What do you do when you have a child with special needs and the nearest support facilities are some 200 km away?
Two mothers in Wongan Hills, WA, were in that predicament. They got together to see what they could do – and set up a practical support programme for families in that situation. It became the Wongan Hills Therapy Group, and grew from an initial involvement of six families five years ago, to around thirty families at present. They come not only from Wongan Hills Shire, but also the surrounding shires.
Their contact person, Heydi de Waal, describes the programme:
Our region has many disadvantaged families who do not have the social or economic means to provide the support that their children require to thrive and reach their potential. Our group formed from the grassroots five years ago, when two local mothers with children with disabilities realised the need for additional support for their children, and decided to do something about it. We currently run a number of programmes and services to support local families. Our main focus is on children who have special needs because of disabilities or disadvantage.
Our Saturday Morning Fun programme involves the families in an intensive educational programme that promotes learning in the areas of speech and language, reading and comprehension, early numeracy, social and emotional development, fine-motor skills, sensory-motor development and basic life skills. The programme provides monthly three-hour sessions throughout the year. Trained local volunteer Therapy Assistants work with children on specific learning and therapy goals as they rotate through a series of six intensive learning stations.
Parents are encouraged and supported to participate in the programme with their children, thus also building up their confidence, knowledge and skill level so they can better support their child’s learning needs at home and at school.
Particularly inspiring is the group’s community outreach, both to reach those in need of the services and those who can support in various ways. Apart from a paid coordinator, the entire programme is run by volunteers.
The Wongan Hills Therapy Group applied to the John Wallis Foundation for funding towards extending the programme to include extra-curricular incursions in the areas of science, environment & sustainability, the arts and basic sports skills in order to supplement student learning in areas which they would not ordinarily have access to. We were delighted to support such an inspiring programme.