Royal Far West's program for children with disabilities now online

Mum and son receiving Royal Far West's Windmill Virtual Immersion program in their home.

Mum and son receiving Royal Far West's Windmill Virtual Immersion program in their home.

Life just got a whole lot harder for many people, including families in rural and remote communities, particularly those with children with mild and moderate disabilities.

The unfolding COVID-19 pandemic is having a huge impact on the daily lives of rural families, from changing their routines, to changes in their schooling and in their usual support systems.

For the many kids in rural and remote communities with a disability, this disruption can cause great unrest and heightened and often difficult behaviours.

As one of Australia's most enduring and respected charities, Royal Far West consistently adapts to meet the changing health needs of country children and their families.

The ability to adapt is vital during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prioritising the safety, health and wellbeing of families and communities, Royal Far West has temporarily suspended its services at the Centre for Country Kids in Manly in Sydney and is now delivering its Windmill disability program online to ensure country kids and their families can still access the vital support they need.

Related reading

Families that usually access the Windmill program in Manly are being assisted to transition to the online service.

Other families in rural and remote areas whose children have mild to moderate disabilities and an NDIS plan are encouraged to consider the charity's online services.

The Windmill program was created for children aged from 2 to 12 with autism, intellectual disability, developmental or global delay.

It provides two options of personalised support from Royal Far West's team of clinicians to help them achieve their goals, including helping children with daily living skills; supporting behaviour development; managing fussy eating; and building social skills and confidence.

The Windmill Virtual Immersion program is ideal for families looking to attain specific, achievable goals over a two-week or month-long program.

It offers a combination of therapies, such as speech, occupational therapy, psychology and special education.

The Windmill Telecare program provides longer-term therapy solutions conducted in weekly sessions to continue supporting a child's development in one specified therapy such as speech or occupational therapy.

To connect to the programs, families need a computer or laptop with a webcam, microphone and speaker and access to high-speed internet.

One of the first families to transition to Royal Far West's new service gave an insight into their experience.

The family's two children see occupational therapists, speech therapists and psychologists at the Windmill Program in Manly.

Their mother booked the same number of therapy sessions for the new Windmill Virtual Immersion program.

Before starting, the mother set up a room in their home with their laptop, sensory toys, and household items recommended by her occupational therapist, and explained to her children that the virtual therapy would be different to their usual face-to-face sessions.

The mother had been concerned that her children would not be very engaged with the virtual therapy, but she said they were amazing, with similar levels of engagement to what they have with their face-to-face therapies, and that they loved the program.

When asked if she'd recommend the service to other parents she said: "Give it a try. It may seem overwhelming, but the team at RFW are very supportive, and once you start, you'll be glad you did."

  • Visit Royal Far West or contact 1800 500 061.
  • ACM is a media partner with Royal Far West.