What is a Whole Class Approach?

TOPIC:Education and schooling

What is a Whole Class Approach? Why do therapists talk about it so much?


Being a teacher in this day and age is hard! There are so many expectations and deadlines and benchmarks to meet, all while trying to nurture and teach the next generation.

A big part of therapy is ’embedding the therapy into everyday life’ and of course this does not just mean at home but also school.

How can therapists expect teachers (who already have so much on their plates) to suddenly understand and support the children in their classes that are accessing therapy?

Good question! Firstly as therapists at Look Hear Australia, there is no expectation of teachers to do this (just for the record).

One thing often talked about is the Whole Class Approach. This is basically taking some of the key elements of the therapy goals and adjusting them to be able to suit the teacher and the class. This means that hopefully (if done well) the teacher is able to embed this ‘therapy’ into their class easily and without added stress.


It is widely known that if therapy can be embedded into everyday life, that there are many more positive outcomes for the child compared to a weekly therapy session. If parents can do some therapy at home (post on this coming soon!) as well as some things at school, the child is getting indicental therapy that doesn’t feel like ‘work’ and is in ‘real life’ and not an artificial environment of a therapy room.

Kids also spend a good chunk of their time at school so it makes sense to have some therapy there (HOWEVER – that doesn’t need to be at the expense of the WONDERFUL teachers sanity!!).



So – how do can this been done as ‘whole class approach’?

** Please note, this section on ‘how’ is designed for teachers

(Feel free to point your child’s teacher to this post if you have talked about Whole Class Approaches and they aren’t sure what you mean)

Key Tips for Teachers wanting to adopt a Whole Class Approach:

  • Firstly – do what you can. You don’t have to do every single thing that is recommended in the therapists’ report. Anything that you can incorporate will be beneficial and no doubt you have already added some similar things that have been recommended into your day already. Also it doesn’t have to be every single thing every single day.
  • Take the things that work for everyone. Often therapists will recommend things like “movement breaks” – this could be a game of “Simon Says” for the whole class as a transition between tasks. Or simply a full class toilet break (which you are probably already doing, hence no need to add to much more in).
  • Visuals work for everyone (think traffic signs) and there are LOADS of free ones that can printed and used straight away. Take a look at our Visuals page if you have been told to use visuals. Sometime therapists are able to help out here by providing visuals they can email or print for you.
  • Use the ideas that are working for your class. You might trial “Simon Says” and find there is just fights into lunchtime about who won. In which case maybe a dance video on the smart board might be more suitable.
  • Sending children who need more movement or sensory breaks on “errands”, children who may need more breaks that you can provide as a whole class might be the child to take the tuckshop bag up or take some books back to the library. These tasks can be a good way of children having a break in a socially acceptable way (even if you don’t need library books) as it is less obvious and enables you to continue to teach the rest of the class.
  • Adaptive equipment. Sometimes therapists recommend pencil grips, specialized seating and other equipment (normally with a sensory based adjustment in mind). To make this a Whole Class Approach you might have different “equipment” (cool pencils etc) available to the rest of the class.


It is ideal to have some therapy embedded into the class day, however this needs to be throughout as to not add extra work or stress to the teachers. You can also look at our Education and Schooling page by clinking on the link.


Take a  look at the Inclusive Schools Network website at they talk a lot about the advantages of inclusive teaching.

Together We Learn Better: Inclusive Schools Benefit All Children

The journey to becoming an Inclusive School may be long and challenging at times, but ultimately this journey can strengthen a school community and benefitALL children. “Inclusion” does not simply mean the placement of students with disabilities in general education classes.

Why do Therapists give me home programs?


Why are therapists family focused? Do we have to be involved? Are home programs that important?


Therapists talk about being “family centered” or “family focused” all the time. What does it mean? Why are therapists family focused?

And why do I as a parent, keep getting homework from my therapist? I thought going to therapy was enough? Aren’t they meant to do it all?


We know that children learn the best from their parents (and research tells us this!). That is because they love their parents and their parents love them (we call this secure attachment). When a child falls over, they want to run to their Mum or Dad to get reassurance about the world.

When accessing therapy, it is better for the therapist to teach the Mum or the Dad (or caregivers) how to do the intervention as the child learns faster and better from them (rather than the therapist).

This means that families get a better quality therapy and goal outcomes (because the little ones are learning faster and better off Mum and Dad) but also more value for money as they are able to take bits and pieces and add them into their daily life at home (which means therapy continues more than just in the session).

Sometimes parents can get caught up on having to do ‘everything’ when it comes to therapy home programs. While doing everything prescribed is awesome, even just focusing on one or two things will still be beneficial (as kids learn best of Mum and Dad). It is important that you don’t burn out, especially if you are seeing more than one professional, where you might be getting more than one program.

Home programs are basically the therapy homework that families get given to work on at home (because kids learn best off Mum and Dad).


If your therapist is giving you homework – ask what is the most important element is to work on and focus on that.

Just be involved in therapy! Ask questions and make sure you understand what they want you to work on for that week or coming months.

And of course loving and enjoying and playing with your child (whether they have additional needs or not) will improve their development!!


Who can help?

GPs, teachers, child care staff, other parents, OTs, Speechies, Psychologists, community nurses.


Love your child, play with them!



Sleep Week 2019! How to promote sleep in my child?

Why is Sleep important?


Sleep is just as important as food, shelter and safety.

It allows the brain to recharge and the body to regenerate.

Healthy sleep allows people to function at optimal alertness.

Healthy sleep requires:

  • Sufficient amount (time)
  • Uninterrupted (quality)
  • Natural sleep cycle (circadian rhythm)
  • Age-appropriate naps

Children need sleep to be able to:

  • Remember what they learn
  • Pay attention and concentrate
  • Solve problems and think of new ideas
  • Grow muscle, bones and skin
  • Repair damage and injuries
  • Fight sickness

For Children – different ages need different amounts:

  • Babies – 12-15 hours throughout the day and night
  • Toddlers – 11-14 hours/day
  • Young children – 10-13 hours/day
  • Older children – 9-11 hours/day

How to promote healthy sleeping habits in my child?

  • You will need to be consistent bedtime routine (bath, teeth, story, cuddle for whatever works for you family)
  • Consistent wake up time for children with enough time to ‘wake up’ before placing demands (getting ready for school)
  • Ensure that there is a consistent bed time
  • Enough physical activity and outside time during the day
  • Reduced screen time before bed (usually no screens within 2 hours of the bed time routine starting)
  • Enough fruit, veggies and water throughout the day
  • Dark and cosy room and space that promotes sleep and staying sleep
  • Modelling the importance of sleep as a family, ensuring that you too are following some/all of these suggestions shows kids the importance that Mums, Dads and Caregivers put on sleep too!


If your child is having difficulty sleeping, a Psychologist or Occupational Therapist may be able to help.

For more information and further resources that might be able to help – LHA Sleep Page and  Sleep Council


Child Mental Health Week 2019: Using Sensory Processing to look after my Mental Health  


How can I use my senses and sensory processing to look after my mental health?


According to Sutton and Nicholson (2011), sensory-based treatment has been identified as an effective treatment approach for clients who are distressed, anxious, agitated, or potentially aggressive and as an alternative for more coercive actions; they also determined that sensory modulation approaches are particularly helpful for people with trauma histories, PTSD, and self-harming behaviours.Mental Health

Scanlan and Novak (2015) did a scoping review (summary of new research areas) regarding sensory approaches; a total of 17 studies were included in the final review. A range of sensory approaches were evaluated. In general, service users reported they were useful for self-management of distress. Positive outcomes demonstrated that adopting sensory approaches may help reduce behavioural disturbances, empower staff and consumers to build positive relationships and provide simple positive and inexpensive strategies that can be used post discharge.


Alerting Activities;  are the activities that help prepare our brains and body for productivety by ‘waking up’ our bodies sensory systems.

Calming Activities; these activities are aimed calming the body’s sensory system by being centred and ready for learning/productivity.


    • A warm bath (calming)
    • A big hug (calming)
    • Sequin pillows (calming)
    • Velvet (calming/alerting)


    • A sour sweet (alerting)
    • Chewing gum (calming)
    • Something crunchy (calming)
    • Something cold (alerting)


    • Aromatherapy (calming/alerting)
    • Vanilla and Lavender (usually calming for most)
    • Peppermint (usually alerting for most people)
    • Choosing a shower gel that you like (depending on the smell – calming and alerting)


    • Listening to calming music (calming)
    • Listening to rock music (alerting)
    • Quiet time or space (calming)


    • Watching a sunrise (usually calming)
    • Watching fish swimming (usually calming)
    • Lots of flashing lights or colours (alerting)


    • Going for a run (calming)
    • Rocking in rocking chair (calming)
    • Big breath out – blowing bubbles out (calming)
    • Jumping and spinning (alerting)


    • Spinning (alerting)
    • Swinging (calming)
    • Rocking in a rocking chair (calming)
    • Jumping and crashing (alerting)

Further Information:

Moore, K. (2016). Following the evidence: Sensory approaches in mental health http://www.sensoryconnectionprogram.com/sensory_treatment.php

Key Tips:

  • Find what works for you
  • Check out our page on Mental Health here!

mental health


Liena – Hope for Boro Village

Whilst in Botswana, we met a young girl named Leina. Leina is 3 years old who lives in a small village in the Okavango Delta with her parents, grandparents and siblings. She was initially introduced to us as “the disabled child of the village” as she was unable to walk due to what appeared to be a congenital foot malformation. Leina’s movements around her house and village were restricted by walking on her knees, and there was significant muscle atrophy in her calves.

We spoke to the local guide and asked him if it would be appropriate to offer our assistance and take a look at Leina and her legs. Once consent was gained from her parents and Leina herself (through the local guide translating and explaining what we wanted to do), it was established that there is a good chance she may be able to walk with the support of appropriate equipment.

The Village and Leina’s family taking in what was being discussed.

Leina’s parents, the local guide and our tour guide all requested any help we could offer. It was explained to us lots of tour groups drop off sweets and books but this does not help her to move about like her siblings and peers. In discussion with the group and Leina’s parents, it was agreed that equipment could be utilised to support Leina walk and interact more with her peers. Given the terrain and availability of resources (not just physical resources, but also the ability to monitor her progress and ensure that she was safe with whichever equipment was provided), the most appropriate piece of equipment would be a walking frame. We have had previous experience building a wheelchair out of piping and we explained that with a trip to the local hardware store we should be able to whip something up in the afternoon.

A lovely project we completed over the… – Look Hear Australia & Look Hear Global – Clinical Services

A lovely project we completed over the holidays!! We are pleased to report Tyler is doing well and walking more unassisted!!

The wheelchair we made out of piping previously.

We were able to source shin pads to protect her knees while she is learning to walk (as walking on her knees is her current mode of moving around), and were able to build a walking frame out of copper piping. What was special was that it was not just one person helping, but everyone wanted to be involved. The tour guide arranged the materials, the tour group purchased the materials, the camp site management organised two workers to cut and weld, as well as transport to and from the village, and the village got behind and were supporting the family. It really does take a village to raise, and support, a child.

The Shin Pads

As a group we decided from the beginning that we did not want to just support Leina and her village for one day. Our overall goal is for Leina to be able to access education with her peers. We hope that we can continue to be involved with Leina and her community, and support the whole village in their journey.

The building…

You can find out more about Hope for Boro here.

You can support Liena here.

On The Go Tours, who we toured through have shared Leina’s story here.

How we choose the websites we feature….


How we choose the websites we feature


It is important for us to be transparent about how we are choosing our websites – it’s also important for our community to know how we do this.


There are several key things we ask ourselves when we chose a website. They can been seen in this chart here:

Firstly, and most importantly, we must have had personal experience with the website or product. That could be us as a LHA team or any of our contributors. It has to be a resource that either ourselves as a team or our contributors have used, read, trialled first-hand, as well as something that we think will be useful to other families or professionals.  

We want to ensure the resources are evidence-based, however we also know there are lots of treatments and services that have less of an evidence base that have worked for others. We want to feature them but, of course, we are always transparent. This could be around the limited evidence or that we advise caution when looking into those resources – however we don’t want to discount them completely.

We, of course, we will never be taking money to have websites featured on our page – we make our money in other ways (namely treating children face-to-face – also Amazon Affiliate marketing etc), and LHA is not a paid library (and never will be).

Our How and Why – The Reasons Behind an Online Library

Topic: The reasons behind an online library – Why Look Hear Australia? 

Why did you start LHA?

I want it to be a long-term resource that I can use for my therapy, so I don’t have to send stuff to families or create things for families all the time. I want to empower families to do that for themselves and I want these resources to be available for therapists who are time poor.

How did you decide on a blog/website?

I also want it to be online or cloud so I don’t have to have all these resources on my computer – I can have an iPad or tablet for work, as then all the resources are available to me wherever I am.

Who are you writing a blog for?

Myself, other professionals and families. I am writing it and hosting it so it is a place for parents and professionals to get bite-sized, high quality information and then be able to point them in the right direction for more (expert) information.  

What types of values and beliefs do your audience have?

    • Professionals; valuing the child and family as unit and being family-centred.
    • Parents and Professionals; a want for high quality information that is easy to read and understand.
    • Parents; curious about their child and wanting to know more.

Who are your audience?

    • Parents
    • Professionals – Allied Health
    • Teachers
    • The wider community

What style of Blog did you want?


    • Easy to read
    • Simple and clear
    • Expert and evidence-based

Don’t want:

    • Wordy
    • Heavy
    • Hard to read
    • Selling things – pushy

Further information:

Find out more about us on our about us page here!

Parents: What is the difference between a melt down and a tantrum?

What is the difference between a meltdown and a tantrum?


This is a tricky question! Every child has tantrums – it is actually an important part of typical development.

Children with disabilities can sometimes have meltdowns; a full “computer shut down and restart”. This can happen for many reasons that can be sensory-, communication- or emotionally-based. The reasons will be different for each child.

It can be tricky to work out what types of behaviours are “tantrum” and which are “meltdown” based.


  • Child is usually telling you what they want e.g. “I want an ice cream”.
  • Child will stop crying/hitting/screaming when they get what they want.
  • Child looks and checks you are watching them.
  • behaviour Child keeps themselves safe during.


  • Child is not communicating at all e.g. no words, pointing etc.
  • Child does not stop when problem is fixed.
  • Child does not check that you are watching them e.g. they are in their own world.
  • Child may not be concerned by their safety e.g. head banging.
  • Child only stops when they have “calmed down” or “worn themselves out”.


  • Hitting, screaming, biting, crying, kicking.

Check out at Behavior Page here and our blog post on looking after yourself as a parent here

Why we are an Amazon Affiliate….


Everyone loves Amazon! And we do too!
look hear

Why is LHA an Amazon Affiliate?

We are Amazon Affiliate Marketers, meaning we can link to a product directly from Amazon, and if someone buys it, we get a percentage of that purchase.


    • Helps us keep our costs down
    • Helps us run the website for free
  • If you are ready to buy immediately – it is easy, especially if you use Amazon already!


  • If you are ready to purchase one of the products or books we recommend, you can just click on the Amazon link and it will take you directly to Amazon!
    • Its the second link/picture you can click on – as seen below!
    • Then purchase the item, and wait for it to arrive.
  • At the end of every month, Amazon send us a small kick back from the people we have referred.



    • At LHA we are still only recommending items and books that we or our collaborators have had direct personal experience with.
    • We will always link to the original publisher first.
    • LHA promises we will never be bombarding you with “buy this here now!” from Amazon.
  • Also it makes it easy for parents and professionals as they can add to their basket immediately, after reading about it on LHA.

You can find more about Amazon Marketing here 

App Review: Why we love Theratrak!

TOPIC: Why we love Theratrak!

We have been lucky enough to know Laura Simmons from Theratrak since the beta stages of the app.

She has worked incredibly hard to develop an app focused on easy, user friendly home programs for parents and professionals; and I must say, she has done a stella job.

Laura is going to change the world with her app! We are so glad we have been on this journey with her, and can’t wait to see what else she does!! 

8 Things we love about Theratrak:

  1. It’s instant. You can do it in session, take photos of the kids doing the exercise and it just happens right there and then. There is no extra work that has to happen behind the scenes or when you leave the session.
  2. Theratrak is individualised. Each child and their family has an individual program with photos of themselves – not of some image off google. Making treatment programs individualised is something we do really well at OTs and I am glad Laura hasn’t lost this in her app.
  3. It’s secure. It is a really safe and confidential app. The app is password protected and all the photos are not stored on your phone, only within the app. Parents can have a login in to view the program, as you do as a health professional.
  4. It works on your smart phone. It is portable and easy to use, so you don’t need to do any extra paperwork as it all can be done right there in the session.
  5. It’s made by one of us – not a tech giant trying to solve a problem they know nothing about. Laura has really through this out and has done a fantastic job to boot!
  6. It supports families that are  far away. Therapists can easily update the program so that families don’t need to travel into therapy every week.
  7. It allows you to add your own activities. There are a tonne of ‘tried and true’ OT activities, but it is really easy and simple to add your own activities! I have added 11 of mine this week and it is so fast and simple. This helps you to keep things fresh and for home programs not to get stale.
  8. Families have a really clear idea of when/how long for/ and what to do. All the feedback I have been getting from using this app in my practice has been positive – and if it hasn’t, I have fed this back to Laura and her team and she is able to add it to the list of things for the next update!!

Final Thoughts:

This app has changed. our. lives. It makes home programs so much easier for everyone, and while I know there are plenty more updates to come, this app will only get better and better.

Further Information:

You can find more about Laura and her team here.


Book Review: Retro Toddler – Anne Zachry: Everything Retro Is Cool Again!!

We reviewed Retro Toddler for Anne! See what we thought about it below!!

Book: Zachry, A. H. (2018). Retro Toddler: More Than 100 Old-School Activities to Boost Development.book review

First Impressions:

    • One thing I enjoyed about this book was that it was clear and easy to read. The layout really lends itself to this; it does not feel like you are reading a textbook.
    • I love the alternating ‘he’ and ‘she’ throughout the book, which is something I would never have thought to do, but a great way to manage gender bias.
    • There is a clear vibe from the book about getting down on the floor and playing with your child – it doesn’t have to be expensive or have ‘all the bells and whistles’. There is a real focus throughout this book to get back to basics, which I love! Parents can be under so much pressure these days to ‘promote’ development, and this book is a lovely reminder for therapists and families alike that “promoting development” doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated.

Information Station:information station

    • There is some great information about childhood development and what to expect for each age group; something parents ask about a lot.
    • Anne explains brain development clearly and in a way that is easy to read for families and parents. This helps set the scene on why she focuses on different skill sets that children develop. Understanding brain development is helpful for families to understand why a toddler might be doing certain things at certain times.
    • I really enjoyed the chapter on play. It was well explained and talks about all things we know as therapists but often forget to communicate to our families. I will be marking this chapter and asking a few of my families to read over it. We often talk about ‘play being the child’s work’, and it is the way children learn and develop their skills.
    • Play is not just running around; it is the creating, making, enjoying, thinking, pretending, imagining, reading, building, playing with each other, drawing, and moving that children do with their time.
    • Anne explains play in much more detail, why it is important, how to do it, activities that are playful and work on specific skills and things that impact play.


    • My key highlight I took from this book was the clear reminder just to get on the floor and play with our children. It doesn’t have to be expensive or fancy, and in fact it is better (for them) when it is not!
    • I also loved the chapter about screen time – always a timely reminder. This is something we talk often about with the families we work with and to have the evidence written out so clearly is a massive help for families and therapists alike.
    • The information about how praise influences a growth mindset was eye opening and something I will be changing tomorrow in my next therapy session.
    • I also love the glossary at the end, as it is super handy and clear to refer back to as a non-therapist.


  • It would have been great to have a few more pictures of the activities, if nothing more to reassure parents (and therapists!) that it these toys and creations do not need to be ‘pinterest’ perfect.

Where to get it:

  • Amazon; for about £15 or  $15

Closing Comments:

    • I loved this book, and it was a pleasure to review it for Anne; I can’t wait for her next book!
    • The important reminder about having fun, playing with your child, using what is around you was something I really connected with. 
    • We can get distracted with all these fancy toy, tablets and games, whereas, in reality, what our children actually need is us; playing with them, at home and in the community with what’s around us. I loved how Anne highlights everyday learning opportunities for parents.
    • The chapters relating to play and screen time were so well written and clear. This will be a key chapter I will be referring parents to immediately.


  • 4.5/5 

Check out our website on play here! 

Making it easy – How to build fine motor skills?

In Honor of RCOT 2018 and the focus on children and young people – we thought it would be the perfect time to touch base about fine motor skills!

How to Build Fine Motor Skills in Children

fine motor

Fine motor skills are the small movements, made predominately by our hands, that help us to manipulate objects and explore.

Children need to develop fine motor skills to help them to interact and engage with the world, as well as prepare for schooling (writing, painting, cooking, cutting).

Ideas to help develop fine motor skills:

  • Drawing with chalk on the concrete
  • Using play-dough and cutting with cutter
  • Writing letters shaving foam or sand
  • Using Lego to build shapes and letters
  • Cutting out magazines pictures
  • Eating finger foods
  • Playing musical instruments together
  • Helping out with house hold jobs e.g. hanging out the washing, sweeping
  • Playing with toys that have buttons
  • Using the child’s interests to write about or colour in

What makes it easier?

  • Playing together with Mum and Dadresources
  • Using big crayons, brushes, markers or chalk ensures children use the right muscles for the activity and are less likely to adopt incorrect grasps
  • Use thick outlines for colouring sheets
  • Smaller pieces of paper to cut
  • Do lots of activities that involve using both hands together

Further Information:

Fine Motor Page 

Resources related to Fine Motor 

Parents: Looking After Yourself as a Parent


Looking after yourself as a parent!



We often talk about parents needing to look after themselves, but why is it so important? Firstly when we have healthy and happy Mums and Dads it is much easier to have happy and healthy
children. Further, we know from the evidence that parents of children with additional needs are more likely to have mental and physical ill health than their peers with children who are within typical ranges.

We use the Oxygen Mask analogy at LHA, parents need to put their mask on first. That way even if the child is in crisis, Mums and Dad’s are more able to respond to it as they are well. If they put the child’s mask on first and not their own, and then the child is in crisis; everyone is in a rather big pickle!

It is easy to say ‘look after yourself’ but much much harder to actually do it!


Thinking about who can help can be challenging; we often say to parents to keep it simple. Further, where possible see what you can outsource to help you create more time for you.

Ideas of people to help outsource jobs include:

  • Online Shopping – make use of the “lists” functions for your regular shops, and work the deals so you can get free delivery. We find as a family this really cuts out time otherwise travelling to and from and completing the grocery shop. It also helps us to be more organised with meal preparation.
  • Cleaners – if you are able to outsource this, its amazing! If not, thinking about ways you can blitz clean to create more time; we do the bathroom before or after a shower, ensure the dishwasher is emptied first thing in the morning so it can be loaded throughout the day and then put on, we use a hand held vacuum to do regular spot cleans. Some families we work with have robot vacuums – a great idea if that will work for your family and budgets!
  • Babysitters – Having a regular slot once a month or every 2 months with a babysitter that is familiar with your child and their needs is a great way to create time. We often encourage families to set this up (even if it is with family or friends); sometimes just knowing you have a night off is enough to get you through!
  • Respite and support services – depending on your child’s levels of need you may be eligible for various community supports as their carers. Make sure you are aware of what is available to you in your area (your health care professional will know about this or will know who to ask!)


  • Easier said that done
  • Making or taking 10 mins every day just for you (even if it is taking a shower, finishing a cup of tea before it goes cold)
  • Outsource what you can, use that extra time for you (not for other life admin work!)
  • You need to be healthy (mentally and physically) to be the best parent for your child; this is true for every child and every parent.




Touch base with your support networks, but find out blog post about relaxation here.

You can also take a look at the Raising Children’s Network families page here.


Why do therapists want me to use visuals at home?


Why do therapists what me to use visual and visuals*  at home??

*We mean visuals as pictures, photos or symbols of something or someone.


Visuals are a great way to explain to someone what is happening or going to happen. They also don’t require verbal language to understand them (think road signs or signs in airports).

Having visuals help children to know what is expected of them and what is coming next. We love visual information because it doesn’t change and our brains actually process the information differently from sound, touch, smell, movement, balance and taste (which can all be scary). Visual information goes straight to our thinking part of our brain – making it easier for children to understand it.

Visual information does change and isn’t scary – so it is perfect to use at home for chores, expectations or explaining to a child what is happening next.


Head over to our visuals page here, and take a look at all the free visuals online. All you need is a printer (and laminator if you like), and some options (such as ASD Visuals or Busy Kids) mean you can pay a little extra and they come ready to use.


Who can help?

GPs, teachers, child care staff, other parents, OTs, Speechies, Psychologists, community nurses can all point you the right direction when it comes to use of visuals.


There is some time to set it up, but once set up they are fantastic!

Take a look at our page with loads of link to FREE visuals here!! Our link to social stories and what to do stories (which links so well to the use of visuals is found here)


Visuals – why we love them (and the evidence)

VISUALS visuals

This month the review of the evidence is all about our favourite resource in the world – VISUALS!!

There is a large body of evidence linking cognitive and physical disabilities with externalising problematic behaviours (Visser et al., 2015; Artemyeva, 2016; Giltaij, Sterkenburg & Schuengel, 2015; Poppes et al., 2016).

In particular, the literature suggests that problematic behaviour in children with disabilities is related to deficits in receptive and expressive communication (Murphy, Faulkner & Farley, 2014; Ronen, 2001; Ketelaars et al., 2010; Conti-Ramsden & Botting, 2004).


Outcomes of problematic behaviour can include victimisation, development of poor peer relationships and long term difficulties with employment and romantic relationships (Murphy, Faulkner & Farley, 2014; Whitehouse et al., 2009).

As such, it is imperative to develop augmentative and alternative communication techniques to increase engagement in, and outcomes of, communication.

A review of the available literature shows the efficacy of using icons and pictures to aid in communication for children with additional needs (Flippin, Reszka & Watson, 2010; Hartley & Allen, 2015), particularly in the effectiveness of visual aids over text and words (Dewan, 2015).

Pooley and Berg (2012) report that “simple graphics can be rapidly communicated, processed and transmitted within a large and culturally diverse constituency” (p.361), and as such icons have the ability to be utilised across multiple domains.

Pictorial devices are already being used in classrooms, and there is good evidence for the effectiveness of these systems, such as PECS, in schools (Flippin, Reszka & Watson, 2010; Lerna et al., 2012).

In addition to this, augmentative and alternative communication for children with additional needs, including the use of visual aids, has been shown to effectively address challenging behaviour, improve communication and increase positive outcomes related to social learning, peer relationships and academic results (Walker & Snell, 2013; Hines & Simonsen, 2008; Ganz, Parker & Benson, 2009; Lerna et al., 2012).



Take a look at our page on visuals (where you can get LOADS of free visuals) here.


Relaxation – What is the evidence?


This month the review of the evidence is all about something to follow on from the bullying update – Relaxation. You can check out all things Mental Health on our page here!

All children worry. Researchers have suggested that this worry is in part due to the fact that childhood is full of “firsts”, doing a lot of things for the first time (Hallowell, 2011). While some worries are


developmentally appropriate, for example being away from parents (relates to safety) or not having friends (relates to sociability), other anxieties get in the way of children functioning across different areas (school, home, etc.). As such, it is important for children to develop coping skills to manage their worries.

Broadly, stress management techniques have been found to be beneficial. In particular, there is evidence to indicate that strategies like yoga, breathing techniques, relaxation response techniques, and sensorimotor awareness activities can improve psychosocial well-being, self-regulations, self-esteem, behaviour and cognition (Dacey, Mack & Fiore, 2016; Gard, et al. 2012; Bothe, Grignon & Olness, 2014).

Below is a list of stress management techniques children can try:

Physical Strategies

· Tense and release muscles / guided muscle relaxation

· Massage

· Exercise

· Playing sport

· Yoga

Psychological Strategies

· Grounding

· Visualisation

· Coping statements

· Meditation

· Distraction

· Redirection


Take a look at Relax Kids here. They have a great portal that you can access for learning about and teaching relaxation.


Bothe, D. A., Grignon, J. B., & Olness, K. N. (2014). The effects of a stress management intervention in elementary school children. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, 35(1), 62-67.

Broderick, P., & Metz, S., (2009). Learning to BREATHE: A pilot trial of a mindfulness curriculum for adolescents. Advances in School Mental Health Promotion, 2(1), 35-46.

Dacey, J. S., Mack, M. D. & Fiore, L. B. (2016). Your Anxious Child: How Parents and Teachers Can Relieve Anxiety in Children (2nd Ed.). New York, ny; John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Gard, T., Brach, N., Holzel, B.K., Noggle, J.J., Conboy. L.A., & Lazar, S.W. (2012). Effects of a yoga based intervention for young adults on quality of life and perceived stress: The potential mediating roles of mindfulness and self-compassion. Journal of Positive Psychology, 7(3).

Hallowell, E. M. (2011). Worry: Hope and Help for a Common Condition. Random House Publishing Group

Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Winton, A. S., Karazsia, B. T., Myers, R. E., Latham, L. L., & Singh, J. (2014). Mindfulness-based positive behavior support (MBPBS) for mothers of adolescents with autism spectrum disorder: Effects on adolescents’ behavior and parental stress. Mindfulness, 5(6), 646-657.

Weaver, L. L., & Darragh, A. R. (2015). Systematic Review of Yoga Interventions for Anxiety Reduction Among Children and Adolescents. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 69(6), 6906180070p1-6906180070p9.

Why are therapists family focused?


Why are therapists family focused? Why do we have to be involved?


Therapists talk about being “family centered” or “family focused” all the time. What does it mean? Why are therapists family focused?



We know that children learn the best off their parents. That is because they love their parents and their parents love them (we call this secure attachment). When a child falls over, they want to run to their Mum or Dad to get reassurance about the world.

When accessing therapy, it is better for the therapist to teach the Mum or the Dad how to do the intervention as the child learns faster and better off them (rather than the therapist). This means that families get a better quality therapy and goal outcomes (because the little ones are learning faster and better off Mum and Dad) but also more value for money as they are able to take bits and pieces and add them into their daily life at home (which means therapy continues more than just in the session).

Sometimes parents can get caught up on having to do ‘everything’ when it comes to therapy home programs. While doing everything prescribed is awesome, even just focusing on one or two things will still be beneficial (as kids learn best of Mum and Dad).



Just be involved in therapy! Ask your therapist about the one or two things they would like to you focus on between sessions.

And of course loving, enjoying and playing with your child (whether they have additional needs or not) will improve their development!!



Who can help?

GPs, teachers, child care staff, other parents, OTs, Speechies, Psychologists, community nurses.


Love your child, play with them!


Why does therapy cost so much?


Why does therapy cost so much?


Therapy is expensive! Depending on your child’s needs and who you see for how long, it can add up.

Therapy is denfined as “treatment to relieve or heal a disorder”. When we talk about therapy at LHA we are normally referring to Occupational Therapy, Speech Language Pathology, Psychology, Physiotherapy and other allied health services.


Allied health professionals, such as Occupational Therapists, Psychologists, Speech Language Pathologists, Physiotherapists and many others, complete significant training. They complete  university degrees, normally 4 to 7 years in duration. Some professionals complete Masters or Doctoral Degrees, for example Advanced Therapists and Clinical Psychologists.

After they complete their studies they have to (depending on their regulatory bodies) complete minimum training (normally 30 hours per year). This is ongoing for the rest of their careers to keep up to date with current knowledge. This is normally partly at their own cost, and partly at the cost of their employer.

Often, therapists have their own professional indemnity insurance, which is for the duration of their career.

In most countries, titles such as “Occupational Therapist” are known as protected titles – meaning that not just anyone can call themselves an “Occupational Therapist”. Further, they are registered with a regulatory body which is an annual membership, which depending on the profession can be up to more than $1000 (per year).

In addition to all of the above, most therapists have a collection of their own personal resources that they have either made in their own time or have purchased themselves. Depending on where they work, they may or may not have access to high quality resources.

Of course this doesn’t include any costs of having a building, if the therapist practices privately.


How can I make therapy more affordable?

  • In Australia, there are various Medicare options that you may be eligible for including Primary Care Plans (5 visits per year per person), Mental Health Plans (up to 10 visits per person per year) as well as others.
  • Talk to your GP about what you may be eligible for, as well as what your local allied health provides, as some may bulk bill or their may be gap fees.
  • Talk to your private health insurance as some cover allied health therapy – depending on what is needed and how long for.
  • There is also a range of funding available including NDIS, HCWA and Better Start. Talk to you GP or Allied health professional for more information.


Therapy is expensive, however when accessing Evidenced Based therapy there is a high likelihood that there will be some improvement. This does depend on your child, the frequency you are accessing and the type of therapy you are accessing.


Take a look at the NDIS website which has a pricing guideline. Please note this is only relevant for NDIS providers and is added as a guide only.

NDIS Website

Also take a look at our blog post – When to ask for help? if you are unsure if you need to access therapy.

When to ask for help?


When to ask for help?help


It can be hard to know what is ‘typical’ for children and what is ‘expected’ and ‘unexpected’. How are parents meant to know when something isn’t ‘normal’? Of course there is no hard and fast rule though there are some tips that might help.


  • Have regular contact with your GP or community nurse. They are often the first professionals families access and they have a good idea of what is ‘typical’ for children. Also if they know your child well they will also know what is ‘typical’ and ‘expected’ for your child.
  • Talk to other Mums and Dads and ask if they are/ are not having trouble with the areas you are. For example, lots of kids go through terrible twos and might not want to do things, however not all kids become inconsolable at the shops (everytime).
  • Talk to your child’s teacher or child care staff, as they are a great source of information and they are able to see your child in the context of their peers.
  • If you are worried it is better to ask for help. You know your child best.


If you are worried, it is important to follow some of those tips above or contact your health care professional. If they reassure you, great and if not they can point you in the right direction or help you to unpack what is happening/ not happening further.

Parents know their children best, so if you are concerned it is important that you talk to someone, as you know what is ‘typical’ for your child.


Who can help?

GPs, teachers, child care staff, other parents, OTs, Speechies, Psychologists, community nurses.


If you are worried, ask the network around you. See if they are noticing the same things you are.


Take a look at the Raising Children’s Network as they have great information about what is ‘expected’ at each age. You can also look at our Behaviour page for further information.

mental health