3Bridges Community OSHC reflects on a year of wellbeing and connection
In the piece below 3Bridges Community Manager Daniel Emmerick shares how his outside school hours care (OSHC) services have continued to improve and support children’s wellbeing and learning despite the challenges of 2021.
3Bridges Community is a not-for-profit organisation that offers a range of services including nine OSHC services located across Sydney on the lands of the Darug and Eora peoples.
The service has gained a reputation for having a positive attitude when it comes to accommodating individuals with disability and additional needs. One of the largest services in the network, in Penshurst, has between 10 and 15 per cent of the children attending with a diagnosed disability.
Community connections are also an important hallmark of what 3Bridges offers, and has worked to refine over its four decades of operation.
“3Bridges has established relationships with many families and networks within our local community,” Mr Emmerick explained.
“The connection to other community services is beneficial when it comes to referral for families that need support with NDIS applications and accessing specialised services. Our service is also part of a network reference group based in the St George and Sutherland area, which allows us to exchange ideas with entities outside of the organisation.”
“At our 3Bridges OSHC Penshurst West service, we have worked with youth services to implement a mentoring program to support inclusive practices and to empower children. A youth worker and a group of young people visit the Penshurst West service weekly and children with additional needs have particularly enjoyed taking part in outdoor activities with them. One experienced youth worker provided additional guidance to staff, who have seen how greater connections with the community can make a huge difference in children with additional needs. We are now looking to expand this mentoring program across our 3Bridges OSHC services.”
Maintaining connection in 2021
When Mr Emmerick reflected on the key techniques that have assisted his services to connect with families, in particular during 2021, he began by highlighting the importance of having an open and honest dialogue with families prior to enrolling a child with additional needs.
“The family and the child visit the 3Bridges OSHC service and have an initial meeting to discuss the needs of children and the available supports as a non-specialised disability service,” he explained.
Through these open and honest conversations Mr Emmerick and his team address expectations and help to assess whether the environment is suitable for the child.
“We also communicate closely with all parties that work directly with the child in order to best meet their needs,” he continued. “Having regular check-ins with the school and teachers also helps to inform adjustments to programming within our services. There is also close communication with the team that works with children who attend a school for specific purposes, which may include an occupational therapist, speech pathologist and the classroom teacher.”
“Having these strong connections has been critical throughout this year, in particular after the lockdown period as we have welcomed back children and families to our services. We continue to work closely with our families and communities to ensure the wellbeing and best outcomes for all children at our OSHC services.”
Improving the delivery of inclusion services to children
With the support of the Commonwealth Government’s Inclusion Development Fund (IDF), 3Bridges has been able to develop and deliver several initiatives across all its services to upskill its staff.
“Behaviour therapists were on-boarded and visited a few of the services to work with our educators,” Mr Emmerick explained, “and offered invaluable support and insight on working with children with additional needs. The funding also went into other initiatives such as engaging music therapists and implementing cultural projects in the community.”
“Across 3Bridges we have a positive attitude when it comes to engaging children with high support needs. For instance, there may be times when the service may be initially considered unsuitable due to the child’s high support requirements, however, the service can offer the child a trial and often the environment turns out to be adequate. To support our staff we also offer mini workshops with their managers around responding to difficult situations. In addition, we have worked with Aspect, an autism-specific service provider on a training project which delivered numerous training sessions and provided resources to staff.”
To learn more about 3Bridges please see here.
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