A day in the life of… a therapies assistant for children with vision impairment

Post date: 
Tuesday, 11 July 2017
Photo of Sonya in a therapy session with a young child

Sonya Cross (pictured) is a Therapies Assistant, supporting children with complex needs who have vision impairment. She has worked at RNIB Pears Centre for Specialist Learning in Coventry for the past 14 years.

My alarm goes off…

“And I instantly put it on snooze for 10 minutes! When I get up, I have a coffee with breakfast and then head off to work. I leave home at 7.30am, fight with the M6 traffic, and on a good day, I can get to work by 8am.”

I’m responsible for…

“The children and young people living and learning at RNIB Pears Centre who have complex needs and vision impairment (VI). As a therapies assistant, I help them with their speech and communication, movement, mobility, behaviour and everyday activities. This includes physiotherapy, occupational therapy and I also work closely with our habilitation and behaviour specialists.

On a Tuesday afternoon, I bring in my pet dog Maisy, a chocolate Labrador, to visit specific young people. They pet her, stroke her fur and some of them help to walk her. Her calming presence helps their psychological wellbeing.

It’s my responsibility to make sure the activity is properly risk assessed and to check for any allergies or religious beliefs the young people may have. I then put programmes in place to manage this.
On a Wednesday, I organise an afternoon swimming club where we take young people to the local sports centre. Even though the young people use our own hydrotherapy pool, we feel it’s also important to support them to access public facilities in the wider community.”

My typical day…

“Starts at about 9am after checking my emails, however no two days are the same. I run a physiotherapy session in the hydro pool. Each young person has a physio session on different days. I do have a timetable on the wall, but things might change last minute depending on the needs of our children and young people.
I help young people who have physical disabilities to use their standing frames. I also spend time with children using the physio board (a board on wheels which children lie or sit on) to give them stimulation and enjoyment from a sensory point of view. I do intense interaction with one child who also has communication difficulties as well.

She’s very ‘locked in’ to her own world, so I try and get her to engage with me by doing something, stopping and then she repeats the action. This helps her to take turns and interact with other people.

A big part of what I do now involves our new hydro pool – the weightlessness in the water can make physiotherapy easier. I support young people to map out where they are in the pool by feeling different points of reference. This enables them to feel safe and move around semi-independently in the water. The pool isn’t just for physiotherapy and movement, but also for sensory, communication and the total wellbeing of the young person out of their wheelchair. Some young people are so moulded to their chair, but the pool makes them so relaxed and they enjoy themselves.”

What I love about what I do is…

"Enabling the young people to be happy and live the best life they can. I’m a big believer that once you get to know a young person, you can then help them communicate more effectively if they want something. I am an advocate for them."

My most memorable work moment…

“Is when I took one of our young people out for her mobility session to the big local Tesco. We were in the middle of the store and she wanted to dance, so I thought, ‘why not?’ and we had a dance. I felt silly to begin with, but I carried on anyway. It made me smile and it made her smile.

Now every time we go to Tesco, the young person expects us to dance, so we do. People look, but I think it makes her happy and it makes me happy. It makes the job worthwhile.”

If there was an extra hour in the day…

“I’d have a nice, long bubble bath with a good book [laughs] and get rid of all the chlorine out of my hair!”

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