Motorvate Therapies are a social enterprise company with a difference. Founded in 2013 by Susan Doogan – a paediatric occupational therapist, and Brigid Duthie – a pupil support teacher, Motorvate aims to support children and young people with additional support needs, and their families.
Susan and Brigid set Motorvate up in response to a demand from parents for specialist support for sensory processing challenges and literacy issues, which affected their childrens’ mental health and learning potential.
“We are passionate about helping children to reach their true potential, and about supporting the whole family”, says Susan.
Indeed, they have been recognised for their work. In 2017 they won the 2017 Commitment to Community from the Chamber of Commerce, and the SME of the year at the Scottish Diversity Awards. This December they will be travelling to London for The National Businesswomen's Awards, too for which they have been nominated - exciting to say the least.
We are passionate about helping children to reach their true potential, and about supporting the whole family.
Children attending Motorvate have a variety of underlying genetic and neurological diagnoses such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, developmental co-ordination disorder, ADHD, autism, and cerebral palsy.
I spoke to Debbie, who has been attending Motorvate for around seven years with her son Ross. Ross was diagnosed with autism, ADHD, and global developmental delay at around the age of five or six.
Through Motorvate, Ross has received targeted support, including at group sessions which are now a part of his daily life, and through a sports group designed to support young people with motor co-ordination difficulties. Debbie told me:
“Susan is like part of the family now. She has helped us so much – attending meetings at Ross’ school and advising them on the changes they could make to provide the right support and create a learning environment that accounted for his needs.
“Now that Ross is starting secondary school, she has helped immensely with skills he needs here – from things like handling money, to social skills. She’s supported me to understand his needs – no question is too silly.”
Being able to connect with other parents has provided an immense source of support for Debbie, too.
“It was great to be in an environment where you could meet parents who just understood – I didn’t feel like I was expected to apologise for Ross is he was being “too loud”, because everyone understood this was not “bad behaviour”, but could be a reaction to sensory overload. There was a feeling of acceptance.”
This feeling of acceptance is certainly one that Susan values highly throughout all the work carried out at Motorvate.
“Sometimes a child is referred because parents or teachers are struggling with their behaviour, which is seen as “challenging”. We truly believe that all behaviour is a means of communication and is the end product of a challenge, rather than the main issue itself – although it can be very stressful for everyone.
We truly believe that all behaviour is a means of communication and is the end product of a challenge.
“It is our job to figure out the underlying challenges - be they sensory, movement, or learning – that trigger the behaviour, and recommend strategies and provide intervention to be proactive rather than reactive”.
And Motorvate certainly offer a wide range of services to help them achieve this end. This ranges from assessing their needs, to providing Individual Occupational Therapy Intervention, where they work with the young person and their family on skills they’ve identified they’d like to improve in.
The sessions are carried out at their specialist centre at Ladeside where the children have fun and get to play, while the therapist chooses activities which foster this improvement. This is similar to what is offered in their Individual Learning and Literacy sessions too, where a fun approach to learning is utilised by the teacher.
A significant amount of their work is consulting with parents, to empower them to help their own child. They carry out training sessions for parents, education and social work staff, adoptive/foster carers, and many more. “A small change to the environment or approach is often enough to significantly change a child’s learning experience to a positive one.”
Motorvate also have a real commitment to working alongside other third sector organisations in Perth and Kinross. Susan tells me about a project they are working on called ADHD+/Saints in the Community:
“Alongside various other third sector organisations, we successfully applied for funding to run sports sessions for young people with ADHD, and other developmental conditions. The children took part in horse-riding, football and ju-jitsu.
“The sessions were really successful and we are looking to continue them if we again receive funding. One young man told me, ‘At last – something I can actually join in’. He had me in tears: words can’t express the joy of watching kids participating and having fun.”
He had me in tears: words can’t express the joy of watching kids participating and having fun.
It’s moments like these that bring home why work like this is so important to Perth’s local community.
“Every child is important”, says Susan, “Every single child has learning potential. Because of our unique combination of specialist skills, and ability to provide sustained support we can deliver positive outcomes for the whole family.”
This is a sentiment that Debbie and Ross would definitely agree with. Says Debbie:
“When I go to Motorvate and am able to meet other parents, it feels like a mini-counselling session, with both tears and laughter at times! It really makes you feel like you’re not alone in this world.”
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