Therapists to offer private services to North-East schools

The Northern Echo: Therapists Dawn Dunn and Julie Davies of TTOT Consultancy Therapists Dawn Dunn and Julie Davies of TTOT Consultancy

CHANGES in the provision of health therapies for children have led a team of occupational therapists to offer a bespoke private service to schools in the North-East.

TTOTS Consultancy, a sister company to the well-established Tree Tops Occupational Therapy - which are both based in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham - aims to help children who have difficulty in physical (or motor) co-ordination.

This can prevent an estimated three children per school class in the UK from fulfilling their potential to perform a range of physical tasks, from writing to taking part in sport and other functions of everyday life.

TTOTS Consultancy, whose initials mean 'training, treatment and opportunity for success', is already working with schools in Darlington, Shildon, Walworth, Stanley, Heighington and Frosterley.

Tree Tops is currently the provider of assessment and treatment to children with Development Co-ordination Disorder (DCD) or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) on behalf of the NHS.

But Tree Tops will lose the contract after April 2014 because NHS commissioners want the service to be provided by a single organisation and Tree Tops is too small to compete with larger providers.

Despite the changes TTOTS will continue to offer their more specialised services to individual schools on a private basis after the change-over next year.

Co-managing director Julie Davis, herself a paediatric occupational therapist, said: "Motor skills provide the foundation for learning, so any child that experiences difficulties affecting their functional and academic ability needs to develop their motor and sensory systems.

"We carry out a screening to assess a child's skill level in carrying out a set of movement patterns, from large physical exercises to small skills such as handwriting, and their perception of how they visualise their world and the challenges they face.

"We then devise a 36-week programme aimed at improving their foundation skills and academic performance. This programme gives teachers and parents instructions on motor skills activities, the equipment that is needed and after-school activities, all aimed at overcoming the individual difficulties a child might face with their co-ordination."

Dawn Dunn, co-managing director and also an occupational therapist, added: "In light of the changes in health service, Tree Tops and TTOTS are determined that families and children will continue to be able to access our service.

"Individuals or organisations can directly fund treatment. This may be within clinic-based treatment or through after-school clubs, handwriting groups, individual home-based programmes and parent workshops at Tree Tops. All future options endeavour to make this achievable and affordable to parents. "We are determined to ensure that our specialised service is available for all, so children and their families can continue to benefit from our expertise and programmes.

The TTOTS Consultancy concept came after working with St John's School, Shildon, for three years, during which time the therapists and school saw improvements in the ability of children with motor co-ordination difficulties. The programme was then extended into Skerne Park School, Darlington.

Julie said "We have launched TTOTS Consultancy to allow schools to subscribe to our programmes independently. We aim to reach every child with a motor co-ordination difficulty and perceptual deficit, which affects the child's ability to perceive and understand the curriculum.

"Schools are responding quickly to this new concept, ensuring they have programmes designed and tailored to their individual needs."

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