Trish Hill shares her journey and experiences as a Physiotherapist, starting out using traditional practices then shifting to the social model of support, as practiced at Everyday Independence. Read her account of supporting more children and families achieve their potential.

Beginning with the traditional ‘medical’ model

When I reflect on my practice years ago with children and families, I remember often doing one on one sessions with children in rooms. During the session, the child and I would usually have a great time working together, with a parent watching on. At the end of the session, I’d write down Physio exercises that the child could practice at home with their family. At the end of the session, I’d feel like I had achieved a successful session. The child often had fun, and parents would report they enjoyed therapy.

The ‘aha’ moment

It wasn’t until I was exposed to the social model of support that I started to really “get it”. My sessions with the child weren’t as important as I thought they were. Everything that happened in between these sessions was what was important – life! I started thinking about what these kids were missing while they were with me – their peers were in the playground, at dance class, riding their bikes or even sometimes at school. What message did I send the parents by “doing therapy” with their child in a centre-based program with special toys?

Was I building the confidence of these parents to best support their child, or reducing it?

What message was I sending the child by working intensively with them, focusing on their impairments, consistently measuring them, and trying to change them?

Physiotherapy in the social model of support

Understanding the social model helped me to move from focusing on the impairment level of the person to focus on their environment, and ensure it was just right to enable the person to achieve their full potential.

I’ve since worked with children and families to build their skills, confidence and belief in themselves to create these environments and opportunities, often through inclusion into everyday activities. I have observed the difference that this shift in focus makes, and I know I’ve nailed it when I no longer need to be a constant presence in the life of families, but rather I can move in and out of their lives when they need support, such as around a life transition or when they identify a specific goal that they’d like to achieve.

It’s been rewarding to see families grow in confidence to be their own support system, while their child goes from strength to strength because of the everyday opportunities they are exposed to. That’s where the magic in the social model of support lies.

Living the social model of support 

Trish worked with Jayden and his family to build his skills and confidence to achieve his goal – to ride a trike. Trish researched specialty trikes and ordered a custom built bike just for Jayden. He built up his skills and confidence in no time, and there’s been no stopping him since.