Leaps and Bounds – Tori’s story

13 September 2022

Young girl drawing on a whiteboard with green marker while her mother watches

Six-year-old Victoria, more commonly called Tori, skips confidently into Box Hill’s healthAbility wearing her fluffy kitten ears. Chatting excitedly, she greets Dr Mandy, her Paediatrician of four years with Mum Cherrie remarking, “If you had seen Victoria even a year-and-a-half ago, you wouldn’t believe she’s the same child. You couldn’t have a conversation with her; the few words she did know were simply repeating or ‘parroting’ what she was hearing, to this, what you see today, is what healthAbility has done”.

Cherrie explains, “In my opinion a lot of kids on the spectrum tend to stay in their little shell and it’s a lot of work to crack into it, and even harder to encourage them to come out and want to participate.” Tori’s team of health professionals at healthAbility have helped her want to connect with the world, “And she also wants the world to engage with her” Cherrie emphasises.

At age two, Tori was non-verbal, and Cherrie noticed similar behaviour ­­with her eldest son who also has Autism, prompting a referral from her General Practitioner (GP) to healthAbility. “I phoned up and spoke to Dr Mandy, who said, ‘I think I can help you’”. Soon Tori had a diagnosis and was connected to other health professionals such as a Speech Therapist, Occupational Therapist and a Psychologist.

Tori is able to see Dr Mandy, thanks to a generous funding grant from Community Bank Blackburn South. They granted healthAbility additional funding over a three-year period (from 2021 to 2024) for eligible families to gain access to our Paediatric services.

“The additional funding will allow up to 25 other families to access our Paediatric service and integrated health team which they may not otherwise have the means to access,” says Carina Martin – General Manager Service Development & Partnerships.

Cherrie and Tori in a consult with Dr Mandy
Cherrie and Tori in a consult with Dr Mandy

“Community Bank Blackburn South funding is fantastic initiative as part of our community engagement. It helps provide care to children in need whose families are unable to afford private care. Early Intervention is just so crucial for a child’s development, it can make a big difference in their development” says Dr Mandy.

Cherrie states that one of the things she values most about healthAbility’s services is the flexibility of the therapists. “They listen, and that is what you need. They understand the strengths and abilities of each child and don’t try and force the same program on each, what works for six children may not work for the seventh, so they alter their approach to fit the individual. In every session, something is always achieved, and you are given strategies to take home and put into place rather than being left to feel like a terrible parent.” Cherrie reiterates how much Tori loves attending saying, “She doesn’t even realise most of the time she’s having a therapy session because it is mostly play, and through that she has progressed in leaps and bounds.”

The success of this dedicated and united team effort between Tori’s family, school, and healthAbility can be witnessed first-hand in Tori’s happy disposition; she’s a confident, academically advanced Grade 1 child with many friendships. Cherrie recalls a time when her interactions were very scripted or mimicked. “Through this therapy her play is now less rigid, they’ve taught her the coping mechanisms and strategies to put her own ideas and imagination into games, and she’s also more open to accepting new ideas and suggestions from other people too.”

Cherrie and her daughter Tori walking into our Box Hill location
Cherrie and her daughter Tori walking into our Box Hill location

“healthAbility have pretty much been a part of our lives every day for the past four years. They are not only professionals, but they’re also an extension of our family” said Cherrie.

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