Earlier this year, Therapy Focus clinicians Sulin Ng and Christine Bosch travelled to California as part of a two week study tour with Achieve Kids.
As part of the program Sulin and Christine visited disability service organisations and attended the “Autism through the Life Span” Conference held at Stanford University.
Below, Sulin shares her experience of the study program:
In March 2018, Christine and I were fortunate to be chosen to represent Therapy Focus as part of a study tour with Achieve Kids in California. As part of the study tour, we visited the main sites of Achieve Kids in Palo Alto, Sacremento and San Jose as well as their partner organisations in the Bay Area.
Pictured: Christine Bosch and Sulin Ng outside of the Achieve Kids office in Palo Alto.
Achieve Kids is a specialised school that accept students with significant behavioural challenges who have had difficulties attending previous schools. The students can have a diagnosis of Autism, ADD, ADHD, intellectual disabilities or have emotional difficulties, including experiencing trauma.
What really impressed us was the dedication and immense patience of staff members towards the students, while working on functional, social and academic skills. Staff encouraged problem solving skills and peer encouragement amongst students.
Pictured: Sulin and Christine with School Director Skye, serving hot chocolate to the students of Achieve Kids in San Jose.
We were also warmly welcomed by various partner organisations who showed us around their facilities where we met with the staff members, attended some therapy sessions, and exchanged information about our organisations. Like Achieve Kids, their staff were passionate and dedicated to their roles and the clients they work with. Christine and I were also impressed by the range of programs that are available, including camp programs, employment services, recreational and social programs.
Due to the way therapy was funded in California, therapy services are fragmented. Families and service providers often have to fight for funding from government or insurance companies. Organisations also rely on fundraising so that they can provide the necessary services to their client population.
We realised how incredibly lucky we are to be living in Australia, where there is more funding for disability and therapy services.
While we were in Palo Alto, we also attended the “Autism through the Life Span” Conference held at Stanford University, where we learnt about current research and programs in this area. I was particularly interested in the research presented by Dr Ami Klin on using a device for eye tracking and assessing social interactions to assist with early diagnosis of Autism in infants and toddlers, as it would enable children to access early childhood intervention earlier.
While there, we were invited to present to the Special Needs Professionals about Therapy Focus services on one of the evenings. We had positive feedback about our services, particularly around the flexibility of where services can occur, our transdisciplinary team approach such as access to physiotherapy services for people with Autism, and our specialist teams available at Therapy Focus like our PEBBLES, BeST and MEAHLS services.
The study tour was a great learning and networking opportunity, and we would like to express our thanks to Achieve Kids CEO Ryan Eisenberg for organising the itinerary and welcoming us to his wonderful organisation.
As well as the partner organisations who opened their doors to us while we were over there including Abilities United, Via Services, Via West camp, Gatepath, Laughing Giraffe Therapy, Rebekah’s Children Services, Children’s Health Council, Stanford Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Greater Opportunities.
Pictured: Christine and Sulin with Matt Dolan, General Manager of Hilton Suites and Soheila Razban, Vice President of Abilities United.