How a Team Around the Child Approach Removes Barriers for Children Living with Disabilities
Wow! What an incredible evening at the Australian Disability Service Conference & Awards. We are thrilled to say we won the award for Best Early Intervention Program for the second year in a row for our Team Around the Child approach. We invest heavily in supporting therapists to excel, so it’s lovely to be recognised for that by a really strong panel of our peers and people with disability.
“I was already so proud of our therapists, leaders and support teams for the work they do to improve the lives of kids and families as well as our adult clients. There is a lot of love, warmth, and passion in Therapy Pro and awards or not, everyone keeps turning up every day to get better and make a difference. It’s an honour to be part of.” – Phil Laidlaw, Managing Director.
We have worked with some truly inspiring clients over the years, and Emma’s story is one that stands out to us in our Therapy Pro for Kids service. Today, Emma is a happy six-year-old girl enjoying playing with her siblings and thriving in school. Seeing her now, you wouldn’t know that only a few years ago, Emma was unable to walk independently and required the use of a nasogastric feeding tube.
In late 2018, we received a call from a Nurse Navigator at the Brisbane Hospital. She was desperately seeking a team that could provide a young child with all her therapy supports in one place due to the complex nature of her home environment. Emma, the child, required occupational therapy, physiotherapy, speech therapy and social work to provide support to her in various locations. Due to the complex nature of her home environment, therapy needed to take place in multiple settings such as her home, foster care, and day care.
While Emma had been supported by the NDIS for approximately 18 months, most of the services involved were from different agencies, meaning at one point, the family was engaged with four different service providers as well as five specialist clinics at the hospital. Jasmine, Emma’s mother, reflected on that time and juggling the various appointments saying, “all that ever happens is that people keep telling me what to do”.
With an established mobile Early Childhood Early Intervention (ECEI) team in Brisbane, our team members were able to commence services immediately, under the guidance of an ECEI Lead, who also worked as the Key Worker for the family during the initial period.
Therapy Pro for Kids offers a complete Team Around the Child approach which means – if families need a Key Worker, or an Occupational Therapist, a Speech Pathologist, a Psychologist, a Physiotherapist, Social Worker or a bespoke team of practitioners, they can do so with a sole service provider.
Jodie Dobson, Therapy Pro for Kids Clinical Lead & Occupational Therapist says, “We don’t believe in a ‘one size fits all’ approach, we build a model of service around the child and family that best supports them and their goals.”
As part of our multidisciplinary, wrap-around approach, all four of Emma’s therapists attended the initial visit to meet her and her family. The meeting was held at a local park right near Emma’s parents’ home, so that both Emma’s parents, her foster parent and other key service workers could attend.
“The purpose of our initial meeting and assessment is not to find out ‘how delayed’ a child is or what they can and can’t do; it is to learn and understand what the child likes to do, what makes them laugh, what motivates them and in the same merit, what are the things that frighten them, make them anxious or avoidant of a task,” Jodie says.
Families are supported to identify their child’s strengths and set goals that are most important to them, as a family – this may be going for a family bike ride, visiting the beach for holidays, or eating dinner together. For Emma’s family, their goals centred around having Emma back at home full time and for her to eventually attend kindy. They also wished for her to walk independently and discontinue the use of her feeding tube.
Senior Speech & Language Pathologist Therapist at Therapy Pro, Marta Barake was also part of the team that supported Emma and her family.
“Our initial work with the family was to create a link to all of the services involved in Emma’s life – and give control of the information sharing back to Emma’s mother” says Marta.
In the early days of working with the family, the focus was placed on understanding who was key in Emma’s life from a medical and care point of view, confirming how these people were in contact with Emma’s mum and setting up meetings to talk about her care on a regular basis.
At the time, Emma did not have any appropriate equipment to support her to sit or stand safely, so she needed significant carer support to move her body safely to ensure she was not at risk of injuring herself or getting pressure sores, and more importantly, while eating, was not at risk of choking.
The team worked with agencies such as Inclusion Support to source a supportive chair and table for mealtimes at day care and emergency assistive technology approvals for seating equipment at home for mealtimes.
Therapy Pro’s wrap-around support model goes beyond the therapists involved with a client. It also includes the Client Services team. In Emma’s case, they were able to work with her mother to implement strategies that would help her remember and attend appointments consistently. This commitment to client-centred therapy was recognised when Therapy Pro was awarded the Best Early Intervention Program at the National Australian Disability Service Conference and Awards in both 2021 and 2022.
Phil Laidlaw, Therapy Pro Founder & Managing Director says, “Therapy for kids is something that families will lead. We tap into what’s already going on at home and try to just seamlessly play the best role we can to help and that looks different for each family. Parents want the best possible future for their kids, so every little achievement or gain is a cherished moment. We love our role in that journey, and we celebrate every bit of progress.”
This moment happened for Emma’s mother after her level of engagement with therapy increased slowly over time. Therapy Pro Senior Physiotherapist, Dresden Serna remembers, “Emma would look to her mother for praise, and she would clap and say ‘yay’ and Emma’s face would light up. She would then try and move her body to do the activity on mum’s lap, which was one of the first times we’d seen Emma actively choose to sit near her mother, rather than us. It was a moment we won’t forget easily.”
Nine months after Therapy Pro became involved, Emma was reunited to her home and to her mother’s care full time. This was a massive achievement for Emma and her mother.
Jasmine’s knowledge of her daughter’s disability has grown exponentially, and she is a firm advocate for her in health care and other settings. She is the first to let others know that Emma is non-verbal but can say “yes” or “no” in her own way and is keen to share with care providers the way that Emma likes to be supported. Other social services are no longer involved in the care of the family and have not been for over 18 months.
“We are incredibly proud of Emma and her mother, and the goals they shared with us so long ago – for her to walk, to not have her feeding tube and to go to school which have all been achieved,” says Jodie.
But most importantly, Emma is happy and safe at home with her mother, brother and new baby sister.