Every now and again when the kids have driven me to breaking point I wonder what it is like for women whose everyday profession is helping kids to then switch into ‘mum mode’ and return to their own families.
Julia Orsini, a Speech and Language therapist, and Kaya Lyons, an Occupational therapist, are two local mums and business owners doing just that. Together they run Kids Spot and Active OT 4 Kids in Sydney’s East providing children and families with help in their respective fields including the design of a new playground in the East.
Seeking and needing help in this area since my son was 3, it was lovely to have a chat to Julie and Kaya about their roles as mums and as Speech and Occupational Therapists.
How did you meet?
Julia: ‘We were introduced through a mutual friend and many coffees and wines later we discovered we shared the same values and determination to help children. When an office space became available to share we took a leap of faith and haven’t looked back since’.
How do you find time to run a successful Speech and Occupational Therapy practice and mother 5 children between you?
Julia: ‘Lots of late nights! (smiles and laughs), I try to stay balanced and not work weekends, but it’s really hard…work piles up, things change and jobs sometimes just have to get done. We sometimes do stuff while our kids play together at work which is fun for them because they interact with toys and cool equipment’.
Kaya: ‘I think like all mums you just make it work. If that means little sleep, going all day, or having to take your kids to work on some days then that’s what you do. I think my highly organised, strive for perfection personality coupled with gymnastics training may have set me in good stead (laughs)’.
What were your motivations to forge a career in this area?
Julia: ‘I’ve always been a good communicator and knew that I wanted to work with people. I chose Speech Pathology at uni during which I did a placement with kids and loved it so much I decided that would be my calling. I love that we can make real and lasting changes in kids and families lives. I love that I can be goofy and playful with kids and they love it. And best of all they learn the most when they’re being goofy and playful with me’.
Kaya: ‘I always was highly motivated to help people and I loved children, science, the human body, and knowing why. The only thing I knew about Occupational Therapy was what was on my uni application. It was during my first lecture I had that ‘light bulb’ moment and found my place. Paediatric OT is a career that is vast in areas and complexity, has so much depth and science behind it, yet it needs to be implemented with playfulness and seem very natural. Not one session is the same, each child and family brings uniqueness, and when everything comes together the magic that occurs in sessions and in lives is magical. Knowing you’re helping children and families be all they can warm my heart’.
What are you passionate about?
Julia: ‘Parents and carers. They have the hardest job and often the least amount of time. They always want the best for their kids and I love working with them to work out how to make things work for their child despite being time-poor. I joke that I don’t have a magic communication wand but a wand to help parents grow their own wand’.
What do you love about motherhood?
Julia: ‘The laughter. My kids are always reminding me about the little things that are special and funny’.
Kaya: ‘So many things. Being a part of each of my children’s growth as a person, exploring the environment, experiencing the first’s, creating new games together, reliving and building on childhood, and really understanding the beauty in being present in each moment’.
Within your practice you must see an array of children with different needs, how do you cater to that diversity?
Julia: ‘Good question! I think staff are really important here – hiring passionate and diverse staff is key. Different families and needs will match with different staff, experience and personality’.
Kaya: ‘That is precisely what excites me about this job. Each child, each family, each support team, and even each moment varies. Knowing this is my motivation to keep me on my toes – to have a variety of ‘tools in my tool box’. Being trained in a range of different approaches and techniques, having a great set-up with a broad range of equipment and resources, coupled with staff who are passionate, provides a wonderful platform to work with children of all ages, abilities and diagnosis. Using clinical reasoning allows us to find what the best approach, technique, and tools are to support success and change. I often say to my staff ‘what window can you go through and is it the one that you think will create the fastest change?’
Does it have any influence on how you raise your own children?
Julia: ‘Oh my goodness, yes!! Motherhood and collaborating with Kaya has really developed my skills as a speech therapist. What I pick up from reading research papers and books give me new strategies and approaches I can trial with my kids’.
Kaya: ‘Absolutely. It’s not just a career it’s a way of thinking. I don’t run therapy sessions with my kids yet approaches filter through to them – just as the experience of being a mum does for being a therapist. Sometimes I have to laugh at the things my husband has had to take on board – I think he’s done a mini OT degree (laughs)’.
Favourite park in Sydney?
Julia: ‘At the moment we are loving the new playground in Chifley on Hastings Avenue. It’s got loads of different areas and all the bells and whistles: swings, range of slides, a flying fox and loads of hills to climb’.
Kaya: ‘Glad you like the park I had a hand in helping to design Julia! (laughs). Picking a favourite park is tough, I like different ones for different reasons. Being Summer I’d have to say Steel Park – water play, playgrounds for children of all ages, equipment that meets all sensory integrative areas (laughs), yes. it goes through my mind always – shade, nature, picnic areas and plenty of grass to sit on’.
Favourite family place to eat?
Julia: ‘Churrasco in Coogee – all you can eat meat. It’s loud so the kids don’t annoy anyone and they can eat for free on a Monday night which is always a bonus! (laughs). I also love Juice Box café in Matraville for Saturday morning smoothie goodness’.
Kaya: ‘Bellagio Café in Waverly. Healthy options, play area next to tables for the younger kids, friendly and engaging staff (with children and adults), and even though it’s busy it still manages to maintain a calming and relaxed environment’.
Favourite family tune?
Julia: ‘Happy by Pharell Williams’
Kaya: ‘The Original Ghostbusters Theme Song…If you see a car full of bopping girls that’s us!’ (laughs)
Charity of choice?
Julia: ‘Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children because I used to work there and know firsthand the special and amazing work they do!’
Kaya: ‘Ronald McDonald House. Like RIDBC, these guys go above and beyond to help children and their families in need with not only the services they provide but also with funding additional services they may need’.
Anything else you would like to share?
Julia: ‘Parenthood is probably one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Anyone who tries to tell you otherwise either has a full-time chef, carer, nanny, butler etc. or they’re just plain lying (laughs). I would say to mums don’t be ever afraid to ask for help if you need it, – us mums need to stick together! We are warriors and warriors win wars as teams!’
Kaya: ‘Knowing all I know has been tough at times as a mum. We are our biggest critics and always feel we should and could be doing more. I say trust your gut, do what feels right for you and what fits your family, support one another, celebrate the differences, share, and play every day’.
Check out Julia and Kaya’s website and the help they can offer – especially now with school readiness programs – http://activeot4kids.com/ and http://www.kidsspot.net.au/