A physiotherapy assessment provided by a University of Queensland student gave a five year old girl the chance to learn without difficulties.

Physiotherapy student, Gabriella McCosker completed a five week clinical placement at SPARK Child Wellbeing, a service for children with developmental, behavioural and learning difficulties.

UQ Health Care facilitated the placement for UQ’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences as part of a fieldwork component for fourth year occupational therapy, physiotherapy and speech pathology students.

For Gabriella there were many memorable experiences during her placement, however there was one that cemented her aspiration to pursue a career in paediatric physiotherapy.

“I was referred a client for a physiotherapy assessment by a paediatrician due to her difficulties with learning,” Ms McCosker said.

“She was queried for having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

“I completed a full gross motor, fine motor and visuomotor standardised assessment and a speech and language screen.

“After attending her school to observe her in this environment it appeared she had Developmental Coordination Disorder, which can present like ADHD due to the difficulty to maintain posture from low muscle tone and therefore it can appear as hyperactivity.

“I arranged multiple consultation sessions and developed a home exercise program and strategies her mother and teacher could implement to assist with her learning.

“It was this experience that made me realise the impact I could have on a child’s quality of life.

“As she was in prep she was at an age in her life where physiotherapy and allied health input could have an enormous effect on her development, and her education if treated at the right time with the right program.”

The range of services students provided as part of the placement included interviewing caregivers and screening children for developmental difficulties, case conferencing with paediatricians, allied health and education professionals, school observation visits and physiotherapy assessments for babies and children with behavioural and developmental difficulties.

Students were supervised under the guidance of UQ Health Care and Spark Wellbeing Paediatric Physiotherapist, Lisa Sandaver.

“Many of the students who completed their placement with Spark have provided feedback that they found it enhanced their skills and experience,” Ms Sandaver said.

“Students gained experience and an understanding of working within a multidisciplinary team and with professionals outside of the clinic such as educational professionals to support children’s developmental and behavioural needs.

“They also gained an understanding of the many factors that can influence a child’s developmental and behaviour and the difficulties faced by families in different socioeconomic areas and ways to manage this.”

Placements are an integral part of courses within UQ’s Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences as they enable students to gain relevant ‘hands on’ training in a range of settings, link theory to practice and apply skills acquired to treat real clients.

Gabriella said the Spark program was such a great experience that introduced her to what it would be like working as a paediatric physiotherapist.

“I developed the skills to communicate with children of all ages, from varied backgrounds, and the carers and staff involved in their care, “Ms McCosker said.

“I also developed manual handling skills suitable for babies, five year olds and 17 year olds and how to readily adapt.

“Further, I developed creative ways to assess and treat children.

“My time at Spark was so much fun and has definitely inspired me to work hard to achieve my goal of working in this field!”

Enquiries: Ms Lisa Sandaver, lisa.sandaver@uqhealthcare.org.au or UQ Health Care Communications, Kirsten O’Leary, k.oleary@uq.edu.au