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Anna Forgan and the team at the Department of Education


Anna Forgan being presented the award

As promised, we have part 2 of our blog series, and this time, we feature the winner for 2019 Williams OT Innovative Service Award, Anna Forgan and the team behind the Department of Education from the University of South Australia. The OT role within the Department is very unique – not only for SA but across the country. UniSA staff have been involved in supporting the OTs (Anna Forgan, Sarah Enthoven, Carla Koay and Belinda Jankowiak) We hope they continue to inspire us and other fellow Occupational Therapists as they push to grow and better their services through constant innovation. Check out their story below to see why they deserve to win this year’s award:

Sarah Enthoven, Anna Forgan, Carla Koay and Belinda Jankowiak are an innovative group of occupational therapists employed by the Department of Education in South Australia sitting within the multidisciplinary Student Support Services team. Following a trial project and needs analysis in 2016-2017, two full-time equivalent ongoing positions were created in order to establish, implement and evaluate the first-ever model of paediatric occupational therapy service delivery in Department for Education preschools, schools and high schools in South Australia.  

Sarah Enthoven, Anna Forgan, Carla Koay and Belinda Jankowiak

While the trial project guided the initial scope of their work, with a very small team, the occupational therapists had to develop a service delivery model which would support sustainable and ongoing change. These occupational therapists developed a proactive service delivery model centred on building the capacity of education staff.  

The team has spent the last 2 years developing and delivering a catalogue of services including a range of proactive and targeted support options for educators. These include one-off training and development sessions, workshop series’ as well as ongoing coaching and support options to implement evidence-based programs and strategies to support all students. The primary area of service delivery is using a trauma-informed lens to support students’ self-regulation in order to engage in learning and the emphasis is on whole-of-class or whole-of-site approaches.

Where the magic happens: University of South Australia

This is a unique service delivery model in Australia, with South Australia being one of the only states to employ occupational therapists within their education department.  South Australia continues to be the only state to solely adopt a capacity building model to support all students rather than providing direct therapy or consultative services to individual students with diagnosed disabilities.  

To date, training has been delivered to more than 1100 teachers, leaders, student support officers and early childhood workers across four partnerships (regional clusters of educational sites) which includes 26 preschools, 28 primary schools, 8 high schools and 1 special school. Given the limited capacity of the occupational therapy team the proactive, whole-of-class and whole-of-school approach to service delivery has proven to be an efficient way to impact a significant number of children with diverse needs within South Australian preschools and schools.  

This team of occupational therapists have worked closely with lecturers from the University of South Australia to effectively evaluate outcomes of service delivery and for professional guidance on specific areas of service development.  Evidence collected through formal evaluation processes indicates a statistically significant increase in participant knowledge as a result of training provided by the occupational therapists.  The ongoing support and coaching facilitates the transfer of this knowledge into practice for sustainable change.  As a result of OT services, early feedback and evidence suggests that educators have increased capacity to identify and address the sensory and emotional needs of all students. Preschools and schools are also better able to design and provide learning environments that optimally support children’s development, participation and learning.

The team values ongoing reflection on practise approaches and investing in planning a service delivery model that has capacity building and education as its essence. Their work demonstrates that occupational therapists offer a unique perspective in education, with an ability to share discipline-specific knowledge including physical, cognitive and social-emotional aspects of child development, and skills in task analysis and environmental modification. Discipline-specific expertise is combined with an understanding of the educational context to deliver evidence-informed approaches which address barriers to participation.  In stepping away from ‘traditional’ therapeutic interventionist’ approaches they hope to continue to broaden knowledge of what occupational therapists can achieve. This award provides further opportunities for the team to continue their hard work to increase the profile of occupational therapy across the Department for Education, and also the role that occupational therapists can play within education.  

This group of occupational therapists have placed great importance on developing a cohesive service across their respective regions which is able to be replicated and easily transferred to other sites and partnerships if/when the service capacity grows.  Sarah, Anna, Carla and Belinda are excited to be a part of the future of occupational therapy in education.

We would like to congratulate our winners, Anna Forgan and the team at the Department of Education from the University of South Australia for this wonderful and deserving award!

If you would like to know more about the award, then comment down below. Williams OT promotes ethical and innovative service delivery and will be sponsoring the award next year as part of the SA OT AUS awards program. So, start thinking and highlighting your service delivery models and start thinking about your entry for next year’s nominations. We will let you know when that is, so make sure that you sign up to our email database if you have not already.

And of course, if you would like to know what we are doing in the way of innovative service delivery, and boy do we have a lot going on at the moment in this space, type your questions in below and we will answer them.