud that he has been able to obtain work he enjoys in mainstream employment.”

In giving advice to other parents, Sue recommends considering their child’s strengths and interests when looking at employment options. 

Sam Linnegar


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.

Marshall Frankis with Natasha Muehlberg at Premier Martial Arts in Clarkson.

Marshall Frankis shows off his moves to Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist, Natasha Muehlberg, at Premier Martial Arts in Clarkson.

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