My role includes supporting families to help their children achieve their everyday goals, from play and engagement, including developing relationships with others, to self-care challenges such as sleep and being able to dress themselves.
I support families to identify any potential barriers they or their child may be experiencing, and then guide them to build upon their own strengths and develop new skills. It’s important for families to support their child to master skills early in life, because these lay strong foundations to improve their future quality of life.
No two days as an Occupational Therapist are the same! I love what I do because I can be creative, silly and strategic all at once! The child and I may use furniture in the house to find ways to get over a river while fighting off a crocodile! This play scenario will help them to communicate and work with others to solve problems, learn to recognise and feel emotions that arise such as fear and joy and develop their muscle strength all at once! Play is a way for the child to learn skills such as coping with intense emotions so when these arise on the playground the child has practiced what to do!
Working with other health professionals including Speech Therapists, Psychologists and Social Workers is another important aspect of my role. As a team we come together with our different lenses to work with and build skills with each child and their family. This vital collaboration enables us to work holistically and consider all aspects of a child’s life, including their relationships, environment, cognition, language and motor skills.
Working with children in this way is so important as it allows families to identify their child’s particular stage of development and helps them to build up their skill set by setting up a strong foundation for them to learn, develop relationships and form a strong sense of self.
This has been a time of significant change for not only RFW but also for our client families. Prior to COVID-19 we already provided Telecare services to schools and families, so the shift to full time virtual therapy was familiar territory, but where we delivered it to and from has changed, as I now deliver therapy to children in their homes from the computer in my home. It’s been fun helping families to use resources in their homes to be used in therapy to help achieve their children’s goals.
I am originally from Western Australia and have only been in Sydney for 18 months. In WA there is a real gap for families living outside the city. They are often required to travel hours for therapy, and I had one family drive six hours for weekly therapy! I wish I’d known about Telecare back then, but it was this that ignited my passion to bridge the gap and work with country kids.
While new to Sydney I learnt that RFW has a strong voice in rural and remote communities, particularly in NSW, providing outreach services to country communities as well as Telecare, in addition to the Paediatric Developmental Program in Manly. It was this opportunity to explore NSW while working alongside a team of experienced health professionals that inspired me to work with RFW.
The challenges that face people living in rural and remote areas is different to city life. Families don’t have access to as many services, and for some, RFW is the first service that can provide them and their children with support. Working with country families, I have been challenged to think outside the box and be resourceful. I feel great privilege and gratitude in being able to support these families as best as I can. Also, the humour and culture are wonderfully diverse – I learn something new every day from the children I work with!
One family comes to mind! Through our Telecare program this child was able to access Occupational Therapy virtually. She was having a hard time regulating her emotions, impacting her from developing friendships and reducing her confidence and participation in the classroom. I worked with the family to problem solve and identify the reasons and the emotions behind the behaviour they were seeing in their daughter.
A collaborative approach was introduced between home, school and therapy to work towards the same goal. The family and teachers began adjusting the way they interacted with her, talked openly about emotions, and introduced regulation strategies at home and at school. Building on positive relationships with significant people in her life and creating ‘just right’ challenges built her experience of success and self-confidence!
Success stories like these make my work so rewarding.