National Stroke Week 2023: Emma & Dee's Story

During National Stroke Week, we're proud to show our support for the Stroke Foundation's 2023 theme of 'Fighting stroke together', with OTs proudly working alongside stroke survivors and their multidisciplinary teams to create positive outcomes. During the week, we're sharing the stories of ordinary Australians impacted by stroke, and how occupational therapy has helped shape their journey. Profiled below is Emma with the help of her mum, Dee.

Emma & Dee

Tell us about Emma's stroke. 

Emma had a periventricular stroke in utero that was diagnosed at ten months old.

How did you become connected with your occupational therapist?

We were referred to our OT by our treating paediatrician at the time.

How has Emma's OT supported her journey?

Emma’s OT has supported her to develop function of her right hand and arm. Emma has Cerebral Palsy and did not recognise the right side of her body when she initially began OT at ten months old. Now at eight years old, Emma has recognition of the right side of her body and moderate function of her right arm and hand. Emma’s OT has supported her transitions to kinder and school by guiding her teachers on how to increase function in handwriting, drawing, social skills, emotional regulation and to further her development to function independently. At the moment, Emma is learning how to make her own toast and smoothies. Emma’s OT will often plan tasks that keep Emma motivated during therapy, and these are often centred on Emma’s interests. She is encouraging, kind and positive, which has contributed to a very strong therapy relationship with Emma. 

How does Emma’s OT support her to engage in meaningful occupations?  

Emma’s OT advocates in Emma’s best interests and respects her as her own person. She challenges her to keep progressing her skills and also knows when to step back and give her space. She is supportive in educating teaching staff who work with Emma, and provides strategies for them as well as our family, so that she can thrive in the classroom and playground. Emma’s OT ensures she has appropriate assistive technology so Emma is set up for success. She has a very sharp disability lens and a deep understanding of ableism, inclusion and equity. This has been a valuable tool in advocating for Emma’s support needs at school. Emma’s OT always meets Emma where she is at and is excellent at collaborating with her other therapists to work on shared goals.

What effect did Emma’s OT have on you personally?  

As a parent of a child with disability, I am constantly navigating systems and trying to break down barriers so that Emma has equal opportunities just like other kids her age. In short, we couldn’t live without her OT and the support she has provided our family. The way she advocates for Emma has been invaluable. Emma has progressed enormously in the seven years she has had with her OT, and without the strategies and emotional support she has provided us through the highs and lows, we would be lost. She is hardworking and never gives up on Emma, she goes above and beyond to make sure we are all okay and feel supported, and importantly, she teaches Emma how to advocate for herself and gives her tools and strategies to be the best version of herself.  

What goals is Emma working towards with the help of her OT? 

Emma’s goals relate to increasing her independence and engaging in meaningful social interactions with her peers. Emma’s current focus is on preparing herself food and drinks, increasing concentration and her ability to recognise signs of her own fatigue and to communicate with teachers and support staff that she needs a break. Overall, we all just want Emma to be content and proud of herself. She is an amazing child and we are incredibly grateful our OT journey has been hugely successful.

Thank you to Dee & Emma for sharing their story as a part of National Stroke Week 2023. 

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