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Category: Latest News

Help design our Christmas card!

People accessing Therapy Focus services are invited to create a fun and festive design to feature on the front of our 2018 Christmas card.

The cards will be professionally printed and used by our staff to wish clients, schools, partner organisations and other contacts a Merry Christmas and thank them for their support in 2018.

To submit a design simply follow these instructions:

  1. Download the template
  2. Create your design using pencils, pens, crayons, textas and paints. You can also create a design using graphic design programs on the computer if you like.
  3. Send your design to us by Sunday 18 November via post or email

One design will be selected from entries and printed on the card, along with acknowledgement of the artist. The client who submits the winning entry will receive 30 cards featuring their design, PLUS a $20 gift card. 

If you have any questions please call us on 1300 135 373 or email

Customer survey: We hear you!

Every two years Therapy Focus invites people accessing our services to provide feedback by completing a survey.  The survey is conducted by an independent research agency and has the following objectives:

  • To determine if we are meeting the expectations of our customers
  • To measure our performance in relation to agreed service standards
  • To identify opportunities for growth and improvement

The most recent survey was completed in July 2018 with 458 people answering a series of questions in a phone interview or online. The results of the survey show that Therapy Focus is largely meeting our customer expectations, with room to improve in certain areas.

Infographic showing outcomes from customer survey

The image above shows that:

  • 93% of survey respondents answered ‘yes’ when asked if they have control over the development of the goals in their plan
  • 90% of survey respondents answered ‘yes’ when asked if they have control over the implementation of their plan
  • 88% of survey respondents answered ‘yes’ when asked if they are achieving the outcomes expected
  • 83% of survey respondents answered ‘yes’ when asked if Therapy Focus is delivering value for money

What we also heard from our customers is that you would like us to improve in the following areas:

We have listened to your feedback and are working to make improvements in these areas.

Our Parent Reference Group has helped organise and run a series of NDIS information sessions to help our customers understand what the NDIS roll-out will mean for people living with disability, how to prepare, and how our therapists work within the scheme. More sessions are being held in Joondalup, Kingsley and Mirrabooka in November. You can register your attendance at these sessions via the link below:

Learn more and register

As we continue to improve our services based on your feedback we will provide updates via our website and newsletters. You can register to receive e-news at the bottom of this page. 

If you did not take part in this year’s survey and would like to provide feedback, you can do so here. Alternatively, call us on 1300 135 373 or speak to your therapy team. 

Les finds purpose at Jackson’s

Busselton resident Les Slayford has a new-found sense of purpose since securing work experience at Jackson’s Drawing Supplies with assistance from his therapy team and Activ support workers.

Since January Les has helped out at the store on Thursday mornings by unpacking deliveries and putting stock away. Store Manager Rochelle Richie said that Les has been a great help to staff at the store, helping to put away stock while other staff served customers.  

“I only have a casual on Thursday mornings, so Les helps out by putting away the paints, inks, brushes, pencils and other stock,” Rochelle said.

“We loved him from the beginning – he’s a real asset to the store. He’s great with instructions and will always ask questions to make sure he knows what needs to be done.”

Les has an intellectual disability and had lived most of his life in Bridgetown with his late mother. After making the difficult move to Busselton a couple of years ago, Les became reluctant to leave the house, make new friends and take part in community events.

Les’s Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist, Lynne Duthie said that Les was initially very reluctant to help out at Jackson’s as he also had anxiety about entering the workforce.

“Les’s initial goal was to stay for just 10 minutes, but with time he has become more and more comfortable with his role at Jackson’s. He now stays for 30-40 minutes and sometimes up to an hour and a half,” Lynne said.

“He really enjoys his role at the store now, enthusiastically completing his tasks with support from his therapy assistant or support workers. It’s team work in action, with support workers also enjoying the role.”

Lynne said that the key to Les’ success has been the support he receives from Rochelle and the store staff, who have positively contributed to Les’s overall wellbeing.

“The Jackson’s team have always been warm, open and accepting of Les. The positive feedback, smiles and high-fives he shares with the staff have gone a long way to develop his self-esteem and bring him out of his shell.”

Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist, Lynne Duthie

“Les’ contribution has also really added to workplace efficiency. The Thursday delivery gets put away in less time, with staff able to attend to other tasks while Les works with the help of his support workers and therapy assistant.”

Rochelle said that the experience had not only had benefits for Les, but for the store staff as well, and that she hoped more local businesses would consider providing work experience and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

“I think other businesses should look at offering more opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds. Give it a go. Not only are you helping another human being, you’re getting valuable labour.”

Lynne echoed Rochelle’s sentiments, saying that Les’s quality of life had improved considerably since taking on his role at Jackson’s.

“A productive role in life is so integral for a sense of wellbeing. The fact that he wants to pop in and say ‘hello’ even on a non-delivery day, shows just how important the job is to Les.”

For more information about how Therapy Focus can support people with disability to develop job skills and find employment, visit our post-school support page.

Les Slayford putting paints away at Jackon's Art Supplies

Pictured: Les putting paints away at Jackon’s Drawing Supplies in Busselton.

Sofia speaks up about autism

11 year-old Sofia Schiaffini has won an award for her speech about autism in this year’s Speak Up Awards.

The Anne Hamersley Primary School student outperformed 150 other students to make it to the finals of the interschool public speaking competition, which is hosted by the WA Freemasons.

In her speech, which focused on her experience as someone with autism spectrum disorder, Sofia said that the best thing people can do to help those with autism is be kind and understanding. The speech was so well received that it won her the Grand Master’s Award.

Sofia’s Mum Amanda said that the award was an incredible achievement for her daughter, who had difficulty accepting that she had autism up until recently.

“Sofia had anxiety and was bullied at school, but we never expected autism. When she was diagnosed at 9 years-old she was initially relieved. She’d say, ‘Now I know why I am how I am. I’m not weird.’ The denial came when she started therapy, which was something her friends didn’t have to do,” Amanda said.

“But she’s come a long way in terms of accepting her differences. She could have chosen any topic to write her speech about, but she chose to write about autism and share her experiences.”

Sofia’s Mum, Amanda Schiaffini

While Sofia was reluctant about therapy at first, she is now enjoying her sessions with Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist Caitlin O’Meara and Psychologist Kimberley Sanford, who helped Sofia explore her feelings about her diagnosis.

“Kim and I researched autism with Sofia and her family through the use of websites, books and videos,” Caitlin said.

“We encouraged self-reflection and provided resources like visual scales to help Sofia voice her feelings in a safe environment. Once she felt comfortable, we encouraged her to share her story with her friends and classmates.”

Amanda said that not only had her daughter benefited from the process, but that she had also learnt a lot from working with Sofia’s therapy team.

“I’ve learnt how to change my vocabulary and manage certain situations by using the strategies Caitlin and Kimberley have taught my family. It’s really benefited me, which in turn has benefited Sofia,” Amanda said.

“I’ve seen such a huge improvement, and for Sofia to write that speech really highlights just how far she’s come in accepting who she is.”

For more information about the services Therapy Focus offers for people with autism spectrum disorder, visit our autism services page

Sofia Schiaffini with Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist, Caitlin O'Meara

Picture: Sofia Schiaffini celebrating her win with with Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist, Caitlin O’Meara

Changes to NDIS billing from 1 October

The way we bill for services funded by the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is changing from 1 October. 

Therapy Focus has not made changes to billing under the NDIS for two years. These changes will bring our prices in line with the 2018-19 NDIS Price Guide and allow us to keep providing therapy services that are comprehensive, community-based and high quality.

The changes will only apply to NDIS participants who start services and renew services with Therapy Focus after 1 October, 2018.

Changes will be made in 3 main areas:


The price for therapy will change from $175.57 to $179.26 per hour. There have also been changes to the prices of our other services. View our Price List.


Therapy Focus can deliver services in your home, school, workplace, and in the community.

Our therapists coordinate their visits to participants and families in your area to reduce travel costs. When we have multiple appointments in the one area, we will share the costs across all the visits to ensure charges are fair. We will not charge more than the time it would take to travel directly to you from our closest office (or the agreed office).

  • Travel to locations in the wider Perth metro area. To deliver services in the Perth metro area we will charge up to 20 minutes of travel per visit. This is capped at 20% of your agreed NDIS service – unless other arrangements are made. 
  • Travel to locations in rural and regional areas. To deliver services in rural locations we will charge up to 45 minutes of travel per visit. This is capped at 40% of your agreed NDIS service – unless other arrangements are made.

Learn more about how we charge for travel.


Therapy Focus will not charge you the first time you cancel an appointment. After this, if you cancel an appointment later than 3pm the day before we will charge you 90% of the cost. This is because we cannot replace cancellations with short notice, which limits our ability to support other participants and their families.

If you have any questions about these changes please speak with the Key Worker in your therapy team, or your local Team Leader.

GIVE provides the gift of guitar lessons

16 year-old Joseph Martin has always dreamed of playing guitar in a band. And thanks to a GIVE Program grant for guitar lessons, that dream can edge a little closer to reality.

Joseph began weekly guitar lessons at Classic Sounds Music School in Kelmscott last year, but after two terms the family found that they couldn’t afford to sustain the lessons long-term.

Seeing the benefits that learning to play the guitar had provided, Joseph’s Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist, Melissa Athanassiou helped the family apply for a funding grant through Therapy Focus’ GIVE Program so that the lessons could continue.


“Guitar lessons have provided Joseph with a meaningful leisure activity that he looks forward to each week. Not only is it allowing him to develop a new skill that he is interested in, it is also providing him with new social interactions.” 

Melissa Athanassiou 

“Since attending the lessons, Joseph has been more motivated to share his experiences in social settings and his confidence is growing.”

Melissa said the guitar tutor, Dicko Green was experienced with students who have special needs, which made it a good fit for Joseph, who has an intellectual disability.

“Dicko has provided a supportive environment, opportunities for Joseph to practice his social interactions and – most importantly – joy through learning,” she said.

Pictured: Joseph with his guitar tutor Dicko at Classic Sounds Music School

Joseph’s father, Raymond said that Joseph loved the guitar and developing his technique meant a lot to him.

“When he stopped the lessons, he tried to teach himself how to play on the iPad, but he really struggled. Now he’s back at Classic Sounds he has improved a lot and after his lessons he gets out the iPad and practices,” he said.

Raymond said that the consistency of weekly lessons with a calm and patient tutor had been great for Joseph.

“He’s fantastic now and I love sitting there and watching him play. He picks up the guitar and goes into his own little world. It has helped him to be much calmer and happier and he’s become a totally different person,” he said.

“We are so grateful to have had the lessons funded through the GIVE Program and to have Melissa’s support.”

Find out more about Therapy Focus’ GIVE Program, or call 1300 135 373.

Communication clinic improves device access

Therapy Focus has opened the doors to a purpose-built clinic that provides access to a range of communication systems and solutions for people living with disability.

Staffed by experienced speech pathologists knowledgeable in the area of alternative and augmentative communication, the ‘Communication Matters Clinic’ will help people with complex communication needs trial a wide range of communication devices and systems. This include high-tech systems like touch screen devices and low-tech systems like communication books.

Clinic Manager, Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist Alison Milton, said that the new clinic hoped to reduce current wait times to trial communication devices, so that people can access funding for devices quicker.

“The reason why this clinic is so important is because people with disability, their families and therapists can’t apply for funding for communication devices without trialling them first,” Alison said.

“It can sometimes take 6-12 months to access devices for trial, and the longer someone waits to trial a device, the longer they go without a way of communicating with the world around them.”

Michael Keenan MP with Alison Milton, Therapy Focus CEO, Matt Burrows and a young boy at the clinic opening event

Pictured: Federal Member for Stirling, Michael Keenan MP with Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist Alison Milton, CEO Matt Burrows and Logan Mills at the clinic opening event.

7 year-old Hamish McKercher accesses services from Therapy Focus and uses an iPad with the TouchChat app to communicate. Hamish’s Mum, Katherine said her son had tried a range of systems but liked technology and found TouchChat to be most effective.

“He tells us things with sign language but has been using TouchChat for 12 months now and that’s his favourite way to communicate,” Katherine said.

Katherine said that Hamish has always been very social, but simply didn’t have the words to communicate before receiving the device.

“It’s been pretty special to watch him have more thorough conversations with his friends and family, and he communicates more and more each day. It’s the little things, like being able to answer a teacher’s question in class that has been great to see Hamish accomplish,” she said.

Alison said that timely access to communication devices and systems was essential to improving quality of life for people with communication difficulties.

“Communication is a basic human right. Being able to communicate allows us to understand and connect with people around us, and live a full and satisfying life. It is our hope that the clinic will provide a pathway to accessing suitable communication systems that enable people with disability to be able to express their thoughts, feelings, dreams, ideas and needs.”

Clinic Manager, Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist Alison Milton

Federal Member for Stirling, the Honourable Michael Keenan MP, officially opened the clinic at an event held on Friday 31 August, where guests toured the clinic and took part in device demonstrations. 

The clinic was set-up with support from Scentre Group Australia through their Westfield Community Program.

For more information about the Communications Matter Clinic, call 1300 135 373 or email

Individuals and families already accessing Therapy Focus services should speak with their therapy team.

Communication Matters Clinic staff with Therapy Focus CEO, Matt Burrows

Pictured: Communication Matters Clinic staff with Therapy Focus CEO, Matt Burrows.

Students help illustrate storybook about kindness and inclusion

A children’s storybook featuring illustrations created by WA primary school students has been unveiled at a Book Launch at Perth Town Hall on Thursday 23 August during National Children’s Book Week.

The storybook, entitled If I Met a Baboon Who Lost His Balloon, was written by local teacher, author and artist, Sean E Avery, and encourages readers to be kind, understanding and helpful toward others. The illustrations featured in the storybook were created by primary school students who took part in Therapy Focus’ annual Art Competition.

Art Competition Winners 2018
Pictured: Art Competition Winners 2018

This year Therapy Focus received more than 5,300 artworks from 103 schools across the state. A panel of judges chose 100 finalists from the entries, of which 21 were selected to be published.
Storybook author, Sean E Avery, said he focused on themes of inclusion in writing the rhyming narrative, which follows the journey of a hero who helps different animals with their problems.

“In a digital world where people are feeling more lost and lonely than ever before, I feel it’s so important to help remind people that they matter.”

Sean E Avery

“Drawing pictures to compliment words is a wonderful way to deepen understanding. I’m always excited to see the many different ways kids interpret words and themes like inclusion in a story.”

Therapy Focus Board Chair Fiona Payne joined Sean in celebrating the winners by awarding each student with their framed original artwork, a copy of the published storybook and a prize pack courtesy of event sponsors.

Thanks to the generous support of Art Competition Principal sponsor, The Stan Perron Charitable Foundation, a complimentary copy of If I Met a Baboon Who Lost His Balloon will be provided to every primary school in WA.

Copies of If I Met a Baboon Who Lost His Balloon and other titles in Therapy Focus’ storybook series are available for purchase from the online shop. All proceeds go toward supporting the Art Competition and Storybook Project.

Find out more about the art competition. 

Resource library helps Zechariah achieve his therapy goals

A specialist resource service for people with disability and their families has opened in East Victoria Park and is providing regular access to play-based resources that can support therapy.

The Activ Learning and Discovery Centre (ALDC) is the result of a merger between Noah’s Ark WA and Activ Library, making it the state’s largest collection of specialist resources and information.

Centre Librarian, Karen Holder said that the membership base had expanded since the two the services merged, along with the items available for loan.

“The majority of our Activ Library members are families of children with autism, but we provide resources for all ages and stages,” she said.

“We have resources that help families going through the diagnosis process, as well as resources for teenagers going through puberty or coming to terms with death. Social skills is a very popular area and we have lots of books that address challenging behaviour and help with the creation of social stories.”

Karen said that the centre is always acquiring new items based on the needs of members.

“We’re able to identify gaps based on the requests we receive from families and over time we can build on the range of items available for various areas of interest.”

Activ Learning & Discovery Centre Librarian, Karen Holder

Early Childhood Teacher, Susan Glasson is available at the centre from 9:30-12:30 on opening days to provide professional advice and support families to choose play based items to enhance learning and skill development.

“Members can borrow four items for four weeks at a time, but they may return as often as they like to swap items or to try something new,” Susan said. 

“We also encourage siblings to come along and borrow toys, as they may miss out when a child with special needs requires additional support and attention.”

Pictured: Zechariah and his brothers playing at the library

18-month-old Zechariah Hall has Down Syndrome and visits the centre once a month with his Mum Jacqueline and his two older brothers. Jacqueline said that the merging of the two services had improved access to resources.

“Everything is now in one place and is set-up really well. There’s a library with books grouped by various disabilities, so you can access these at the same time as choosing new toys and play equipment in a safe environment,” she said.

“There’s also someone to help you choose items that support your child’s therapy and goals at various stages.”

Therapy Focus Advanced Physiotherapist, Dan Prigmore has been working with Zechariah and his family and uses play-based therapy in sessions.

“At the moment we’re using soft play equipment like wedges and steps to help Zechariah learn how to stand,” Dan said.

“This equipment is very expensive for families to purchase, so having access to the Activ Learning and Discovery Centre is a cost-effective way to help expose children to a range of toys and keep them motivated in therapy.”

Therapy Focus Advanced Physiotherapist, Dan Prigmore

Memberships to the Activ Learning and Discovery Centre cost $160 per year. The Centre is located at 71 Jarrah Road, East Victoria Park and is open from 9:30am – 3pm, Wednesday to Friday. It also opens from 10am – 1pm on the first Saturday of each month.  

For more information visit the Activ Learning and Discovery Centre website or Facebook page.

Learn more about Therapy Focus’ comprehensive therapy services.

Zechariah playing with the toys
Pictured: Zechariah playing with the toys

Therapy Focus celebrates 20 years

On Friday 20 July, 500 guests including Therapy Focus staff, alumni and special guests celebrated the organisation’s 20th Anniversary with a Gala Dinner at Crown Towers.

Parliamentary Secretary Mr Reece Whitby MLA officially opened proceedings on behalf of the Minister for Disability, congratulating staff for their dedication to supporting WA people with disabilities, and thanking the organisation for its contribution to the disability sector across 20 years. 

Mr Whitby was moved by a video featuring three families who access services from Therapy Focus, saying that Therapy Focus gives people with disability the opportunity to embrace their potential. 

“The young people with disability in the video – Mia, Shona and Chris – are happy, having fun, expanding their skills, are socially involved and learning how to be independent. Most importantly they are surrounded by love,” he said.

“And while we can truly thank their parents and caregivers for that love, it is Therapy Focus we need to acknowledge for helping these families negotiate challenges and maximise opportunities.”

Mr Reece Whitby addressing guests

Pictured: Mr Reece Whitby MLA addressing guests

As part of the celebrations, a number of Therapy Focus employees were presented with awards that recognised outstanding achievements.

Therapy Focus Behaviour Support Psychologist Scott Payne was awarded the 2018 People’s Choice Award, which acknowledges employees who have gone ‘above and beyond’ to support Therapy Focus clients, their families and carers.

Nominations for the People’s Choice Award are submitted by individuals accessing services, their families and carers with Scott was nominated by 11-year-old Rhys Tallowin. The following is an excerpt from Rhys’ nomination:

“I nominate Scott Payne because he helped me get my name changed to Tallowin. He also helps me be more calm and less violent. He rides a bike, scooter and skateboard with me and he spends time with me in the places that I am comfortable in. He also helps the rest of the therapy team understand me so they can help as well.”

Therapy Focus Behaviour Support Clinician Scott Payne accepting the 2018 People's Choice Award from Parent Reference Group representative, Amanda Reed.

Pictured: Scott Payne accepting the 2018 People’s Choice Award from Therapy Focus Parent Reference Group representative, Amanda Reed.

Therapy Focus South West Team Leader, Danelle Milward was awarded this year’s Leadership Award, which recognises an employee who has displayed exceptional leadership skills, demonstrated the ability to guide and inspire others, and contributed to the functioning of the organisation.

Danelle was nominated by the South West Team, who commended her skills as a leader. The following is an excerpt from the nomination:

“Danelle leads by example. She reminds us to champion inclusion and participation in the community we work in – not only for our clients, but as part of our presence as a service provider. We all agree that she is exceptional in her role as our Team Leader. She understands our individual and collective needs, and in doing so, utilises our strengths, supports us to address our weaknesses, and drives us to provide a service that builds the capacity of our clients and their families.”

 Therapy Focus South West Team Leader Danelle Milward accepting the Leadership Award from Board Deputy Chair, Tony Vis

Pictured: Therapy Focus South West Team Leader Danelle Milward accepting the 2018 Leadership Award from Therapy Focus Board Deputy Chair, Tony Vis.

Three Therapy Focus employees were jointly awarded the inaugural Innovation Award, which recognises outstanding creativity and ingenuity when addressing challenges, improving processes and/or delivering services. 

Speech Pathologists Chloe Justins and Caitlin O’Meara and Advanced Occupational Therapist Olivia Coleman were nominated by Team Leader Niamh Fitzmaurice, who congratulated the group for their teamwork and for thinking outside the box. The following is an excerpt from their nomination: 

“Driven by the opportunity to provide much-needed services to the Bullsbrook community, Chloe, Caitlin and Olivia formed what’s now known as the Bullsbrook Mini-Team. Thinking outside the box, the team was able to secure a therapy space at Bullsbrook College and provided professional development opportunities for education staff as an alternative to paying rent. Client numbers in Bullsbrook steadily increased and continue to grow, with Therapy Focus now the primary therapy service provider in both the Bullsbrook and Ellenbrook communities. The feedback from families and Bullsbrook College has been tremendous, particularly in terms of the team’s clinical skills and the professional development opportunities afforded.”

Chloe Justins and Olivia Coleman accepting the Innovation Award

Pictured: Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist Chloe Justins and Advanced Occupational Therapist Olivia Coleman accepting the 2018 Innovation Award from CEO Matt Burrows.

A number of employees also received service awards acknowledging 5, 10 and 15 years of service. Administration Officer Heather Stanley was also acknowledged for 20 years of service, having been employed with Therapy Focus since the very start.

To see more photos from the event, visit the Therapy Focus Facebook page

To further celebrate the 20 year milestone, the unique stories of 20 people including employees, alumni, people accessing services and their families have been shared on a special anniversary website. Read the stories at You can also learn more about Therapy Focus’ 20 year history here

NDIS helps Hau achieve more independence

Hau Le is a young man with goals and aspirations to live a more independent life. Prior to accessing supports through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), the 16 year-old struggled to verbalise how he felt and what he wanted, which affected everyday activities like ordering food or catching a bus.

Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist, Kate Darwent said Hau would get easily frustrated because people didn’t understand him. He had a voice, but his words and the messages he wanted to communicate were not being understood.

“When someone doesn’t have much communication, we tend to ask a lot of yes and no questions or don’t talk to them much, which can be incredibly frustrating for the person trying to communicate,” Kate said.

Having identified a need for Hau to have access to alternative communication assistance, Hau’s therapy team arranged for him to trial a number of communication devices and systems. Once they found the best fit for Hau, the team applied for NDIS funding to purchase a device.

Kate said that the device allowed Hau to develop his own language system, which helped bring out more of his personality when he communicates with others.

“Hau is quite a joker. He uses his device to tell jokes and he messes around. So not only can he tell us what he wants, he can also tell us how he is feeling and show his personality.”

“If you want to be able to participate fully in your environment, you need to have a method to be able to express yourself and be understood.”

Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist, Kate Darwent

Hau’s mother, Lan said that since receiving the device, Hau was finally expressing himself and could tell her when something was upsetting him.

“Before getting the device he would use his body when he was angry. He would lie on the ground and try to get his own way, as he had no other way of communicating his emotions,” Lan said.

“Now I can understand him better and that has improved our relationship. We’re very close now.”

Hau and his Mum, Lan using his device

Pictured: Hau using his communication device while his Mum Lan watches on. 

Hau has been supported by a multi-disciplinary team at Therapy Focus since primary school, but now also accesses Therapy Focus’ Support Coordination services to implement all the supports in his NDIS Plan.

Therapy Focus Support Coordinator, Katherine Vales is currently connecting the Le family with service providers and community supports that will help Hau learn public transport skills to further increase his independence.

“We are looking at Hau’s future goals and what we can do to support them,” Katherine said.

“Right now we’re helping Hau learn how to catch a bus and interact with his local community. We’re also getting him a Companion Card so he can start attending events.”

Therapy Focus is a registered service provider for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Our comprehensive therapy services and specialist services can be accessed via a range of funding options, including the NDIS. 

For more information about our services and funding available, call us on 1300 135 373. Our friendly team can help you find out if you’re eligible and provide further information about the options available. 

Hau, working with his therapists

Pictured: Hau with Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist Kate Darwent (L) and Support Coordinator Katherine Vales (R).

GIVE helps Zaki go for a stroll with his bro

2-year-old Zakariya Hashi is now able to go for walks in comfort with his new baby brother thanks to a grant from Therapy Focus’ GIVE Program.

Zaki has some developmental difficulties and is working with his Therapy Focus therapy team to achieve goals relating to mobility and positioning. When in a sitting position Zaki requires supports to help maintain head control and a good seated posture.

In early 2018, the Hashi family received a specialised stroller and seating system through the State Government’s Community Aids and Equipment Program (CAEP), which allows Zaki’s family to take him to and from appointments and access the community, as well as provide safe seating for mealtimes.

But with a new baby arriving in early 2018 and a car boot that couldn’t accommodate two strollers, the Hashi family applied to Therapy Focus’ GIVE Program for a sibling seat that can be attached to Zaki’s stroller, as well as a shade cover to protect Zaki and his baby brother Zubeyr from the sun.

Zaki’s Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist Melissa Athanassiou said she was really happy to see the stroller and attachments making life a little easier for the family of six.

“The stroller and seating system are vital to providing Zaki with a safe seated position for mealtimes and play, as well as allowing his family to go out into the community with less difficulty.”

Melissa Athanassiou

“Zaki also has a cortical visual impairment and is sensitive to light, so the additional attachments ensure Zaki and his new sibling are protected from the sun.”

Zaki’s father, Abdifatah Hassan said that although the family hadn’t had the stroller for very long, it had been very helpful to his son.

“The stroller and seating unit has helped him quite well and in the short time he’s had it, he’s really enjoyed it,” he said.

“So far he’s really enjoyed using the stroller and we are looking forward to taking Zaki out more to see the world around him.”

Mr Hassan said the GIVE Program was important because people would be able to access items that better their lives.

“In the future, I just want Zaki to be happy, helped and loved,” he said.

Find out more about Therapy Focus’ GIVE Program

Zaki in his chair
Pictured: Zaki and his baby brother, Zubeyr in their stroller system, ready for adventures

Karratha, let’s talk about continence

Therapy Focus’ specialist continence team PEBBLES is providing invaluable support to the local community in Karratha and the wider West Pilbara region, since expansion of services in early 2018.

Robin Benson and her 8-year-old son Jase were one of the first families in Karratha to access the service, which is available to children and adults with disability who experience bladder and bowel health issues, as well as incontinence.

Jase has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and was experiencing a number of toileting issues prior to services becoming available. Robin said that due to Karratha’s substantial growth, there were a number of medical services the community just didn’t have.

“A lot of people need help and can’t go to Perth, or don’t have the money to go to Perth, so they go without services,” she said.

“Children like Jase need the services but don’t get the opportunities. All these years of not getting the right help for Jase has been hard, but thanks to Therapy Focus’ PEBBLES services becoming more readily available in Karratha, we can now access the support he needs.”

Robin Benson

Therapy Focus Continence Physiotherapist Karina Caldwell said she joined the PEBBLES Team to provide consistent services and more support to people in her hometown who have a variety of continence related conditions.

“Being based in Karratha means I can provide more regular contact and support to families in the Pilbara,” she said.

“I see children with ASD who have difficulty with toilet training, children with ongoing bedwetting, adults with bladder urgency and women experiencing stress urinary incontinence, particularly in the early postnatal period.”

PEBBLES Clients with therapist 
Pictured: A family speaking with speaking with a PEBBLES clinician.

Another local said that the establishment of PEBBLES services in Karratha highlighted the importance of continuity of care for people living in regional areas.

“Being local, Karina has been able to develop relationships with our school to support our son’s needs. The ongoing care we have received from Karina is amazing and I feel that without this support we would not have made the progress we have,” they said.

Karina said it was important to “mention the unmentionable” when it came to incontinence.

“Talk about any concerns you have with your GP or find a continence professional. We often don’t talk about incontinence because we don’t know where to start or who to speak to,” she said.

“Many conditions are very common and can be addressed with non-invasive treatments. They aren’t as scary as they seem once you are equipped with the right information.”

Karina Caldwell

Robin echoed Karina’s sentiments, saying that talking about the issues and getting help makes all the difference.

“We need to talk about toileting. A lot of kids think it’s a joke, but it can cause so many other issues. We knew Jase didn’t go to the toilet regularly but didn’t know how to get help. Now we know the importance of understanding how the body works and it’s been great to finally have someone to guide us,” she said.

World Continence Week runs from June 18 to 24. 

Learn more about Therapy Focus’ specialist continence services. Alternatively, contact the PEBBLES Team on 1300 865 401 or email

Specialist support for Darcy’s dietary needs

Eating and mealtimes were always a battle for 8-year-old Darcy, and the ongoing issues related to eating led his mother to seek help from the MEAHLS team at Therapy Focus.

Darcy has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and began receiving services from Therapy Focus when he was 2-years-old. When Darcy began to show an aversion  to foods and had trouble drinking water later in life, the family was referred to Therapy Focus’ specialist MEAHLS Team for support.

Darcy was given a variety of tools including bubbles, a flute and a chewing toy to help him strengthen his jaw and learn the correct way to chew his food.

Darcy’s mother, Sharee, said that it was eye-opening to realise that since Darcy’s jaw wasn’t as strong as it should be, some foods could be frightening to him.

Using the different strategies provided by the MEAHLS Team, Sharee has exposed Darcy to different foods on the table where he can make ‘safe’ choices and she allows him to touch the food and play.

“Darcy can play with his food – I’m probably the only Mum who says that’s okay,” she said jokingly.

“It’s about getting him used to the food and taking the pressure away from him having to actually eat it.”

MEAHLS Team therapist Danielle Cottam said that collaboration with Therapy Focus’ specialist continence team also helped address Darcy’s issues with fluid intake and constipation. 

“Mealtimes include the whole body system so Darcy’s constipation was a key factor affecting his willingness to try new foods. Likewise, his difficulties with chewing linked directly to his difficulties with constipation,” she said.

“On the advice of the PEBBLES continence team, we implemented a cup that Darcy would be able to use to pace himself when drinking, as well as communication strategies to help increase his fluid intake at home and school. Darcy is now drinking water from a range of vessels and this has helped keep him regular.”

Sharee said the support of the two specialist teams have been invaluable to her son’s fluid intake and continence training.

“Like many ASD children, Darcy has had incontinence problems (encopresis). So the assistance of the PEBBLES team and giving us strategies for Darcy to drink water have been fantastic,” she said.

If you would like to access Therapy Focus’ specialist mealtime management services or continence support services, please contact us on 1300 135 373.

Darcy doing his exercises with his flute
Pictured: Darcy doing his exercises with his flute

Layla gets on track to healthy eating

Due to her sensory issues surrounding food, eating was often a struggle for 8-year-old Layla Bonser. In a bid to find answers, Layla’s family engaged in services with the MEAHLS Team at Therapy Focus.

Layla has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD) and began experiencing issues as a result of some unhealthy eating habits. 

Layla’s mother Alicia said she didn’t know what to do, especially when Layla was missing out on vital nutrition associated with healthy eating.

“All the bad foods – I couldn’t keep her away from them,” Alicia said.

“I had no idea where to start. I was completely at a loss. We were a family that needed help. We needed help with Layla.”  

Layla’s family made the agonising decision to place Layla on medication temporarily to help manage her behaviour and anger issues.

“It was an exceptionally hard choice for us, but I feel like it was the best option at the time. Hopefully once we learn more behaviour management strategies we can help Layla handle her emotions and impulses, then she can come off the medication,” Alicia said.

The medication has worked exceptionally well in terms of Layla’s behaviour, but also led to a rapidly declining appetite and Layla lost weight quickly. 

We met with Claire Breen, one of Therapy Focus’ dietitians, and devised a plan for Layla for some after school snacks. We have also tried the nutritional drink PediaSure in the past week to bulk up her food intake and she is finding flavours she likes.

The family have continued to work with the MEAHLS Team and developed a plan of action to help combat Layla’s mealtime issues. This included trialling an ‘all done bowl’ for foods Layla is finished with, using visual food charts, and serving buffet-style meals where Layla can serve herself and experiment with new foods without fear.

Alicia said her family celebrated the victories whether they were big or small.

“Eating a whole meal is a big deal – it may seem small to some people, but to us, it’s huge” 

Alicia Bonser

Layla on the trampoline
Pictured: Layla on the trampoline

In speaking about receiving an autism diagnosis and accessing Therapy Focus’ comprehensive therapy services more broadly, Alicia said she felt an enormous sense of relief.

“The way in which people reacted to Layla changed once we had a diagnosis. There was suddenly acceptance, understanding and a great deal of patience,” she said.

“Layla was always the ‘naughty kid’ at school, and since getting help from her therapy team, Layla has become a better friend. She is learning to maintain friendships and she is even getting invited to birthday parties, which was non-existent before.”

Alicia said that with the help of Therapy Focus, she had learnt as a mother how to respond to Layla more positively and understand her emotions.

Being a special needs Mum can be incredibly stressful at times, but with the help of Layla’s therapy team, it has been less stressful and more rewarding. We have watched her learn and grow into the young lady she is today.

Alicia Bonser

Moving forward, Alicia said she was hopeful about the future for Layla and her family.

“We just want Layla to enjoy her life and have the same opportunities as every other child. Most importantly, we want her to be happy within herself.”

If you would like to access Therapy Focus’ mealtime management services, please contact our MEAHLS Team in 1300 135 373 or email

Find out more about our comprehensive therapy and specialist services

Layla and her mother Alicia
Pictured: Layla and her mother Alicia

Harry learns how to enjoy mealtime

2-year-old Harry Padmanabhan has Global Developmental Delay and is learning how mealtimes can be fun with the help of Therapy Focus’ specialist MEAHLS team.

Sitting in the family dining room, Harry reaches for the boxes on the table in front of him and opens one with a great delight in his eyes. Squealing with happiness, Harry cuddles the moose puppet that was in the box.

The box game was provided by Harry’s speech pathologist, Danielle Cottam and helps make dinner time fun. Harry’s mother Patricia said he chooses which box to do and there was a variety of activities in each that are associated with food.

Patricia was referred to Therapy Focus following a recommendation from Princess Margaret Hospital. She said that Harry is only able to eat soft and dissolvable foods because he cannot chew. His food slides down his throat too quickly and he needed help.

“Harry has always had eating problems and I would talk to people saying that things didn’t feel right and this wasn’t just a toddler problem, but I never felt heard,” Patricia said.

“The early intervention we received from Therapy Focus has been really helpful and getting the right support for Harry’s mealtime needs was fantastic. It made us feel like what we were watching was real and we felt listened to for the first time,” she said.

Therapy Focus’ MEAHLS Team have provided Patricia with a chewing toy and a whistle to assist Harry in strengthening his jaw and getting him used to the swallowing action. They are also trialling thickening liquids to help Harry’s body recognise the difference between solids and liquids, and to support nutrient absorption.

Patricia said that Harry had made great progress thanks to the collaborative efforts of his therapy teams and specialists.

He’s made great progress with his milestones and his improvements have gotten faster and closer together,” she said.

“Our therapists have been amazing in terms of the emotional support at the sessions. Offloading my stuff and feeling really listened to meant I could talk and really feel supported.”

Harry is about to start receiving support from Therapy Focus’ specialist continence team, the PEBBLES Team, and Patricia said she was happy to have the services working closely together.

I like that therapists and specialists at Therapy Focus all work together so if something is happening, they can all talk together and work it out. Being able to get it all in one place and having a multi-disciplinary team, has been so valuable to us.

Patricia Dadd

Harry and hi mmum using his chewing toy
Pictured: Harry using his chewing toy

New NDIS therapy pricing limits outcomes

Therapy Focus has condemned a recommendation made for the pricing of therapy services in an Independent Pricing Review Report endorsed by the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA), saying it will lead to poorer outcomes for people living with disability.

The NDIA has given in principle support for the Report, which recommends a tiered pricing structure for therapy services based on the functional needs of National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants.

Therapy Focus CEO Matt Burrows said that adequate input was not sought from qualified therapists in compiling the pricing recommendations for therapy supports, and that this would negatively impact on the quality of services delivered.

“The Review has been conducted and recommendations made and adopted with limited opportunity for therapists to input, especially in relation to therapy pricing, and especially in Western Australia.” 

“The rationale for the pricing recommendations is able to be challenged on many fronts and the NDIA’s adoption of the recommendations, without rigorous consideration, will inevitably lead to poorer quality outcomes for people with disability.”

The rationale for the pricing recommendations is able to be challenged on many fronts and the NDIA’s adoption of the recommendations, without rigorous consideration, will inevitably lead to poorer quality outcomes for people with disability.

Therapy Focus CEO, Matt Burrows

The new pricing structure will take effect from 1 July 2018 with the full roll-out of the NDIS to be completed by 2020.  Mr Burrows said that this could lead to short term market failure and challenge the viability of providers.

“The sudden adoption of a pricing structure that is so much lower than the current pricing structure will lead to short term market failure with some providers being forced to cease services.  The impact of therapists leaving the workforce will see longer term challenges faced by those who decide to remain in operation.”

“The adoption of the proposed pricing structure by the NDIA is disappointing as it really sends a message that the NDIS is only a bare bones safety net for people with disability and nothing more. Such a declaration is hardly reasonable and necessary given the expectations we all have for this reform.”

Therapy Focus Board Chair Fiona Payne agreed with Mr Burrows saying that the changes would also impact access to vital early intervention services for children with disability.

“The drastic reduction in pricing for therapy significantly limits the development of a fit for purpose workforce. I am frustrated that children will be denied the opportunity to benefit from the early intervention and evidence based clinical practice that research shows changes their lives forever.”

The drastic reduction in pricing for therapy significantly limits the development of a fit for purpose workforce. I am frustrated that children will be denied the opportunity to benefit from the early intervention and evidence based clinical practice that research shows changes their lives forever.

Therapy Focus Board Chair, Fiona Payne

For more information, read Therapy Focus’ position statement regarding the independent review of the NDIS pricing strategy.

Visit the NDIA website to learn more about the independent pricing review.

Sweet experience for girls with autism

On Friday 5 April, the same day the United Nations met to discuss the importance of empowering women and girls with autism, the Margaret River Chocolate Company opened their doors to a group of young girls with autism, offering them a lesson in chocolate making.

Therapy Focus South West Team member, Jonelle Fraser, arranged the tour in celebration of World Autism Awareness Day and this year’s focus topic. Jonelle has two daughters with autism and was recently diagnosed herself. She said she hoped the chocolate making lesson would help the girls feel a sense of belonging.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for our girls to come together in Margaret River and feel the support of their community and a sense of belonging. I couldn’t think of a better place than the Margaret River Chocolate Company,” Jonelle said.

“The staff were so accommodating and made adjustments to ensure everyone could participate. There is a viewing window to the chocolate making area so the girls were able to see their parents at all times and anyone could step out if they needed to.”

“We had support from a couple of girls aged 13 and 26 who also have autism and acted as mentors for the younger girls. It was great to see the group of girls with autism ranging in age from 7 to 46 creating together. Hopefully the group will continue to meet and friendships will continue to grow.”

Jonelle said that girls with autism presented differently to boys with autism and often mask their feelings.

“They put so much energy into being themselves, but being themselves in a way that does not offend anyone. Bullying is a huge issue for our girls because they are quirky and they do think differently.”

“That is the battle girls face. They internalise it all. This is why we have to give them a voice and help them feel empowered to say this isn’t working for me.”

Children and adults in a group

Pictured: the group of girls getting ready for their chocolate making lesson as Liberal Member for Vasse, Libby Mettam and Shadow Minister for Community Services and Youth, Tjorn Sibma look on.

Tracey Taylor said that while her daughter was excited about the visit to Margaret River Chocolate Company, she would have experienced anxiety about going.

“She will go through a situation like this looking very happy and okay but at the end of the day it could mean a big meltdown just as a release of that anxiety built up throughout the day,” Tracey said.

“The common thing with girls is that they are very good at masking their feelings, so someone looking in will think they are fine, they have a smile on their face everything is okay. But inside is a different story.”

Ms Taylor said that when girls with autism are in an environment where they need to behave, when they are not around family or people they trust, they tend to remain composed.

“At school they generally want to do the right thing and hold it together but when they get home that is when the meltdown hits,” she said.

“It has its challenges but it also brings a lot of compassion and understanding for what is happening to these children.”

Since receiving the diagnosis, Ms Taylor said it has enabled her daughter to access the support she needs and helped her understand herself and navigate the difficulties.

Two girls holding chocolate

Pictured: Jonelle’s daughters, Anika and Tehya Fraser with their custom made chocolates. 

Autism educator and inclusion consultant Annie Cohen said it was important for people to gain a better understanding of autism.

“I would like people to choose to walk beside people with autism and see how it is through their eyes,” Annie said.

“You can look at someone with a broken leg and say you need some crutches. When you walk beside someone with crutches for a week you see it is actually really exhausting and uses a lot of energy.”

 “If you walk with someone who has autism and does not know what is going to come their way to make them upset or worried, you see the things they put up with and cope with day-to-day.”

“You can hear what makes them anxious and see the world from their perspective. Then you can change to interact with them.”

Margaret River Chocolate Company General Manager Daniel Robe said they were delighted to provide a positive experience for the girls.

“The girls really enjoyed themselves and hopefully the experience will be a good memory for them,” he said.

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam and Shadow Minister for Community Services and Youth, Tjorn Sibma, also attended the event and said it was a fantastic initiative. 

“I encourage other small businesses to take the lead in what has been illustrated by the Margaret River Chocolate Company, as a community we will all benefit,” Ms Mettam said.

Students with an adult

Pictured: The group of apprentice chocolatiers with Sian from the Margaret River Chocolate Factory. 

Therapy Focus offers a range of services and support for people with autism. Learn more

‘Coding club’ harnesses unique talents of youth with autism

Extraordinary attention to detail, a very literal mind and the ability to look at things differently are just some of the unique talents held by young people with autism that are being harnessed to create pathways to valued, long-term employment.

Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist Kahlia Wingfield is working with Curtin University’s Autism Academy for Software Quality Assurance (AASQA) to help young people on the Autism spectrum find employment in the area of software testing.

AASQA Founder and Director Professor Tele Tan said the ‘Coding Club’ program, allows participants to use their natural talents in a practical and complimentary way.

“Software testing is something that is quite often overlooked by corporates,” Tele said.

“So we are providing this particular ability or strength of people with autism; for example, attention to detail and the ability to go through things with a fine tooth comb and to be able to do this repetitively. These skills are extremely important in the information communication technology industry.”

Kahlia said this was the case for program participant Chris Van Der Walt who completed a work placement at a software company as part of the program.

“Generally if a youth with autism has a particular interest or niche skills in the area of coding, the tasks are often completed with a high level of accuracy,” Kahlia said.

“This was certainly the case at Chris’ recent work placement where feedback was that he often picked up errors in the codes that the employer missed himself.”

People gathering around a laptop

Pictured: AASQA participants Scott Bradley (L) and Chris Van der Walt (C) with Professor Tele Tan and Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist, Kahlia Wingfield.

While he believes having skills in programming and an awareness of technology and how technology works at a very young age is important, Tele said a collaborative, community approach was essential for the program to work effectively.

“The support that Kahlia provides is key to identifying the strengths of participants and matching these strengths with jobs that will enable them to continue their self-development,” Tele said.

“By tailoring the experience, both students and employers get the very most out of the opportunity. Kahlia’s skills are especially important here. Preparing someone to enter a new environment – like going on work experience for the first time – is extremely important. If you get it wrong, they’ll have a bad experience and they’ll never do it again, so it’s very important we get it right the first time.”

In addition to helping program participants prepare for work placements, Kahlia educates employers about autism to ensure all parties have clear expectations and knowledge of what can be achieved through work experience.

“I meet with the employer prior to the placement to discuss their knowledge and understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorder, what they can expect, and how to best work with someone with autism,” Kahlia said.

“During the work placement it’s my role to keep the lines of communication open between all parties – the participant, their family and support network and the employer – to ensure the experience is as successful as it can be.”

Chris’s Mum Cindy said that attending the Academy has not only improved her son’s job opportunities, it had also improved his overall wellbeing and outlook on life.

“It’s the best thing that ever happened to him,” Cindy said.

“Before he started he was always angry and very sad, and since he started the program it’s like he’s a new person. He’s so happy. Everyone comments on him smiling. They never saw him smile and now he’s smiling and laughing and all you hear about is coding club!”

Cindy said Chris was looking forward to pursuing his education even further following coding club.

“He has everything planned already; he wants to go to TAFE to do his Cert IV and then he wants to go to Curtin to go on with this program, and then we’ll see from there!”

For more information about AASQA visit the Curtin University website.

Pictured: The group programming a robot.

Learn more about the services and supports Therapy Focus offers children and adults with autism. 

School holiday group gets out and about

Over the January school holidays a group of 10 children and young people with disability got out and about in the community with support from their therapists.

Led by Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist Jaime Offord, the group came together over 4 days to practice using public transport, being safe in the community, communicating with others and shopping and money handling skills.

“The school holiday group provided participants with supervised and structured opportunities to learn and practice various life skills in the community, independent of their families,” Jaime said.

“We strive to capitalise on the incidental teaching of skills in a functional, everyday environment whilst also prompting socialisation and friendship between participants.” 

The skills the group were learning through the program culminated in a big adventure on the last day, which involved catching 2 buses and a train from the Therapy Focus Mirrabooka office to Joondalup Shopping Centre and back again.

“Once we arrived at the shopping centre, the group broke off into smaller groups to complete specific tasks that utilised the skills they’d been learning, Jaime said. 

“For one participant this was using a shopping list and finding items in the supermarket independently, and for another it was texting his mum and being able to clearly explain exactly where he was.”

“We knew these young people could learn the skills to be independent in the community, so we provided them with opportunities to learn with the right level of support and prompting. Everyone came in with different goals but worked together really well to be able to achieve them.”

People on a train

Pictured: Dario Bobanac, Joseph Gabriel, Thoman Phan and Leroy Sassine with Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist Jaime Offord on the train to Joondalup.

One participant who made astounding progress over the 4 days was 12 year-old Samuel Becvarovski, whose goals centred around using the Transperth website to plan a journey. His Mum Domenica explained how important this was for him.

“Samuel is almost a teenager and is starting high school this year so it was important for him to have more independence,” Domenica said.

“Being able to catch the bus to school by himself is important and he needed the tools from his therapists to be able to do this independently. He’s now confidently using the website and catches the bus to school by himself every day, which is something he’d never even attempted before the group.”

Jaime was also impressed with Samuel’s progress, with his goals being reached above and beyond expectations.

“Samuel was really committed to his goals and by the fourth day of the group he was not only planning his own journey, but teaching others in the group how to use the site!”

Boy on a train

Pictured: Samuel Becvarovski successfully caught the train using the Transperth planner. 

Learn more about the support Therapy Focus can provide for the development of social skills and community participation. 


Help and hard work improves Troy’s literacy

While his peers enjoyed their 6 week break over summer, 13 year-old Troy was working hard and making great progress with his reading and spelling.

Troy has autism and his literacy progress had plateaued over several years. So in early 2017 – Troy’s final year of primary school – his Mum Hayley enlisted occupational therapy and speech pathology services to support her son’s development.

“With high school coming up I wanted to set Troy up for success and thought some extra support with literacy would be helpful,” Hayley said.

“He can get anxious about spelling and writing so building up his confidence has been a really important focal point.”

Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist, Kate Dixon explained that a strong working relationship with Troy’s teachers, plus a lot of hard work by Troy himself was the key to their success.

“We worked closely with Troy’s school and teacher last year, ensuring we were all on the same page and working towards the same goals,” Kate said.

“This meant that even when his therapy team wasn’t there, Troy was still being encouraged to use the strategies we’d developed for him and there was constant support.”

“When school finished up for the year we organised a short block of therapy sessions to maintain and continue developing the gains we’d made. Going into the 2018 school year Troy’s reading and spelling had gone up almost 2 whole year levels.”

“Troy and I use a lot of different strategies in our sessions. We often use a whiteboard and magnets to practice putting together different sounds that make up real and nonsense words. This has helped Troy increase his fluency and vocabulary.”

Mum Hayley has been amazed by Troy’s progress and says she’s still seeing big improvements.

“From this time last year to now Troy’s writing has hugely improved,” Hayley said.

“He’s using longer sentences and his spelling is so much better. High school is a big change but he’s developing the skill set he needs to handle it.” 

Learn more about Therapy Focus’ services for people with autism

Learn more about the role of a Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist

Pictured: 13 year-old Troy at school with Speech Pathologist Kate Dixon.

Communication wins for Team Travis

A collaboration between Therapy Focus and partner organisation Interchange has helped Travis become a happier, more confident member of his local recreation centre.

Travis enjoys being active in the community and regularly visits the Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre. Travis’ support worker, Kieren Birmingham from Interchange, was supporting him to access the gym and pool, but found that certain triggers at the Recreation Centre were interrupting his planned activities and causing him distress.

Whist Kieren could identify the triggers, it was difficult for him, and staff at the Recreation Centre, to communicate with Travis when he was distressed.

“It was clear Travis wanted to exercise more choice about what he did when he attended the Centre,” Kieren said.

“So we worked with Travis’ family and Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist, Tania Muscat, to develop a visual communication tool that allows Travis to communicate his choices to me. I can also use the tool to respond effectively.”

Travis shooting a basketball while Tania and Kieran look on.

Pictured: Travis shooting hoops with Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist, Tania Muscat (L) and Interchange Support Worker, Kieren Birmingham (R). 

Together, staff from Interchange and Therapy Focus developed a collaborative approach that reduced gaps in service delivery and ensured Travis was better supported to achieve his goal. This collaboration saw the creation of ‘Team Travis’, which included his mother Janet, Tania, Kieren, staff from the Recreation Centre, and of course, Travis.

“Our shared strategy started with a simple initiative that was supported by the Centre staff,” Tania said.

“Travis was to enter through a ‘staff only’ door, as the cafe near the main entrance was initially a trigger for him. Next, the visual communication tool we developed was introduced.

This helped Kieren and the Recreation Centre staff provide Travis with more choices and a sense of control.”

“Very quickly the behaviours reduced and new routines were developed. The strategy was simple but very effective.”

Travis is now finding more enjoyment at the gym and pool, and has begun to enter through the same door as everyone else.

Interchange CEO, Justin O’Meara Smith said that collaboration between the two organisations is successful because both organisations share the same beliefs and values.

“We put the person at the centre of our work. We involve family, and others who know each person in our planning. We look at the adaptions needed to overcome barriers and we strive to help people with disability share ordinary spaces and be part of their community,” Justin said.

“The people we support benefit when we listen. Travis was trying to tell us something but we needed a better way to communicate with him. Therapy Focus helped us to do that.”

“Our collaboration draws on the strengths and talents of our teams and, most importantly, creates a shared plan that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Interchange works across the Perth Metropolitan Area to help people with disability be actively engaged in their local community.

For more information visit

Shona’s standing tall

13 year-old Shona Heard is seeing the world anew thanks to her new sit-to-stand frame.

By transferring herself almost completely independently from her wheelchair to the frame, Shona can adopt a standing position from which she can complete her exercises, help her mother in the kitchen and check if she’s taller than her Therapy Focus Physiotherapist, Emily Brock.

“The sit-to-stand frame has been a fantastic piece of equipment for Shona and she’s made significant progress since receiving it,” Emily said.

“She’s able to strap herself in and use the hand pump to bring herself up to a full standing position. This helps stretch the tight muscles in her legs and improve her standing posture. It has also made transfers easier for her family and carers as Shona is able to hold more of her weight through her legs.”

“Another key motivation for getting the new frame was to help Shona exercise more easily. A lot of her exercise program is designed to be completed in a standing position using hand weights, resistance bands and punching exercises to improve core stability and upper body strength.”

Shona doing exercises with her physiotherapist

Pictured: Shona doing her exercises with help from Therapy Focus Physiotherapist, Emily Brock. 

Shona’s mother, Kate, has also been amazed by the progress her daughter has made with her new sit-to-stand frame.

“The frame gives Shona so much independence,” Kate said.

“She can be more social by being at the same level as everyone else, and she’s in charge of her position.”

“She’s still learning how to use it and she’s getting more confident with it every day.”  

Pictured: Therapy Focus Physiotherapist Emily Brock with Shona and mother Kate. 

Learn more about how Therapy Focus can support people living with disability to access equipment and assistive technology.

Doors open to South West community

On Friday 23 February around 50 guests came together to celebrate the opening of Therapy Focus’ first regional office in the heart of Margaret River.

Therapy Focus Board Chair Fiona Payne and CEO Matt Burrows officially opened the space, with Matt saying that the office would provide an all-important base for the mobile team.

“Having built a team of 13 professional clinicians in the lower South West over the past two years, it’s great to now have a central hub for them to work from when coordinating service delivery in Busselton, Dunsborough, Augusta, Bridgetown, Manjimup and surrounds,” Matt said.

“An objective of the National Disability Insurance Scheme has always been to increase choice and control, and to foster efficiencies in the marketplace. In working towards these objectives, Therapy Focus is proud to extend services to the lower South West community and deliver quality therapies in a way that minimises travel.”

The new Margaret River office is fitted with meeting spaces and a state-of-the-art clinic room, meaning that our clients can choose to book appointments at the clinic in addition to home, school or community visits. Essentially we can come and see you, or you can come and see us.

Therapy Focus South West Team Leader, Danelle Milward with guests

Pictured (L-R): South West Team Leader, Danelle Milward with Margaret River Primary School Deputy Principal, Lorraine Macauley and Local Area Coordinator, Erin Statz.

Therapy Focus client and Pemberton local, Karlee Roche treated guests to a guided tour of facilities, which include a meeting room, open-plan office and large therapy room with a suspended sensory swing.

Leanne Margetts also addressed guests at the opening event, sharing her experience accessing Therapy Focus services for her 9 year-old son Tate.

“Tate has severe oral sensitivity and is yet to transition to solid foods, so feeding is a major focus for us. Having access to a feeding specialist in addition to speech pathology, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and psychology services has been amazing. It’s a level of support we’ve never had before,” Leanne said.

I really appreciate Therapy Focus’ team approach because it means everyone across everything and I don’t have to keep sharing the same information.

Therapy Focus client, Karlee Roche in the sensory swing

Pictured: Therapy Focus client, Karlee Roche tries out the sensory swing while Advanced Occupational Therapist, John Lees looks on. 

Therapy Focus South West Team Leader, Danelle Milward, said that while her team had made great progress in the region, the new office would help clinicians better meet the diverse needs of clients.

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

“The establishment of the new Margaret River office will mean that so many more individuals and families will be able to access the support they need, including those without disabilities who wish to purchase our clinic services for a fee.”

You can visit Therapy Focus’ Margaret River office at 3/111 Bussell Hwy, Margaret River.

To view photos from the opening event, visit our Facebook page.

Therapy Focus' South West team

Pictured: Therapy Focus’ South West Team with Board Chair Fiona Payne, CEO Matt Burrows, Executive Manager Clinical Services Ruth Lee and Regional Manager Evan Williams. 

Mentoring at the Men’s Shed

A group of 18 young men living with intellectual disability have gained vital job skills through a Men’s Shed mentoring program.

In partnership with Therapy Focus, Curtin University and Western Sydney University ran the six-month program inviting men aged 17-24 years-old to visit their local Men’s Shed once a week to work on a range of hands-on projects including woodwork, metal work, gardening, arts and crafts, and computers.

Project Lead Dr Ben Milbourn from the School of Occupational Therapy, Social Work and Speech Pathology at Curtin University said the project had been hugely successful.

“By working with mentors from their local Men’s Shed who had been trained by occupational therapy and nursing academics from Curtin University and Western Sydney University, these young men boosted their confidence and knowledge of work skills, experienced decreased anxiety, and developed their work routine and work relationships,” Dr Milbourn said.

One of the young men has already secured employment after taking part in the program and many will continue their involvement with their local Men’s Shed because of the relationships and skills they have developed.

With 6 months of experience under their belts and a range of new skills, the men graduated from the program at a special ceremony where they were awarded their certificates by Disability Services Minister, the Honourable Stephen Dawson.

Three videos have been produced showcasing the program and the journey of two participants, Jamie Clements and Declan Prince.

From wheelchair to walking

12 months ago 9 year-old Jaydan was completely dependent on his wheelchair and only just learning to stand independently. Today, he’s walking around the classroom and dancing through his physiotherapy sessions.

Jaydan has complex congenital heart disease, Di George syndrome and chromosomal deletion. This affects Jaydan’s ability to breathe and as a result he has constant oxygen support via nasal prongs or a face mask.

Over his life Jaydan has undergone several corrective surgeries to increase the blood flow between his heart and lungs. With his most recent surgery just last year, Jaydan has been doing intense rehab with his Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist Alix Combe and Physiotherapist, Nicole Massey.

“Jaydan is continuing to do weekly therapy sessions to build his strength and endurance,” said Alix

“He’s now able to walk far enough without his walker that he can deliver his finished work to his teacher for marking. This is a huge milestone for Jaydan. Everyone is very impressed with him.”

Jaydan stands out of his wheelchair with help from his therapist

Pictured: Jaydan and Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist Alix Combe.

Jaydan’s amazing progress in walking independently is largely a result of all his hard work doing his physiotherapy program during the summer holidays.

“Jaydan didn’t have a summer break, he kept on working hard” said Nicole

“In October 2017 Jayden was able to walk 80 meters in 6 minutes with his walker. Jaydan has been extremely motivated to increase his ability to walk further, and after lots of hard work with his therapy team and family, in January 2018 he doubled his previous distance, walking 160 meters in 6 minutes.”

“Jaydan’s favourite thing to do at the moment is to put on his Michael Jackson playlist and show off his dance moves as he walks around the room, a feat that would not have been achievable a year ago.”

Jaydan’s new found independence has been great news for his family too, as he is now completing more daily activities independently.

“His progress with walking has been amazing,” Jemma said.

“School is much easier for him when he’s more mobile. While he’s still got a long way to go, we’re excited to see him continuing to make such amazing progress.”

Pictured: Jaydan and Therapy Focus Physiotherapist Nicole celebrating a successful stair climb. 

Find out more about Therapy Focus comprehensive therapy services, including support the development of movement and mobility. 

David’s breathing easy with speech pathology

As a 7 year-old, David Barker, who has intellectual disability, was non-verbal and showing no progress towards reading and writing milestones.

With communication and daily living a constant struggle, David’s mother Dawn accessed speech pathology services for David through Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist, Danielle Cottam.

“When we started with Danielle she told us it would be a long journey” Dawn said.

“We started slow and gave everything Danielle suggested a try. She worked with us on different communication devices and left us with homework to do between sessions. She also worked closely with David’s school to ensure he was always being supported and challenged to reach his goals.”

When David was 8 years-old he started saying ‘mum’, ‘dad’ and some other basic words. We couldn’t believe the progress he’d made.

David and his Speech Pathologist Danielle

Pictured: David with Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist, Danielle Cottam.

David turns 16 this year and has continued to advance above and beyond expectations.

Now able to read and write, David is undertaking a TAFE course in agriculture through his school and using his holidays to gain important office skills by volunteering with The Good Samaritans.

“David is incredibly motivated to reach his goals,” Danielle said.

“We’ve recently been working on literacy skills and breath support for speech. Improving his diaphragmatic breathing allows him to speak full sentences without pause. On top of this, by focusing on his speech-sound activities with apps and phonological awareness tasks, David has had great improvements in his speech and spelling skills.”

Having watched Danielle and David work together for eight years, Dawn is more confident than ever that her son is headed for a bright future.

“David is now in a position to be enjoying high school and we’re confident that he’s being set up for success when he graduates,” Dawn said.

Danielle isn’t just the Therapy Focus person, she’s like a part of our family. It’s not just David who’s being supported, his progress makes daily living so much easier for our whole family. We’re so thankful for her support, none of this would be possible without her guidance.

For more information about Therapy Focus’ range of services, visit the comprehensive therapy page and the specialist services page

David practising a breathing excercise with his therapist and parents watching on

Pictured: David practising breathing exercises with Speech Pathologist Danielle Cottam while his parents Dawn and Paul watch on. 

Lucas the Karate Kid

9 year-old Lucas Hillbeck is taking on school with a new found confidence after receiving a Therapy Focus GIVE grant to fund his karate lessons.

Lucas has Dyspraxia which causes him difficulty in co-ordination and movement, as well as intellectual disability and severe speech delay, which can make concentrating and communicating in a classroom environment challenging.

Lucas first started karate when his mother, Stephanie thought it would be a good accompaniment to his physiotherapy.

“A few years ago when Lucas was really struggling with gross motor skills and core strength we enrolled him in karate, swimming and dancing,” said Stephanie.

“We found that as well as helping him physically, karate helped him with discipline and his ability to be confident in his communication with others.”

“His progress has been fantastic so we’ve applied to the GIVE program a few times to keep him coming to lessons. I was so excited to find out that our application was successful this time.”

School of Freestyle Martial Arts Instructor Glen Philips explained how the school had been working with Lucas to assist him in his physical and intellectual development.  

“Something we instil in all our students, regardless of ability, is to be confident to communicate verbal commands to those around them when they don’t feel safe, comfortable, or just need more space. The physical practice follows on from there,” said Glen.

“As Lucas learns longer sequences and more complex moves he is learning to increase his concentration and memory, as well as gaining more physical strength. Just like all the other kids here, Lucas is expected to be focusing and showing respect to the best of his ability, at all times.”

With school going back for term one, Lucas is back in the dojo and enjoying karate more than ever.

“Even just from the break over the school holidays we saw a big difference in Lucas’ co-ordination and behaviour,” said Stephanie.

“Now that school is back we’re hoping karate will continue to develop the skills he’s been working hard on.”

Learn more about the Therapy Focus GIVE program  

Boy practising karate kick

Pictured: Nine year-old Lucas Hillbeck with his Karate Instructor  


Small steps make a world of difference

Parents always want the best for their kids, but how do you give them the best when life’s given them a tough start?

When Joanne DeCampo’s 5 year-old daughter Tayla presented with developmental delays and challenging behaviours, Joanne was at a loss as to what to do.

“Tayla wasn’t speaking, struggled with social skills and was only eating a very small variety of foods,” Joanne said.

“She had challenging behaviour and threw a lot of tantrums as she was so frustrated by not being able to communicate her wants and needs.”

With these symptoms front of mind, Joanne decided to have Tayla assessed for autism, which resulted in a diagnosis earlier this year.

Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that affects, among other things, the way an individual relates to his or her environment and their interaction with other people. Other signs to look for include social communication and interaction difficulties, and restricted or repetitive behaviours and interests.

With the diagnosis finally confirmed, Joanne chose Therapy Focus’ South West Team to help Tayla with her speech and occupational therapy.

11 months on, both Joanne and Tayla are over the moon with the progress made, as is Speech Pathologist Heidi Jupp.

“Many people with autism have difficulty initiating and maintaining relationships,” Heidi said.

“Tayla and I work on her social skills in many ways. For example, we often role play using puppets to practice talking to peers and introducing herself.”

As well as working with Heidi, Tayla also receives one-on-one support from Occupational Therapist Rebekah Wallace, who is teaching Tayla strategies to cope better at school and self-regulate her emotions.

After less than a year of therapy, Joanne said she had already seen a huge improvement in Tayla.

“As well as telling me her wants and needs, she can now talk to me about what she’s been doing at school. These might seem like smalls things, but for our family it’s made a world of difference.”

 girl and therapist playing with puppets

Pictured: 5 year-old Tayla with Therapy Focus Speech Pathologist Heidi Jupp

Empowered through dance

A dance program being run across Perth is giving adults of all abilities the opportunity to express themselves through dance whilst growing their confidence and self-esteem.

Dance Inclusion is managed by former support worker Tatam Rosato, who hosts daily classes with up to 60 people with various disabilities putting on their dancing shoes.

Tatam explained how her experience as a support worker inspired her to start the program.

“It’s so important to focus on what people can do, rather than what they can’t,” said Tatam.

“Some of our dancers can’t move independently at all, but even moving with assistance is a sensory experience. It’s exercise and it can but a big smile on their faces.”

“The goal of Dance Inclusion is to enable students to feel empowered and to give the opportunity to express their own unique style of dance in a safe and happy environment.”

One keen dancer is Ross O’Dea. Ross, who receives support from Therapy Focus, has been attending Dance Inclusion classes at Cockburn Youth Centre every week this year.

Ross’s support worker Fiona Conway has been attending the program with him and has seen the positive effects first hand.  

“Every week he has so much fun learning new moves from Tatum and making friends with the other students,” said Fiona.

“It’s a really different and fun way to get involved in the community.”

In a very exciting end to the year for Ross, he was awarded the Dancer of the Year trophy at the class Christmas party.

“Ross has been such a positive addition to the class and worked so hard every week,” said Tatam.

“He’s a very deserving recipient and a great influence on everyone in the class.” 

For more information about the Dance Inclusion program, visit the Facebook page.

dance teacher and support worker with adult client

Pictured: Ross (centre) receiving his award from instructor Tatam Rosato (left) and support worker Fiona Conway (right)

Community art for Disability Awareness Week

In celebration of Disability Awareness Week, Therapy Focus’ Margaret River Team hosted a free art workshop for the local community.

Led by accomplished local artist and disability advocate Stan Meagher, the free workshops welcomed participants of all abilities to come along, learn some new skills and develop their own piece of art.  

Therapy Focus South West Team Leader Danelle Milward explained that the event was a great success in bringing the community together.

“Over the morning we had both kids and adults come through to help us create this really unique piece of art, which will be displayed in our new Margaret River office. It’s going to bring a lot of life and vibrancy to the clinic room.” said Danelle.

“As well as working with Stan, participants worked together to help each other and develop their skills. Through doing this, everyone walked away with a better understanding of what it means to live with disability.”

“Having Stan there was fantastic. During the workshop Stan talked about the process of creating the artwork, and how the process has supported his own rehabilitation.”

Stan, who was paralysed after contracting a rare virus in 2012, has had his art displayed in exhibitions both nationally and overseas.

“I have spent my life pursuing that of a professional artist which has involved me in numerous solo and group exhibitions and many international destinations,” said Stan.

“I’ve also lectured locally at TAFE, mostly in the areas of art education and art therapy.”

“I’m really excited to have been involved with the Margaret River community on this project. It’s something very close to my heart and a piece I’m very proud of.”

Read more about Therapy Focus in the South West.

artist with large canvas artwork

Pictured: Artist Stan Meagher with his piece made for the Margaret River office

Drumming up teen social skills

Therapy Focus’ Drumbeat group is helping teenagers with disabilities connect with one another and develop their social skills through the power of drumming.

Weekly group sessions held at Therapy Focus’ Kwinana office have seen participants use hand drumming combined with behavioural therapeutic principals to achieve their therapy goals.

Group facilitator, Occupational Therapist Shonali Sullivan, explained how the group is helping teens work on a wide range of skills.

“We’ve adapted the highly acclaimed DRUMBEAT Program to give teenagers the opportunity to improve their social networks by developing specific skills such as initiating conversations, understanding social rules and expectations, and maintaining a conversation,” Shonali said.

“The engagement we’ve had from the teenagers and the feedback from parents has been amazing. Over the 10 week program we’ve seen huge improvements in their emotional regulation and self-esteem.”

14 year-old Matthew has autism and experiences anxiety around peer interaction and developing friendships. Mathew’s father Michael said that the Drumbeat group had been a great help to his son in terms of improving in these areas.

“He’s loved Drumbeat since the very first session and looks forward to it every week. He’s interacting with the other teenagers in the group without needing to think twice and is making some great connections.”

“As he’s progressed through the sessions he’s been growing in self-confidence and taking more initiative to interact with those around him.”

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Teenage boy drumming and smiling

Pictured: Matthew Prause taking part in a Drumbeat group session.

Another participant, 18-year-old Lachlan, explained how the group is helping him in his transition from high school.

“Now that I’m not at school any more I don’t have as many opportunities to practice my social skills, which is a big goal my occupational therapist and I have been working on. Drumbeat gives me an opportunity to do that and it’s also really fun,” Lachlan said.

“My goal is to work in the entertainment industry so it’s important that I get more confident in speaking with other people and even doing public speaking.”

With social skills and communication such a pivotal part of being a teenager, Shonali explained that Drumbeat is helping the teenagers on their way to mastering peer interactions.

“Being a young adult brings many challenges, whether it be in high school, employment or any other environment,” Shonali said.

“By taking part in our Drumbreat group it is hoped that the participants will be better equipped to take on challenges, handling them with a new found confidence.”

Drumbeat group session

Pictured: Occupational Therapist Shonali Sullivan (R) facilitating a Drumbeat group session.

New Zealand exchange inspires Therapy Focus staff

In November three Therapy Focus employees travelled to New Zealand as part of an exchange program with partner organisation, Autism NZ.

The group visited branches in Wellington, Hawkes Bay, Taupo, Hamilton, Auckland and Christchurch to learn about the supports available and share knowledge.

In the following Evan Williams, Tessa Leschen and Elena Petropulos reflect on their experiences:

Evan Williams – Regional Manager

It was a great privilege to step away from my busy role, and all the chaos of a rapidly changing disability sector, to connect with people who are trying to get by with a lot less, but who are supported and given hope by some amazing people who really care. 

In New Zealand, people with autism and their families have access to less government funded supports than people in Australia. Funding is generally only able to cater for about 1% of people living with a disability, and this is to cover all disabilities. It is therefore much harder to access supports for early intervention, for specialist support at school and for adults.

It was really inspiring to see how Autism NZ works with so little in terms of funding to make such a big difference in people’s lives. The fantastic education programs and outreach coordination give vital information and help people and their families to connect with others and to find supports.

After two weeks travelling across New Zealand on exchange with Autism NZ, one of my reflections was that the daily challenges, the constant stress of advocating for loved ones, the grief, the frustration as well as the triumphs and joys were universal and had little to do with governments and how much funding there is. 

Those who could receive therapy and other supports highly valued them. The services gave them  strategies, advice and confidence, as well invaluable emotional support. In Perth we have more funding and access to services, but having the right information and good caring people is so important for getting through the difficult times and for celebrating the good times.

Tessa Leschen – Brand Engagement Manager

First and foremost, it was fantastic to see an organisation truly working in partnership with families and communities to ensure positive outcomes for people with autism. As their tagline suggests, Autism NZ vow to take ‘every step together’ by helping families navigate the various funding and support systems, and by linking them with other agencies who offer services for people with autism. In speaking with families, it became apparent that often the greatest support is an ear to listen and a hand to hold. This is the role of Autism NZ’s Outreach Coordinators, who are based at branches throughout the country and provide a source of localised knowledge and information. Their passion and enthusiasm reinforced to me that often the best form of advertising for an organisation is its people. And with limited funding channelled solely into service provision, Autism NZ relies on relationship building with families, government departments and other agencies to ensure its standing.

I was very motivated to learn how Autism NZ are working to increase awareness and understanding of autism in the community by providing education for families, teaching staff and health professionals. Autism NZ’s National Education Manager, Neil Stewart, delivers a range of programs in collaboration with Tanya Catterral, who has a teenage daughter with autism. The use of a parent co-presenter and video case studies that demonstrate key strategies gives credibility and allows participants to really learn and apply. Having seen the level of participant engagement – and having learnt so much myself – I hope to take an active role in developing and implementing programs such as these in WA.

Adding to the impact of the education programs is Autism NZ CEO Dane Dougan’s traction in the media. By weighing in on key issues, Autism NZ strive to be the voice of families of people with autism and bring about positive change in a sector that is in desperate need of more funding.

It was heartening to see an organisation really live its brand and I’m grateful for the inspiration and determination Autism NZ has instilled in me on both a personal and professional level.

Elena Petropulos – Advanced Speech Pathologist

As a clinician, I come across people with disabilities who have low self-esteem or are fearful of failure.

This can be a significant barrier in moving forward to try new things and getting by in day-to-day life.

As part of the exchange program we attended the Framework for Autism in New Zealand (FANZ) workshop facilitated by Tayna Catterall and Neil Stuart that outlines basic principles in having a child on the Autism Spectrum. Tayna and Neil introduced a concept around having a “Proud Book” to support self-esteem. This book is a record of positive things about the person including their personal characteristics and their achievements, whether they be big or small.

It can be made from scrap paper, a notebook or notes programs on a tablet device. This visual reminder is more concrete than words such as “great job” and can be reflected on in the person’s own time. This also allows people to process and make meaning of the messages at their own pace. Proud books are not only for people who are able to read, but for people of all ages and abilities. “Proud Books” can include words and/or images to remind the person of their achievements and of things that they should be proud of.

There are many positive thoughts I have of my clients on a regular basis and I will be writing these down more often in addition to my usual positive passing comments. I will encourage the people I work with, from my colleagues to families and other stakeholders to implement this visual system in the hopes that the people we support have positive self-esteem and are able to grow and reach their full potential.

Therapy focus staff with Autism NZ staff

Pictured: Autism NZ National Educators Neil Stewart and Tanya Carreral with Therapy Focus staff Tessa Leschen, Evan Williams and Elena Petropulos

No more fright in the bite

Like many babies, Anthony Koomen was inquisitively trying a wide variety of foods until he suddenly became very fearful of unfamiliar flavours and textures at 2 years of age .

Ensuring Anthony had proper nutrition became a struggle for his parents as the range of foods he would eat continued to decrease significantly as he got older.

His mother Glenda explained that her son’s anxiety around food made mealtimes increasingly difficult.

“Suddenly he stopped eating things he had previously enjoyed and absolutely wouldn’t tolerate the introduction of any new foods,”  Glenda said.

“It was beyond fussy eating. He would only eat very specific foods, which made getting proper nutrition a daily battle.”

Now 20 years-old and accessing support from Therapy Focus Dietitian Maddie Todd, Anthony is pushing himself to explore new foods.

Maddie explained that, although challenging, a method called desensitisation was already helping Anthony achieve positive results.

“Desensitisation sessions involve gradually introducing a new food or texture in small steps,” Maddie said.

“For example, a person may challenge themselves to just look at a food, then touch it, put it on their plate, smell it, and hopefully progress to a stage where they feel that they can chew and swallow it.”

“In Anthony’s case, he’s now tried more than 10 new foods in our sessions and is continuing his progress independently, taking it upon himself to try new foods in between sessions.”

With eating such a central part of many social activities, Anthony is motivated to get his eating on track so that he can participate in more activities with his friends and family.

“I’ve achieved a lot through the desensitisation sessions and I try to set myself small goals to work on between my sessions with Maddie.”

“I know going out to eat with family and friends can be a lot of fun, and this is something I definitely want to be doing more as I get more comfortable with different foods.”

dietitian sitting with adult client

Pictured: Dietitian Maddie Todd working with Anthony Koomen 

Liam dances up a storm

18 year-old Liam Byrne has taken on the best of the best in hip hop dancing at an international competition in Sydney.

Liam, who has autism, dances with a crew from Joondalup Entertainers Theatre School, where he also works as a student teacher.

Liam’s mum, Debbie, explained that the team earned their place in the National Championships after entering a local competition.

“Liam and the crew entered the WA Battleground competition and placed in the top three, earning themselves a spot in the National Championship in Sydney,” said Debbie.

“Liam was extremely proud and excited about the opportunity, however his diagnosis means he requires additional support to cope with the social and emotional challenges the opportunity presents.”

While fundraising for Liam to go on the team trip, as all other participants did, Debbie successfully applied to Therapy Focus’ Grants for Inclusion, Value and Equality (GIVE) program to fund her own travel to Sydney so that she would be able to support Liam.

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boy and his mother standing on balcony

Pictured: Liam and his mother Debbie

“Liam needs some support and coaching to assist him in his decision making in social situations,” said Debbie.

“He had a great time over the weekend in Sydney. He was making friends with peers the same age as him and having a ball participating in what he’s most passionate about – dancing.”

“As well as competing with his crew, Liam had the opportunity to partake in a workshop with famous dancers Parris Goebel and the Royal Family. Out of the 350 dancers from across Australia and Asia, Liam was chosen to dance with them at the front. He was truly over joyed, I’ve never seen him so happy.”

Jets Principal, Ros, said Liam was a fantastic member of the Jets community.

“Having Liam as both a student and a teacher brings so much joy to the school,” said Ros.

“We’re so thankful and truly thrilled that he was able to join us on this trip.”

Applications for the next round of GIVE funding are currently open. Learn more

Teenage boy teaching a dance class

Pictured: Liam teaching a class of pre-teen dancers at Joondalup Entertainers Theatre School

Therapy helps crash survivor get back to normal life

A man who was flown to Royal Perth Hospital from Margaret River after a large tree branch fell onto his moving car is making an amazing recovery.

On 30 January 28 year-old Andrew Marsh and his partner Anna were driving in a 110km zone when a large tree branch crashed through their windshield.

“The branch caused me to lose consciousness and we crashed into another tree,” said Andrew.

“We were both flown to Royal Perth Hospital.”

While Anna sustained back injuries, it took Andrew over a month to come out of amnesia and several months to recover from his orthopaedic complications.

After three months in hospital, Andrew and Anna were able to go home to Margaret River.

“I was a bit nervous leaving hospital as I knew my recovery still had a long way to go, but I was excited to be back with my family and friends who have given me so much support.”

Needing occupational therapy, speech pathology and psychology services, Andrew chose local therapy provider Therapy Focus to work alongside his medical team on his road to recovery.

Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist John Lees said the team has been working with Andrew to help him return to normal life, including his work as a butcher and fishing with family and friends.

“Initially Andrew received intensive rehabilitation at home and in our Margaret River clinic with the aim of developing skills that would help him return to work,” said John.

“Andrew progressed exceptionally well and is now undertaking supervised work placements at Leeuwin Grass Fed Beef, Augusta Butchering Co and Maggies Fish Shack at Margaret River Farmers Markets where he was working before the accident.”

“He is now in the final stages of intervention and has just recently passed his specialised driving assessment. Throughout the process Andrew has always maintained a very positive outlook and really applied himself to all therapy sessions.”

client and therapist standing behind shop counter

Pictured: Crash survivor Andrew March with Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist John Lees

Team work makes the dream work for Phillip

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 to provide more comprehensive support and referral pathways for people with disability.

For more information about Intelife and their services for school leavers visit

To learn more about how Therapy Focus can support people with disabilities after they leave school, visit our the transitions page or the post school support page. Alternatively, contact us on 1300 135 373.

man sitting with support worker and therapist


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.

Buy the book

Learn more about Therapy Focus’ services

Girl with therapist


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.”

girl and performer playing a drum

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.

children holding their framed artwork

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.”

For more information about NS Projects visit

Learn more about the organisations Therapy Focus partners with.

group of NS Projects staff with boy in wheelchair

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.

Volunteers in the pop up store

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.”

Therapy Focus Occupational Therapist, Sharon Hedley met Zathiyah and her family while delivering services on the Cocos Islands as part of an agreement between Therapy Focus and the Indian Oceans Territories Health Service.

“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.”

family smiling with therapist

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.

girl in wheelchair being assessed by therapists

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.”

Read the full nomination.

Board Award winner Caoibhe Flynn with Therapy Focus Board Chairman Fiona Payne
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.”

People's Choice Award Winner Roisin O'Farrell with Client Ivy Ho and Parent Reference Group member Lainey Bradley
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:

Alix Combe Leona Whiting
Carmel McDougall Lisa Hargraves
Celine Windsor Margaret Ho
Claire Nailer Natascha Muehlberg
Courtney Morey Niamh Fitzmaurice
Danielle Cottam Paresh Gandhi
Edward Drury Ruth Lee
Freya Allen Ruth Leong
Jenny Greensmith Sharon Hedley
Kelsie Davis Shelley Jones
Kym Pascal Siobhan Clery
Laura Martin Stephen Nimmo
Yvonne Chew Victoria Johnson


Ten years of service: 

Dimuthu Samaraweera 
Hayden Long 
Jenine Davis 
Natalie Elias

Service award recipients

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. 

Monica Martin with her artwork

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

Jenny and her occupational therapist working on her lesson plan

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.

Speech Pathologist with Christmas Island primary school students

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.”

For more information about Therapy Focus and the MEAHLS Team call 1300 135 373 or email

Pictured: Antoinette Lim (L) with Therapy Focus MEAHLS Team Leader, Julie Tan (R).

Jennifer takes Year 12 head on

Year 12 student Jennifer Cartwright has been elected Head Girl of Southern Hills Christian College.

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.”

Jennifer Cartwright


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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Two boys hand-balling a football

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

Midvale Football Club All Abilities Team

Pictured: Coach ​Alan Nairn (top row, first from the left)​ with the All-Abilities crew.

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