As I entered through the doors of the Kids Plus clinic, I held the door open for a father and his son. The receptionist greeted them with a bright smile. “Hello, Harvey!” she greeted the child cheerily. This is just an everyday occurrence in this clinic, a family support service for children with physical impairment.
Particularly, many of the children who attend this clinic have cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a general term referring to a group of disorders that affect the way a person moves. It is diagnosed soon after birth and is a permanent condition. Cerebral palsy occurs when a part of the developing brain is damaged. I spoke with Shaun Cannon, Kids Plus Foundation Chief Executive. Kids Plus was founded by a collective of therapists and community members in Geelong who wanted to provider more targeted and specialist therapy support.
In the Geelong community, there was a shortage of services designed to help the families of children with cerebral palsy. This is in contrast with the need for such services, with approximately ten to fifteen children born in Geelong each year with cerebral palsy. The therapy team at Kids Plus provide targeted care and support for children with physical impairments and their families through several therapy programs. The physical therapy focuses on improving the patient’s fine motor movements; speech therapy encourages the kids to develop their communication skills; and occupational therapy is designed to build the child’s everyday skills, such as holding a pen or a knife. Kids Plus also provide music therapy, which encourages the children to improve their coordination and confidence through a creative outlet.
Kids Plus’s approach is aimed at encouraging and maximising independence. Kids Plus support children to practice basic selfcare such as feeding, dressing and going to the toilet. We often take these skills for granted, but for these children, they can be extremely difficult. The therapists help the kids and their families to set goals, identify their skills, and encourage them to achieve those goals and engage with their peers. The aim for these children is to promote their independence to the best of their ability. Kids Plus also provides parents with encouragement and support.
The team at Kids Plus develop deep personal and professional connections with children and their families. Shaun tells me that the resilience and dedication of families to provide the best possible support to their child is always evident. The community surrounding Kids Plus is extremely supportive and as Shaun tells me, people are very generous with their time and donations.
“I’m reminded all the time of the dedication from the team and the families,” Shaun says, “and the generosity of Geelong’s participation and donation.” Big or small, every contribution to the Kids Plus Foundation is important to continuing the work they do. With enough support, the organisation is looking to expand to another facility – a state of the art national therapy centre of excellence, to grow the number of therapists in the team. But most importantly, the Kids Plus foundation is committed to increasing the number of children and families that they can support.
Story written by Steph Downing. Photo of Shaun