With support from both Intelife and Therapy Focus, 19 year-old Phillip Kalimeris has established his own gardening and cleaning business and is developing the skills needed to run his business independently.
Intelife Training Support Officer Michele MacPherson has been supporting the project since February, meeting with Phillip and his family regularly prior to establishing the business.
“The goal was to spend time with Phillip and really get to know him so we could ensure the pathway he chose was something he would enjoy,” Michele said.
“Over time it became evident that Phillip was passionate about all aspects of cleaning and gardening.”
As a supported employee at Intelife, Phillip has been working two days a week in the Gardening Team, which has enabled him to further develop his passion for gardening and learn important skills for running his own business.
Phillip is now working with Michele to start circulating his brochures and generating a client base.
“I love cleaning. Golf buggies are my favourite things to clean,” Phillip said.
“I’ve handed out my flyers and I can’t wait to have my own cleaning business.”
Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist Joanne Arfuso has also been working with Phillip to help him achieve more independence and enjoy his work more.
“Because Phillip is working with chemicals in the cleaning aspects of his job, it was important that he learn the required safety precautions such as wearing gloves and taking responsibility for correct application,” Joanne said.
“Operating a business independently will require a lot of learning on Phillip’s part, so I’ll be working with him in conjunction Michelle to ensure he has all the tools he needs to make his business a success.”
Therapy Focus partners with Intelife in an effort to provide more comprehensive support and referral pathways for people with disability.
For more information about Intelife and their services for school leavers visit www.intelife.org.au.
To learn more about how Therapy Focus can support people living with disability visit therapyfocus.org.au or call 1300 135 373.
Pictured: Phillip with Intelife Training Support Officer Michele MacPherson and Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist Joanne Arfuso
Family’s cerebral palsy journey an open book
A mother named Mitchiko Parnell has shared her inner most thoughts and feelings in a book she has written about her family’s experience living with disability, after her daughter Ashlyn was born with cerebral palsy.
“The story is about what happens after a much loved and anticipated baby girl is born with brain damage,” Mitchiko said.
“Ashlyn is now 14 years-old and has faced cognitive, sensory and physical difficulties her whole life. I wrote this book to share the challenges and joys our family has experienced through the years to hopefully help others who may be at the very beginning of this journey.”
Mitchiko tells the story of her family’s challenges and triumphs using a collection of anecdotes and reflections coming from all different phases of Ashlyn’s life.
“From when Ashlyn was born until now, our family has evolved and changed just as Ashlyn has. By telling a series of seemingly small stories, it’s easier to see the bigger changes we’ve achieved.”
Ashlyn’s therapists Rachael Tan and Shannen Stanes were excited to see the book published and have shared their reviews:
“An educational and enlightening true story of grief, life, and hope, “Damaged in Transit” is one of the most readable and informative books I’ve ever read. It’s a real-life account of a family and their experience of the familial, social, medical, practical, and psychological hurdles related to living with quadriplegic cerebral palsy, and overcoming these with the support of each other. I could not think of a better book to recommend for EVERY person who lives with, cares for, or works with someone with a disability.” – Rachael Tan, Clinical Psychologist.
“This is a journey that no one should have to go through but everyone needs to read about. It’s a life changing story that will change your life as you read it. A story about how many may be feeling, living with a disability, but everyone is too afraid to say. Thank you for pushing past your worries and sharing this heart-felt story with us, allowing us to delve further into your journey. You are an incredible role model not only for Ashlyn but those who have the privilege of reading your story.” – Shannen Stanes, Physiotherapist.
Pictured: Ashlyn Parnell with occupational therapist Carmen McDougall
Nursery Rhyme Time hits the right note
Some of Therapy Focus’ youngest clients have been developing skills and stretching their imaginations with Sensorium Theatre’s Sensory Rhyme Time program being held at Therapy Focus’ Bentley office.
The 6 week program invites children with disabilities aged 5 years and under, along with their siblings, to enjoy an immersive, multi-sensory theatre experience.
Therapy Focus Southern Regional Manager Natalie Burgess explained that the sessions are an opportunity to provide early intervention support in a fun and dynamic way.
“Early intervention gives children with disabilities the best start in life, and play is a vital part of this,” Natalie said.
“The rhymes and music in the sessions help children develop communication skills, while the movements help develop mobility, gross and fine motor skills. The sessions are also a wonderful opportunity to engage children in a shared multi-sensory experience.”
Sensorium Theatre’s Co-Artistic Director Michelle Hovane explained that sessions are are custom-designed based on the need and abilities of participants, and that collaboration is at the heart of their performance model.
“We work with children who are on the autism spectrum, those who have profound physical disabilities or limited movement, complex communication, sensory impairments and learning difficulties,” Michelle said.
“Our shows and programs are developed in consultation with audiences and participants, who are invited to take part in pre and post show workshops that enhance understanding and overall enjoyment.”
Ben Tries to Fly launches from Perth Town Hall
Thursday 24 August saw the annual Therapy Focus Art Competition culminate at Perth Town Hall with the launch of the milestone 10th title in the Help a Child Grow Storybook Series; Ben Tries to Fly.
From over 4,000 artworks submitted by students across Western Australia, 20 winners were selected and published as illustrations in the rhyming storybook written by Therapy Focus Social Worker Eddie Drury.
Eddie explained that the story encourages all young people to celebrate the unique talents and abilities of every individual.
“Ben Tries to Fly, is about two best friends, Ben and Tim. When Ben gets carried away trying to fly, Tim reminds him of what’s really important,” Eddie said.
“Having the book illustrated by so many outstanding young artists has been a privilege. It’s great to see the key message of inclusion being so eagerly embraced.”
Therapy Focus Board Chair Fiona Payne joined Eddie in celebrating the winners by awarding each student with their framed original artwork, a copy of Ben Tries to Fly and a prize pack courtesy of event sponsors.
A complimentary copy of Ben Tries to Fly will be provided to every primary school in Western Australia thanks to generous support from Art Competition Principal sponsor, The Stan Perron Charitable Foundation. Generous support was also provided by Gateway Printing and Commonwealth Bank.
Copies of Ben Tries to Fly and previous titles in the Help a Child Grow Storybook Series are available for purchase from the Shop.
Pictured: The winning students with their artwork at the launch of Ben Tries to Fly
Hristijan’s backyard blitz
Perth based project management company NS Projects has built a custom backyard for 12-year-old Hristijan Necovska, who has cerebral palsy.
Over two weekends, 16 volunteers from NS Projects converged on the Marangaroo family home to create a safe and accessible space for Hristijan to relax and spend time with his family.
Hristijan’s mum, Biljana said a new backyard would give him the opportunity to practice his walking skills at home.
“Hristijan loves being outside, but the size of his wheelchair and walker meant he couldn’t access the higher part of the garden,” said Biljana
“We hope that with the new backyard Hristijan will be able to spend more time with us outside and have the space to safely practice walking.
Therapy Focus Physiotherapist Shannen Stanes explained the plans will allow Hristijan to have time out of his wheelchair and the opportunity to be more involved in family life.
“The new garden has a soft surfaced area designed for floor-based play. Hristijan will be out of his wheelchair and playing at the same level as his younger brother,” said Shannen.
“There is also a ramp from the lower level of the garden to the upper level where the veggie garden is. The whole backyard is now accessible to Hristijan and the ramp will provide a great opportunity for him to be out of his chair and get more time on his feet.”
Pictured: Hristijan (front left) with his Mum, NS Projects volunteers and Therapy Focus staff.
TOMS the perfect fit for Therapy Focus
Launching on Monday 14 August, global giving company TOMS will host a pop-up shop at Westfield Whitford City with all retail profits donated to Therapy Focus.
The shop will feature the latest collections of TOMS shoes, eyewear and bags where for every product sold, TOMS will help a person in need.
Therapy Focus CEO Matt Burrows expressed his enthusiasm for the initiative, saying it will help improve lives both locally and globally with every purchase made.
“With the support of organisations such as TOMS and Westfield, Therapy Focus is better able to support people living with disability to optimize their quality of life. The partnership will not only make a positive difference in the lives of WA people with disability, but also achieve great outcomes for those in need on a global scale.”
TOMS Australia Managing Director, John Elliot echoed Matt’s sentiments saying “It’s great to see businesses working together to elevate purpose and give back to the community.”
The shop will be run with the support of volunteers from both Therapy Focus and Westfield, and will be open during regular centre hours from Monday 14 August to Friday 29 September.
If you’re interested in volunteering at the store, click here for further information and shift times.
Pictured: Volunteers at the TOMS pop-up store at Westfield Whitford City.
Specialist support crosses the sea
Therapy Focus clinicians are crossing oceans to provide specialist support to children like 7 year-old Zathiyah Elman, who was affected by a rare genetic disorder that left her with complex disabilities.
Zathiyah and her family live in the Cocos Islands and first came to Perth when Zathiyah presented with symptoms of the disorder at 2 years-old. Her mother Zaina said her daughter was a regular toddler until a recessive gene held by both parents began to wreak havoc.
“Zathiyah was having lots of trouble breathing and the hospital on the island couldn’t provide her with the treatment she needed. We were rushed to Perth and Zathiyah was diagnosed with pyruvate dehydrogenase deficiency,” Zaina said.
“She was successfully treated in Perth and began to walk and talk again, but relapsed a year later. The condition has left Zathiyah with poor muscle tone, which makes her wheelchair dependant, as well as neurological problems that affect her ability to speak.”
“Zathiyah’s therapy on the Cocos Islands has been sporadic, and I knew she could benefit from the specialist services that our Advanced Occupational Therapist John Lees can provide,” said Sharon.
“Zathiyah and her family travel to Perth every 4 months for Botox treatments to relax her muscles, so we lined up an appointment with John to complete a full assessment and identify what additional support we can provide.”
Pictured: Zathiyah (L) with her family and Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist, Sharon Hedley.
John is now working with Sharon, Zathiyah and her parents to build a complete picture of her complex condition, and devise a therapy program that can be implemented in Perth as well as on the Cocos Islands.
“In our initial appointment we spoke to the family about Zathiyah’s home situation and lifestyle, capturing the family’s goals, concerns and priorities. For example, the roads in the Cocos Islands are paved with large pavers, making it very rough and bumpy. We will need to minimise this impact through selecting a wheelchair with wheels and tyres suited to rough terrain.”
“After this we conducted a physical assessment to look at Zathiyah’s current seating system and postural requirements. This helps us start the process of developing a therapy plan that will maximise Zathiyah’s functional ability, minimise the energy she needs to maintain her position, and protect her body systems from potential damage as a result of poor posture.”
Prior to taking up his position with Therapy Focus, John was the Clinical Lead Occupational Therapist with the Central London Specialist Wheelchair Service, giving him extensive experience in working with children with complex disabilities.
“I’ve worked with a number of children and adults with complex disabilities, which have resulted from congenital conditions. These people usually require highly customised seating and positioning solutions, so the most important part of my role is to complete thorough assessments to identify appropriate recommendations.”
With Zathiyah now back home, Sharon and John are preparing a report with their findings and recommendations for Sharon to discuss with the family when she returns to the Cocos Islands in September.
“From here I will be supporting the family to trial some additional postural supports such as alternative seating, a shower seat and potentially a new wheelchair. I will also review the home environment as well as Zathiyah’s bed position and sleep supports,” Sharon said.
“We expect that with access to these specialist supports and equipment, Zathiyah’s muscles will be supported to the point that she will be able to avoid deformity and live much more comfortably on a day-to-day basis.”
For more information about the services and supports Therapy Focus offers people living with disability, visit the How we can help page.
Pictured: Therapy Focus Occupational Therapists John Lees and Sharon Headley with Zathiyah and her mum Zaina.
Staff celebrated at 19th anniversary
Tuesday 11 July saw Therapy Focus employees come together at Ambrose Estate to celebrate the organisation’s 19th anniversary and recognise the outstanding achievements of staff over the past 12 months.
NDIS Equipment Funding Coordinator, Caoibhe Flynn was awarded this year’s Board Award, which recognises an employee who exceeds expectations and continually achieves excellence.
Caoibhe was nominated by Equipment Team Leader, Crystal Simpson, who commended her skills in relationship building, negotiation and data analysis, as well as her generous and supportive nature. The following is an excerpt from Caoibhe’s nomination:
“In a very hectic work environment with constant demands, Caoibhe continually sets an example and displays the highest standards. Her impact across the organisation and throughout the sector is immeasurable and is regularly demonstrated by feedback from management at the Disability Services Commission (DSC), National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) and other service providers. She is an invaluable asset to the organisation and her extensive knowledge, demeanour and dedication is beyond admirable.”
Pictured: Board Award winner Caiobhe Flynn and Therapy Focus Chairman Fiona Payne
Nominations for the Therapy Focus People’s Choice Award are submitted by individuals accessing services, their families and carers who wish to acknowledge exceptional service and recognise employees who have gone above and beyond.
Therapy Focus Parent Reference Group member, Lainey Bradley presented the 2017 People’s Choice Award to Occupational Therapist Roisin O’Farrell, who was nominated by Ivy Ho and her family.
“I spoke with Ivy and it was obvious through her tears, the joy in her heart and her deep gratitude for the ongoing support she has received from Rosin in her hour of greatest need,” said Lainey.
“Roisin’s involvement with the family and her contribution has meant Ivy’s weary heart found hope and courage to fight another day.”
Pictured: People’s Choice Award Winner Roisin O’Farrell with Client Ivy Ho and Parent Reference Group member Lainey Bradley
Service awards were also presented to employees who have completed five and ten years of dedicated service:
Five years of service:
Ten years of service:
Pictured: Recipients of Five Years Service awards
For more information about our workforce and careers at Therapy Focus, visit our Careers page.
Therapy Focus launches Reconciliation Action Plan
As NAIDOC week celebrations take place around Australia, Therapy Focus staff and guests came together to celebrate the launch of Therapy Focus’ first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).
The plan, which features artworks created by Aboriginal students from Sevenoaks Senior College, will enable Therapy Focus to better engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in the community, and develop a culture that supports designated roles for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander employees.
Therapy Focus Board Deputy Chair Tony Vis reaffirmed the organisation’s commitment to building relationships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, saying that the RAP was the next step in the Therapy Focus’ reconciliation journey.
“The RAP Journey has been a natural progression for our organisation,” said Tony.
“Reaching out into communities and learning more about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture brought out the passion in our staff. It showed us that we still have more to learn about the barriers Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people face, and where we can offer additional support.”
Therapy Focus currently delivers services to more than 300 people who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.
Corey Ahmat, who has autism, began receiving support from Therapy Focus when he was in primary school. His mother Barb explained that intervention significantly improved his memory and confidence in speaking.
“After working with his therapy team he was saying their names and retaining information, which was such a big achievement for him,” said Barb.
“He started to talk more, saying the right words and correcting himself when he makes a mistake. We can’t stop him from talking at home now, which is such a big difference and a delight to see.”
Barb explained that there are still barriers that affect many Aboriginal families, like her own, in approaching service providers.
“Families can feel nervous about other people coming in to their homes. They can feel shame about having a child with a diagnosis and judged when others don’t understand why their child is acting a certain way. There are often also fears regarding the Department of Child Protection and being perceived as a bad parent,” said Barb.
“I think building rapport and trust is key to engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families, and will help them open up, put the time in, and ensure consistency in services for their child.”
Click here to view the Therapy Focus Innovate Reconciliation Action Plan.
Pictured: Sevenoaks Senior College student, Monica Martin (C) with her parents and artwork, which features in the RAP.
Occupational therapy gets Jenny back to business
65-year-old Jenny Fowler has her tutoring business, JAF Tutoring, up and running again with help from her occupational therapist, after a lengthy hospital stay had her out of work for 12 months.
Jenny, who has multiple sclerosis, came out of hospital in January motivated to re-start her business as a private English tutor for primary and high school students. Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist Olov Falkmer said Jenny was passionate about getting her business back on track, but needed some support to take the steps required.
“My role was to support Jenny in setting realistic goals and developing strategies to help her reach these goals,” Olov said.
“We drew up a ‘staircase’ of steps Jenny would need to take, beginning with obtaining a Working with Children Check, then designing a flyer and developing a client base.”
After 37 years as a primary school teacher, Jenny began tutoring from home in 2014 when limited mobility and fatigue made travelling to and from work difficult.
“Working with kids and helping them improve their English has always been a great passion of mine and I didn’t want to give that up. Through tutoring I’ve helped children achieve great improvements in their marks and seen their overall confidence improve as a result,” Jenny said.
For Jenny, working with her therapy team made a big difference to the approach she took to her business.
“I used to struggle with knowing which steps to take and in what order.”
“Working with Olov gave me the tools I needed to redevelop my business from scratch and work my way up to bringing in clients.”
With Jenny now working with her first client, she has achieved all her therapy goals and will continue to work on her business independently.
“Jenny has always had the confidence, I merely provided her with a way of structuring her progress and focusing on the small steps that will lead her to achieving her big goals,” Olov said.
To learn more about how our Occupational Therapists help people with disability achieve their goals, click here.
To learn more about JAF Tutoring, contact Jenny on 0439 973 177 or email@example.com
Pictured: Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist Olov Falkmer with Jenny Fowler
Therapists provide support to Christmas and Cocos Islands
A new agreement between Therapy Focus and the Indian Oceans Territories Health Service has seen two Therapy Focus therapists deliver services on the Christmas and Cocos Islands.
Advanced Occupational Therapist Sharon Hedley and Speech Pathologist Holly Pearse have been travelling to the islands since May, where they have experienced the challenges and triumphs of working in a remote environment.
“I’m based mostly at Christmas Island District High School, where the majority of students speak English as a second language. Some have disabilities and speech and language delays” Holly said.
“My role is to review the children on the speech pathology caseload, update goals and programs, and provide strategies to parents, teachers and the therapy assistant.”
“It’s been fantastic working with the school staff, who are very enthusiastic and eager to learn. An added bonus is the beautiful tropical island scenery and seeing so many crabs on the beach!”
Therapy Focus Business Transitions Manager, Samantha Berglin said the agreement was established to support local services, who were struggling to keep up with demand as populations continue to expand.
“A growing number of school-aged children require therapy intervention, which is why the Indian Oceans Territories Health Service reached out for external support,” Samantha said.
“Having worked in other remote and regional areas, our clinicians are experienced in delivering services effectively in challenging environments. We are delighted to be able to provide access to highly qualified therapists who are backed by the resources and knowledge of an entire organisation.”
For more information about the range of services and support Therapy Focus provides, visit the How we can help page.
Pictured: Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist Holly Pearse with Christmas Island District High School students
MEAHLS serve up support
A new service offered by Therapy Focus is providing additional support for people with disabilities who experience issues when eating and drinking.
An interdisciplinary group of Therapy Focus speech pathologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, dietitians and psychologists known as the MEAHLS Team work closely with families and other therapists to implement strategies that address feeding concerns.
Team Leader Julie Tan said the MEAHLS Team provide specialist advice, evaluation and treatment for issues such as food refusal, nutritional deficiencies, mealtime tantrums and poor sucking, chewing and swallowing.
“The nature of eating and drinking difficulties is so diverse. Eating involves interest in food, muscular coordination, physiological functions, sensory processes and social experiences,” Julie said.
“If the digestive system is not functioning correctly there may not be sensations of being hungry and full. And strong reactions to foods can mean different tastes, smells or textures that are problematic.”
18-year-old Rachael Fan was referred to the MEAHLS Team after her appetite and interest in food decreased suddenly. Rachael’s Mum, Antoinette said that her daughter was a happy, independent teenager with a healthy appetite, until two years ago when she started bowing her head, lost motivation and her appetite.
“I would put food on the table and four hours later it would still be there. I was very worried about her health.” Antoinette said.
“Sometimes she eats but it’s a real challenge for me. I do everything I can. She only likes things with lots of liquid, so I make mashed potato with lots of milk and smoothies with lots of ingredients blended finely. I’ve also tried miso soup with a little rice, but she doesn’t like to chew and will remove bits and pieces.”
“We saw a number of specialists including a psychiatrist, psychologist, neurologist and ear nose and throat specialist, but so far we have not found a cause or solution to the problems.”
Julie said navigating the wide range of services available can be a challenge for families, especially when problems are developed in adulthood.
“There can be multiple professionals and agencies involved in treating these sorts of issues, and families often find it very confusing and extremely difficult to manage. For young adults like Rachael, who has not utilised disability services from birth, it can be particularly challenging as there’s no paediatrician or appropriate consultant to provide a complete overview of her medical history.”
“The MEAHLS Team was developed exactly for this reason; to coordinate input from the allied health team and other agencies in order to target support and ensure everyone is working towards the same goal.”
Following the initial intake meeting, the MEAHLS Team is now developing strategies that the Fan family and Rachael’s broader therapy team can implement to address concerns.
“Having a number of therapists in the initial meeting is an effective way to get everyone on the same page quickly,” Julie said.
“We’ve started to build a profile of Rachael from the perspective of each discipline, whilst consulting the reports of others who have assessed Rachael over the years. This will help us take a holistic, broad-spectrum approach to what might be causing the issues for Rachael, and how best to address them.”
Jennifer, who accesses services from Therapy Focus, won over staff and students alike when she nominated herself for the role earlier this year.
“I was acting as Deputy Head Girl at the beginning of the year and then this month our pastor Mr. O’Brian asked if I would like to be Head Girl” said Jennifer.
“I had to write an application, which was endorsed by one of my teachers. Then I was interviewed by the school chaplain and two other teachers.”
Jennifer is a highly involved member of her school community, with singing and dancing among her favourite co-curricular activities. She also has a strong history of stepping up to leadership roles, having volunteered in her community throughout high school, and being a Squad Leader in her local cadets group.
“Being a Squad Leader for Emergency Services Cadets involves a lot of responsibilities with the younger kids and also assisting the teachers and volunteers with planning and running activities. I’ve been doing cadets since Year 7 so I’ve had a lot of experience working with people and have learnt a lot about leadership.”
Along with a committee of her peers, Jennifer is excited to be taking on the Head Girl role in her final year of schooling and is looking forward to making a positive change in her school community.
“I really want the Leadership Team to work together to represent the students to the staff and the Principal. I’m excited to be involved in organising events and speaking at our assemblies and school functions.”
Southern Hills Projects and Initiatives Manager Giles Creelman congratulated Jennifer on the role, saying she personifies the College values.
“We encourage every student to get involved and challenge themselves however they can. Jennifer has done this exceptionally well and has been a very active member of our community over her high school career. We’re excited to see what she and the Leadership Team will achieve,” said Giles.
“Southern Hills is constantly striving to create the most inclusive environment for our students and staff. We have students of differing abilities, cultural backgrounds and faiths which we’re proud to have together in such a cohesive school community.”
All-abilities footy clinic promotes fun and inclusion
A free all-abilities football clinic run by the Midvale Junior Football Club is giving children the opportunity to learn the basics of the game and make some new friends.
The focus of the six week program is fun and participation, with activities tailored to suit the group’s abilities. The clinics include learning how to kick and handball, as well as fun team games like dodge ball.
Coach Alan Nairn said the idea to hold the all-abilities clinic was born out of his personal experience with disability.
“My son has cerebral palsy and he wanted to play football like his big brothers but couldn’t play in a mainstream team,” Alan said.
“I found that a lot of boys and girls are in the same situation as my son. Since there’s no reason why they can’t have fun and enjoy the game like anyone else, I decided to get the disability clinic up and running.”
Kylie Hipper, Mum to 15 year-old participant Corey, said he was enjoying the footy clinics.
“Everyone is smiling, it’s very relaxed and it’s actually held at his favourite park, so that’s his reward afterwards,” Kylie said.
And it seems the program has been a positive experience for the whole Hipper family, with Corey’s older brothers, Blake and Dylan, helping Alan run the clinics.
“It’s encouraging to see the volunteer coaches working closely with people with disabilities – it’s a new experience for some of them,” Kylie said.
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Pictured: Corey Hipper (L) warming up with his brother, Volunteer Assistant Coach Blake Hipper.
Movida Estate is supporting the clinic through its community partnership program and will provide every participant with a team shirt to really make them feel like part of the crew.
Peet Managing Director and CEO Brendan Gore said that local sporting groups were an important part of any healthy, active community and Movida Estate was pleased to lend its support to the Midvale Junior Football Club’s All Abilities clinic.
“The Club’s all-abilities clinic is a great initiative,” Brendan said.
“We know groups and programs like these promote inclusion and are often the heart of a community, and our partnership program provides us with a tremendous opportunity to become more actively involved and connect new residents into some terrific volunteer-based organisations.”
The clinics will conclude on 10 June, after which participants will celebrate their efforts with a wind-up. Everyone will receive a showbag, trophy and participation certificate and the whole family can enjoy train rides and a bouncy castle.
There are still four sessions remaining and all are welcome to attend. For more information contact Alan Nairn on 0427 766 881 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pictured: Coach Alan Nairn (top row, first from the left) with the All-Abilities crew.
Special seat brings family together
2 year-old Nate Shaffer has a new view of the world and is spending more quality time with his family thanks to a specialised corner seat courtesy of Telethon.
Nate has Trisomy 18 which affects his development, making him a size similar to that of a 6 month-old. The condition also causes muscle weakness, making it difficult for him to sit upright on his own.
Nate’s Physiotherapist, Su Lin Ng, suggested the family trial a corner seat with pelvic and chest straps to give Nate the stability he needs when sitting. Su Lin said the chair allows Nate to focus on using his hands to play and develop his gross motor skills.
“Being able to sit is a necessity for a 1-year-old. It’s essential to everyday play and interaction with the world around them. Nate’s older brother Caden can now play with Nate on the floor, without relying on mum to assist by holding Nate upright,” Su Lin said.
Pictured: Thanks to his new special chair, Nate (R) and his big brother Caden can enjoy more brothers-only bonding time.
Thanks to generous support from Telethon, a Jenx corner seat and nursery table was purchased for Nate and his family. And according to Nate’s mum Sam, great progress is being made.
“Before we received the seat, Nate would spend the majority of his time lying on his back. The chair has given him a different perspective of his environment and allows him to interact with us and his therapists,” Sam said.
“We’ve also seen Nate’s core strength and balance develop so that he can now sit for very short moments unassisted – something we never thought possible! We are so proud of how far Nate has come and he is definitely our shining star.”
As a beneficiary of Telethon, Therapy Focus receives generous funding to assist children with disabilities. For more information visit www.telethon7.com.
Tune in to Channel 7 during the Telethon weekend in October to see Nate and his corner seat in action!
Pictured: The Shaffer family is enjoying more quality time together thanks to Telethon.
Thank you to our volunteers
As a not-for-profit organisation, Therapy Focus relies on the support of volunteers to facilitate community events, fundraising initiatives and therapy programs.
During National Volunteer Week (8-14 May) we thank our volunteers for their dedication, as it makes a profound difference in the lives of the WA families that we support.
This year’s theme, ‘Give Happy, Live Happy’, highlights the benefits of volunteering, including living longer, better health, new friends and feeling happier.*
The short video below provides a glimpse into volunteering for Therapy Focus.
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.”
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.”
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.
To find out more about Sunflower Sunday, watch the short video below.
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.
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.
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.”
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.”
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 email@example.com before 24 January 2017.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.”
Pictured: Taliyah enjoying lunch after a successful car trip to Bunbury.
The benefits of bouncing
This 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:
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.”
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 email@example.com
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.
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 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 Support Workers.
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.
For more information on Interchange’s seamless transitions program, please contact Jess Brodie-Hall on 0404 017 385 or email firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
Freemasons help Brock dive in
The Freemasons of WA have generously provided funding for 7 children with disabilities to complete a term of specialist 1:1 swimming lessons.
One of the children who received funding was 8 year-old Brock MacDonald-Bevan, who has autism and receives support from Therapy Focus. Brock has difficulty with his coordination and motor skills, which has affected his ability to learn to swim.
Brock’s Occupational Therapist, Tiffany Colbran, said that prior to starting the 1:1 swimming lessons Brock was reluctant to participate in lessons through school, after failing to pass stage one a number of times.
“Understandably, Brock’s self-confidence was affected as his peers progressed into higher grades and he remained in level one,” Tiffany said.
“We explored the option of 1:1 swimming lessons with an instructor qualified in disability, who could design a program specifically for Brock’s needs, but these lessons are very expensive and too costly for the family.”
Having worked with Therapy Focus for a number of years, the Freemasons of WA were happy to assist and generously donated $4,760 to cover the cost of 1:1 swimming lessons for Brock and 6 other children.
Freemasons member, Eddy Ward, met Brock and his mum Katrina at Cannington Leisureplex where Brock attends lessons each Saturday, and said that meeting the families who benefit from donations was “a very rewarding opportunity that really hits home.”
Katrina was tearful in thanking Eddy, saying that Brock has made incredible progress as a result of the 1:1 lessons.
“Within one term Brock had passed level 1 and was over the moon about it. I’m so thankful to the Freemasons and Therapy Focus – we simply wouldn’t have been able to afford this otherwise,” Katrina said.
Pictured: Freemasons member, Eddy Ward (R), with Brock MacDonald-Bevan.
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.
14-year-old Ben Henson is doing better at school and becoming more independent with the help of an iPad he received through Therapy Focus’ GIVE Program.
Ben, who has Down syndrome, uses a number of apps on the iPad to develop his literacy and numeracy skills, as well as prompt him to complete his daily tasks.
Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist, Natasha Duncan, said the iPad is having a positive influence on Ben’s participation at school.
“Ben is highly motivated by technology and since he started using the iPad at home to improve his literacy skills, his classroom participation has increased,” Natasha said.
Ben’s mum, Kristie, says the iPad is helping Ben to become more independent, particularly with regard to his daily schedule.
“The Choice Works app has been great at prompting Ben to complete his daily tasks. Even though we already had a schedule on the wall, he is far more fascinated with the iPad app and more likely to complete things using that,” Kristie said.
Ben was one of 17 applicants awarded a share of $30,000 in the May round of the GIVE Program, which assists with the purchase of equipment, activities and resources for individuals and families accessing Therapy Focus services.
“When we found out Ben got the grant, we were so excited. The iPad is such a great learning tool, as well as a great reward tool to encourage Ben to complete his schoolwork or chores,” Kristie said.
But it’s not all work and no play for Ben, who also likes to use the iPad to show off his dance moves.
“Ben’s a bit of a filmmaker. He sets the iPad up and records himself dancing,” Kristie said.
Therapy Focus’ GIVE Program is made possible by donations from the WA community. For more information, or to donate, visit www.therapyfocus.org.au/GIVE.
Pictured: Ben with his Therapy Focus therapists, Ashleigh Sibbald (L) and Natasha Duncan (R).
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.”
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.”
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:
Nathan & Paisha Cook
Nichole & Nicholas Datzberger
Shane & Myriam Knight
Elie & Samar Sassine
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 email@example.com.
Pictured (L-R): Katie, Rose, Jo, Tarryn, Lisa and Donna.