Occupational Therapy helps Paralympian Chantel Wolfenden OAM to overcome life’s challenges

Published:09 October 2019

CQUni final-year Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours) students: Four years of hard work and learning with culminate in the 2019 Occupational Therapy Graduate Conference - A Future Beyond Limits - on 11 October.

Paralympian Chantel Wolfenden OAM cannot speak highly enough of the impact Occupational Therapy has on her life, living with Cerebral Palsy Spastic Diplegia.

She will speak about the profession’s impact and more during her keynote address at the upcoming student-led 2019 Occupational Therapy Graduate Conference - A Future Beyond Limits - at the CQUniversity Bundaberg campus tomorrow (Oct 11), which will be zoomed into the Rockhampton campus.

“No matter your challenges, there is always a way around it. I should know; I have been thrown a few curveballs throughout my life, living with a disability,” Ms Wolfenden said.

“My life motto is there is no such word as cannot because everyone can do it. If I didn’t have the help of Occupational Therapists, I don’t know where I would be today.

“I will encourage this year’s Bundaberg graduates to seek out employment locally, as there are nowhere near enough Occupational Therapists in the region. At the moment, there is at least a 12-month waiting list, which is ridiculous.

“I know this because my son, who has Autism Spectrum Disorder, requires assistance with fine motor and gross motor skills. My hope is that one day he’ll be able to receive the same support I do, locally.”

Bundaberg-based final year Occupational Therapy (Honours) student Ella Christensen said she very much looked forward to hearing about Ms Wolfenden’s journey.

“You could learn so much by listening to someone else’s story. Not one person with any particular diagnosis is the same, so learning Ms Wolfenden’s story of how she became the person she is today will surely be inspirational,” Ms Christensen said.

Also, during the event, CQUniversity final-year students will showcase three socially innovative ideas, two of which have been developed in response to the growing needs of children, as put forward by Bundaberg’s St. John’s Lutheran Primary School and Rockhampton-based kindergarten, C&K Ngundanoo Imbabee Community Childcare Centre. The third is in response to the organisation of the conference.

Ms Christensen explained that as part of the Bundaberg community project, she and local students Jordan Trott, Rachel Webb and Margaret Messiha worked with St. John’s Lutheran Primary School to develop a health and wellbeing program.

“The Life Smart Learning Program provides school-aged children with the skills they need to safely transition through childhood and early adolescence stages,” she said. “Skills taught in this program, through fun class activities, include fine motor, communication, problem-solving, personal-social, and spiritual life.”

Students will then present their research proposals, which were developed during their honours program and relate to paediatric care, stroke rehabilitation and mental health.

Other keynote speakers include representatives from Rockhampton-based National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) providers and National Disability Insurance Agencies (NDIA). Local attendees will be able to view this presentation via video conference.

The event is made possible thanks to sponsorship from OTAustralia, the peak national professional association for occupational therapists. OTAustralia’s support of new graduates and members is paramount to the development of the Australia Occupational Therapy profession.