Whatever the season, The Champion Centre is always buzzing with activity: play; movement; singing and the achievement of new milestones. While it’s been very warm and cosy at the Centre during these Winter weeks, we can’t wait for Spring when we will be able get outside, into our beautiful playground!
One of the fundamental principles underpinning our work at The Champion Centre is the partnership between parents and staff. Staff bring their skills and expertise together with parents’ understandings of their children, and the goals they have for them. It’s this partnership which creates the highly individualised programmes for each child. We are privileged to see this partnership in action every day, and the commitment demonstrated by staff and parents to their tamariki.
Equally important are the relationships made between families. In this edition of Connect we are grateful to Emma, Jonty’s Mum, for sharing her family's journey. She touches on how helpful it is to connect with other Mums. We’re also keen to share with you a new initiative, born from one Mum's drive to support others.
And finally, we’re proud to share with you the launch of a new book on Prematurity. This is a joint initiative by The Champion Centre and The Champion Foundation Trust.
Lauren and Wendy
Jonty playing at The Champion Centre with 2 of his best mates
Recently the Champion Foundation Trust, in partnership with The Champion Centre, launched a "Position Paper on Prematurity in Aotearoa New Zealand" at Parliament and here in Christchurch. This important paper summarises the up-to-date research evidence that guides best practice for babies and children born prematurely. It also draws on the work of the Champion Centre’s monitoring, assessment and intervention programme for children born premature and their families which provides support for baby/parent dyads as soon as possible after they leave the Neonatal Unit at hospital and continues until school entry for children born either less than 32 weeks gestational age or for those with other risks.
The launch event at Riccarton House in Christchurch was attended by many local clinicians and supporters. Dr Patricia Champion, founder of the Champion Centre and Co-Author, spoke eloquently about the research and implications for practice. We were also honoured to hear from past parents Rachel and Jason who shared their journey with their daughter Jessica (now age 13), who was born prematurely and attended The Champion Centre. They spoke of how early intervention at the beginning of Jessica’s life made all the difference and she is now thriving and achieving great things. You can read more about the Prematurity Paper here: https://www.championfoundation.co.nz/research.html
Thank you for taking the time to read our Newsletter and we're looking forward to updating you again in Term 4!
We would like to dedicate this issue of our newsletter to Dr Terry Caseley. We recently learned of Dr Caseley's passing and wish to acknowledge his great contribution to our centre and honour his work.
Dr Caseley was a dedicated Paediatrician who served the children and families of Christchurch for many years. He was also instrumental in supporting Dr Patricia Champion to establish the Champion Centre over 45 years ago. Terry and Patricia shared a fundamental belief that every child - regardless of physical, cognitive or social capacity - has the right to be educated, to learn, grow and reach their individual potential. This philosophy remains the foundation of the Champion Centre today. Without Dr Caseley’s huge contribution to establishing and supporting the Champion Centre, we would not be who we are today. We send our heartfelt condolences to his family.
Nearly five decades on, The Champion Centre continues to deliver our early intervention programmes. Every week, our multi-disciplinary teams join children with their parents and caregivers, attending to all aspects of the child’s development. The programmes take a holistic approach to development, always starting with each child's unique strengths and capabilities, and building a holistic approach together with the parents and whānau. We work together throughout the years, from birth through to school.
At this time of year, winter is in the air and we near the end of another term. Matariki too will soon be here. Twinkling in the winter sky, Matariki (the cluster of stars) marks the beginning of a new year in the Māori lunar calendar. For Māori, the appearance of Matariki signals a time of remembrance, joy and peace. It’s a time for communities to come together and celebrate.
We wish to acknowledge all of our hard-working staff, the children and whānau who join us, and all of our supporters who help make it possible for us to continue our work. Thank you. We are a community worth celebrating.
In this edition of Connect, we are delighted to share Eva and Hannah’s story. We are grateful to Hannah for sharing Eva's journey, from birth to her joining us at the Champion Centre and the progress and reflections on their time together with us. You can also read about Matt Rose’s inspiring ‘Good Walk’ which raised over $236,569 for a number of charities, including the Champion Foundation Trust.
Wendy and Lauren
Connecting with Others at The Champion Centre
Parents and caregivers tell us that in addition to their child’s therapy, one of the important things about coming to The Champion Centre are the connections they and their children make with other families. Connecting with others who share an understanding of some of the challenges of parenting children with disabilities or developmental challenges can be incredibly supportive and helpful.
Never underestimate the value of morning tea! Each morning at The Champion Centre, our programmes pause for Morning Tea. Staff provide good coffee, tea and biscuits for parents and caregivers while children sit together at the kai table. It’s a time when parents can chat with one another and with staff in an informal way, share information and experiences while taking a break.
And some of our wonderful supporters certainly understand the value of morning tea. We’d like to give a big ‘shout out’ to Burnside Women’s Institute for their recent generous donation of numerous packets of biscuits. Thanks very much ladies, we appreciate you!
Mum’s Support Group
We are currently offering a 6-week mothers’ support group. This is a relaxed group which offers a safe and supported space to reflect on experiences and feelings alongside others walking a similar path. For Mums who attend the Champion Centre it is co-facilitated by Lauren Porter and Marguerite Wilson. We’re also looking at offering a Dad’s Group if there is interest.
We're on Instagram!
Please follow us on our new Instagram page: The Champion Centre (@champion_centre)
Once a week we have had the pleasure of welcoming Hannah, and her two year old daughter, Eva to The Champion Centre. After a rough start to life, Eva is making leaps and bounds in her development thanks to a great partnership between her whānau and our therapists.
Only minutes after Eva was born, doctors started to notice something wasn’t quite right. Eva was unable to swallow. Two hours later Eva was diagnosed with Oesophageal Atresia, indicating that her oesophagus was not connecting to her stomach, and she required surgery the next day.
Immediately after her operation, Eve started to recover well, but soon began having seizures. After further investigations, including an MRI, doctors confirmed Eva had experienced a stroke and she was referred to The Champion Centre.
It was a very difficult time for Hannah who was receiving a range of new and different diagnoses for Eva, including Hypotonia (low body tone), complications from her feeding tube, developmental delay, Torticollis (twisted or tilted neck) and unresponsiveness to sound. It seemed like the hospital were continually coming to her with more potential issues, but with no solid solutions or positives for her to hold on to.
Hannah recalls dreading her first visit to The Champion Centre. She had a growing concern about Eva being treated like a number and she did not want to come to another ‘facility’ to learn of more things Eva might struggle with or not be able to do.
Thankfully, this would not be the case. Eva began her journey at The Champion Centre with “plenty of physiotherapy” from Deborah. Hannah was glad to learn that rather than the hospital’s focus on “what’s wrong”, Deborah and the Champion Centre team encouraged her to instead focus on all the things Eva was doing really well. With more visits to the Centre and further support, Hannah started to see very clearly all the improvements Eva was making and took time to “celebrate the good things” she had learnt with the help of early intervention.
With The Champion Centre’s holistic approach, Hannah was able to shift some of her anxiety about Eva’s future. She was now able to see just how many positive milestones she was reaching quickly, and that most of her additional needs were resolving with specialised help.
Hannah had heard of The Champion Centre through a family friend before attending, but she wasn’t aware of the variety of programmes we offer to help with children’s development. She speaks highly of the Champion Centre and sees a bright future for Eva. She says, “we are so grateful to have The Champion Centre” and “I wouldn’t be where I am now without The Champion Centre”. If Hannah has any questions or concerns about Eva’s development, big or small, she doesn’t hesitate to bring them to the team and get the answers she needs.
Hannah and our therapists now agree that Eva’s development is right on track, so much so that Eva will be transitioning to our monitoring programme which requires less frequent visits to the Centre. Eva has now exceeded everyone’s expectations and Hannah is grateful to have The Champion Centre supporting her the whole way.
Thank you Hannah for sharing your journey with us ❤
Our partners at the Champion Foundation Trust* have been lucky to be named to receive a donation from Matthew Rose of Jarden. Mathew completed his amazing walk of the Te Araroa Trail earlier this month. This very personal journey was combined with raising funds for 10 local charities. One of which being the Champion Foundation. Matthew had this to say shortly after he finished the trail:
"And so after 68 days and well over 1,400kms of trail walking, late on Friday afternoon I reached the end of the road. The final milestone - Stirling Point, Bluff. It was emotional, yet celebratory. I was ready to finish, yet not. During the mayhem, I quietly slipped away and walked down to the sea, slipping my hand into the waters of Foveaux Strait, and reminiscing about the same simple act done before starting at Ship Cove. It afforded me a peaceful, solitary moment for reflection on my achievement. The old adage rang loud and true - it is the journey, not the destination."
A sincere thank you to Matt from the Foundation and the Champion Centre too!
*The Champion Foundation Trust raises money for the long-term future of The Champion Centre.
Matt's Good Walk | Te Araroa Trail Fundraiser (mattsgoodwalk.nz)
Thank you for taking the time to read our Newsletter and we look forward to welcoming everyone back in Term 3!
2023 at The Champion Centre began with much excitement and anticipation as staff and families reconnected after the long summer break. It’s been a busy and fruitful term. We’ve welcomed new families, we’ve waved children off to school, and we’ve continued to join whānau to support them and their children’s development.
In this edition of Connect we have a number of items of interest to celebrate and share with you:
We are keen to shine the light on one of our new offerings at The Champion Centre - Lego Therapy. We are now running Lego Therapy groups each term for small numbers of children who will benefit. You can read more about this new development and its impact here.
We thank Lu, who generously shares her personal ‘story’ and her thoughts and feelings about coming to The Champion Centre with her son Alfie.
And we are continually grateful to all of our supporters. As a not-for-profit organisation, while we receive government support, we still need to raise over $600,000 per year to ensure we can provide the full range of services to families who need them. We meet this challenge by applying for grants, and through the generosity of a range of supporters and donors. One of our supporters is Matt Rose who is walking from the top of the South Island to the bottom to raise money for a range of charities including The Champion Foundation Trust. You can read more about Matt’s trip in this edition of Connect.
If you or someone you know has a fundraising idea or would like to donate to The Champion Centre, please contact Tracey Horsham on email@example.com. Tracey would love to hear from you.
Lauren and Wendy
By establishing clear job roles, Lego Therapy ensures the involvement of all children in the targeted outcome of building the Lego model. This is combined with peer instruction and peer modelling which are key features of social skills interventions. Peer mediated interventions have been highlighted as a potentially versatile and effective intervention approach for individuals with social communication challenges across social, communicative and academic outcomes. Lego Therapy has a good evidence base and research* has concluded that peer mediated interventions were highly effective at promoting social interactions in young children with these specific needs.
Lego Therapy at The Champion Centre
Late last year we trialled a 5-session block of a Lego Therapy Group for 4 children currently enrolled in the service. Children were identified by teams, based on their needs and the match with therapy goals. Sessions were team-led by one of our Speech Language Therapists, Chloe and supported by our Clinical Director, Lauren. They began with attention building activities, for example 'bucket time' where a 'mystery' object is slowly revealed from a bucket (creating attention and anticipation), before moving into a Lego Therapy session and a free play Lego session.
During the Lego Therapy component, children began by building a mini figure of their choosing. After they completed their mini figure build, they took turns giving each other comments about something they liked in the other’s figure. Once concluded, the children participated in a group build. The object to be built was pre-chosen by Chloe, who also handed out the roles for the week (Builder, Supplier, Engineer). Once the group build was complete, the children moved into Free Play. In the Free Play component, we had a big box of Lego bricks spread out on the floor and children we able to build anything of their choosing. They were supported by Lauren and Chloe when necessary; adults also engaged in interactive Lego play with the children, fostering group interaction, shared imagination, and connection.
Lu was invited to choose an early intervention programme for Alfie, and not really knowing which to choose, opted for The Champion Centre because a friend had worked there and being a service based in the Centre, Lu hoped she would be able to meet other parents in a similar situation and feel less isolated. Her first introduction to the Centre was a visit from Social Worker, Marguerite, and Lu described how “for the first time ever I felt really heard, by someone who understood, cared and wanted to help”.
Lu described how after a few months attending the programme, she started to see the changes and progress Alfie was making with the help of his therapists. She also began to feel like she was surrounded by support and by joining The Champion Centre Facebook group for parents it enabled her to connect with the other families within the Centre in the time between programmes, which was a significantly positive turning point. Members of this group regularly meet up and connect virtually to discuss the challenges of parenting a child with additional needs, without any judgment or bias. While Lu can’t imagine life without Alfie and the joy he brings to her world, it can be exhausting and heart-breaking raising a child with disabilities. Other whānau at the Centre understand that “this is not the life you envision as a parent” and agree with Lu that “it can be difficult”.
The Champion Centre has been a huge supporter of Lu’s goals for Alfie, and the specialists are always available to listen to her concerns. If they are having an off day, the family support team are quick to make her a coffee and provide a listening ear. The therapists are always flexible with Alfie’s needs and if he requires more assistance in a particular programme that day, they adapt to best support Lu and Alfie. The specialists guided Lu with additional notes and resources to help her make progress with Alfie at home, and she loves the variety of the programmes we offer that are unique to the Centre.
Please help support Matt!
Matt Rose has recently set a goal to walk 1,400 km down the Te Araroa Trail as an incredible way to raise money for ten charities close to his heart. You can head to his website www.mattsgoodwalk.nz to read more about why Matthew is taking on such a huge challenge and find out how you can help support him on this journey.
The Champion Foundation Trust who strives to secure a sustainable future for The Champion Centre, has been lucky enough to be selected as one of the benefiting charities. For more information on The Champion Foundation, please go to their website: www.championfoundation.co.nz
We are sending our thanks and well wishes to Matthew for his big adventure.
WE LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU ALL IN TERM 2!
Wow! It certainly feels like 2022 has gone in a flash. Despite this, as Lauren and I reflect on ‘the year that was’, we can certainly say it has been full and fruitful. There are some wonderful articles in this newsletter and we'd like to thank Emma in particular for sharing her story. Happy festive reading.
This year a total of 219 tamariki and their whānau joined us at The Champion Centre. We farewelled 60 children and families, as they took the next steps in their exciting journey to school, and we supported 64 children at their early childhood centre.
We know that for some, parenting can be lonely and isolating. That’s why this year we intentionally sought to increase opportunities for parents and caregivers to connect with one another. In addition to providing more scope for connection with other families in programmes, we now have regular afternoon teas for parents, providing a place to gather, share a cuppa and get to know each other further. We have also offered a Circle of Security Parenting Group. Meanwhile, two wonderful Mums have set up a Champion Centre Facebook page for parents and caregivers, that now has over 70 families connecting, communicating and supporting one another and even meeting up in person.
Consisting of families past and present, staff and supporters, our Champion Centre community is certainly strong, supportive and in good heart. We would like to thank everyone for your unique contributions: to our families; to our dedicated, skilled and hard-working staff; and to our generous supporters who help make sure we have the funds to continue to do what we need to do.
Wishing you and your whānau a safe and relaxing holiday.
We look forward to seeing you next year.
Wendy and Lauren
Here comes Christmas!
Our Family Christmas Party this year was once again a hit with children, families and staff. Santa was in attendance, and many children got to meet the man himself and have a photo taken. Melanie Poppins put on a magic show, and our very own Champion Centre Music Specialists ran a group music session complete with the rainbow ring and parachute. The weather was kind to us, and there was an abundance of festive food, kindly catered and donated by the Airport Commodore Hotel. The Christmas Party is a wonderful example of our community once again coming together to support one another. Thank you to all involved.
‘Thank you so much to The Champion Centre for all your help for Mum and me…. You grew me into a champion!’
It’s always wonderful to hear what our Champion Centre graduates are up to. Molly, now 20, kindly agreed to be the guest speaker at our Annual General Meeting this year, where she eloquently spoke of her life journey, what she gets up to and what’s important to her. Molly attended The Champion Centre from a baby up until when she went to primary school. She shared highlights of her school career, including year 11 Academic Excellence in the supported learning programme, her school formal, her love for animals, a recent trip to Sydney, her love of Christmas, and her rich array of friends and family. Molly recently graduated from Ara with a New Zealand Certificate in Skills for Living and Skills for Working. We are so very proud.
Molly’s Mum, Charlotte also shared her recollections of those early days with Molly at The Champion Centre and the vital support she received from all staff as well as the wonderful sense of community.
Thank you to both Molly and Charlotte.
We also wish to thank everyone who attended the AGM and got to hear Molly's story first hand.
Stuck for last minute Christmas present ideas? Check out our Earlybird books (both in English and Te Reo Māori).
Earlybird is a delightful children's story book written by Julie Burgess-Manning, illustrated by Jenny Cooper and created from an idea by Patricia Champion. It tells the moving story of Peri Pukeko, a baby bird who hatched too early, as he gets ready to learn to fly. It's a unique book which is beautiful to look at and carries an important message.
Copies of Earlybird can be purchased at The Champion Centre, or via the button below.
With her twinkling eyes and her broad, infectious smile, Harper greets us with a great big ‘Hi’. Everyone at the Centre knows when Harper has entered the building as she rushes through reception to start her programme, and she never forgets to say ‘Goodbye’ as she leaves on her next adventure.
Sign Language takes off via Zoom!
This year in a new initiative, we have been running Zoom Sign Language classes for families wanting to sign with their children. Previously we have offered in-person courses but as covid loomed it seemed a good idea to try out zoom. These worked well and families have enjoyed not having to leave their homes to attend. Liz, our talented Sign Language Coordinator has so far reached more than 20 people. Mums, dads, brothers and sisters have all joined in. We will continue to offer beginner courses each term and are planning some further courses for those who want to continue on. Sign Language can be a great way to support a child’s learning and development, particularly in the area of communication.