Future looks bright for ‘diamond’ Eleah
Eleah Basden has a bright future ahead of her thanks to special needs charity WindReach Bermuda.
The seven-year-old, who has autism spectrum disorder, has come on by “leaps and bounds” since she started therapeutic classes at the charity.
Her mother Alvina Brangman and teacher Zola French-Ray spoke to The Royal Gazette after WindReach launched a bid to raise awareness of its services.
The charity's move came after Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute occupational therapist Moffat Makomo, who works in child and adolescent services, revealed he is dealing with more than double the expected caseload.
Ms Brangman said: “Since Eleah has been attending WindReach every Thursday with her teachers from West Pembroke, she has developed into a beam of light.
“It took many years before Eleah developed speech and now to hear her ask questions, make statements and to say a full sentence is beyond amazing for her.”
Ms Brangman said her daughter is also more comfortable making eye contact.
She added: “I am so happy that West Pembroke ASD classroom has linked up with WindReach to offer this service to students.
“The clips and pictures I have received while she is in attendance gives me optimism that she has a bright future ahead of her.
“Eleah is my diamond and I am so proud of her achievements so far.”
Ms French-Ray explained that Eleah, who is in her second year of the WindReach Adaptive Sports and Life Skills Programme, “has made leaps and bounds in all areas at WindReach”.
She said it is “critical” for teachers to identify and develop their students' strengths and this “is definitely an extraordinary area of strength for Eleah”.
“She has been exposed to so many different activities that incorporate everyday skills.
“Her weekly participation has improved her focus, listening skills, fine and gross motor skills, social skills and her overall receptive and expressive language.
Ms French-Ray added: “I am so proud of the growth she continues to make and see it reflect in all areas at school.”
When occupational therapist Alyssa Frick first met Eleah, she was reluctant to speak, but now she can manage three to four-word sentences.
Ms Frick runs the Life Skills programme, which enables participants to develop skills “through meaningful and goal-oriented activities”.
She explained that OT services were important for those with physical disabilities, mental disabilities or health problems.
Ms Frick added: “Occupational therapy guides the individual to successfully achieve the things they need, want or have to do for meaningful daily living.”
But executive director Chrissie Kempe said more awareness is needed about the services offered by the charity and the benefits these can bring to people of all ages.
She was speaking after occupational therapist Moffat Makomo highlighted the need for more OTs to deal with increasingly “complex” cases at MWI. Ms Kempe said: “There is definitely a growing number of kids that aren't receiving the support and that is a concern I share.
“Regrettably, the number of children we serve has decreased since last year. It is WindReach's understanding that this decline is mainly due to funding and transportation.
“It is detrimental to the child not to provide access to necessary services that complement the school curriculum.
“Some children require this extra support which can be integrated into the school day. With the right help, the child has a chance to learn and develop along side their peers.”
Ms Kempe added: “We are doing our best to keep up with the changing need of the community. But I think a lot of it has come down to the economic climate, as well as the understanding of the services.
“I do feel that we are underutilised — we are open for business and we have space to accommodate other individuals, whether it is through adaptive sport, riding or the therapeutic recreational services.”
• WindReach will be observing #givingtuesday today. To donate to their therapeutic programmes, call 238-2469 or visit www.windreachbermuda.org/donate
Tranell Nisbett found his passion and confidence through horse-riding.
The 13-year-old was referred to WindReach’s therapeutic riding service to help strengthen his core muscles and improve his balance.
The teenager from Warwick, who was born prematurely, said: “I started five years ago. I am doing dressage right now.”
Tranell said he loves everything about the experience — from grooming and saddling the horses to riding.
The Mount Saint Agnes pupil, who attends WindReach twice a week, said the pride he took from the work stayed with him because he remembered “the stuff I did the day before”.
His mother, Jennifer Nisbett, said Tranell was referred to the charity by therapists at Purvis Primary School.
She explained: “They felt it would be good for his balance to be doing the riding.”
Ms Nisbett added that the activity was also a good connection with Tranell’s uncle Patrick Nisbett, a champion show jumper.
She said: “Tranell’s progressed a long way. He’s really been excited since September about trying to meet that goal of becoming a show jumper. He told me, ‘Mum, you don’t understand. Riding is life. If I don’t ride, it’s like not living’.”
Ms Nisbett said the biggest change had been in Tranell’s confidence.
She added: “Anybody who meets him doesn’t think he has any challenges because he comes across as so confident.” Ms Nisbett agreed that there was a lack of public knowledge about WindReach services.
She said: “I think most people have a concept that WindReach is for children who are physically challenged more so than those that have other disabilities.”
But she said the service was important because it helped children achieve and gave them the confidence “to try and go further in other areas as well”.
Ms Nisbett also praised the staff for their patience in their work with Tranell.
She added: “I’m proud of him. I’m glad he’s found something that he really enjoys doing. I just hope that the excitement and the effort that he puts into his riding will translate into some of the other areas that need some work as well.”