Occupational Therapy Helping Children was started in 1994 by founder and director Lisa Hughes. Lisa began doing home visits on Saturday mornings. Towards the end of 1994, she began to rent rooms from Pittwater Council and established her first clinic at the old Elanora Heights Early Childhood Centre. Throughout 1994 & 1995, Lisa continued to work part-time in private practice and part-time in her position with NSW Health at Mona Vale Hospital.
At the beginning of 1996, Lisa left her job in health and jumped full time into running Occupational Therapy Helping Children. This was the year the business expanded to 2 new locations at Woollahra & Lindfield. It was also the year that the business hired its first OTs and admin staff.
In 1997, OTHC bought out two OT practices in Crows Nest as part of Assessment & Therapy Services and a school practice on Sydney’s lower North Shore. This saw the company now providing comprehensive services to children in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, North Shore & Eastern Suburbs.
In 1998, OTHC moved its Eastern Suburbs practice to Waverley and moved into a multi-disciplinary practice in Lindfield, Lindfield Speech Pathology and Learning Centre run by Devon Barnes, Speech Pathologist. In 1998, OTHC also expanded its services into several Department of Education, Catholic and Independent schools across Sydney’s Northern & Eastern suburbs. OTHC still provides a service in one of these schools, 23 years later!!!
In 1999, the need for services at our Crows Nest clinic increased, and so OTHC moved into their own rooms on the Pacific Highway at Crows Nest.
In 2000, Lisa gave birth to a beautiful daughter, Savannah and began the juggle of business owner & motherhood. Savannah arrived prematurely at 34 weeks, which threw Lisa’s handover plans into a spin. Three weeks later, Savannah was discharged from the hospital and came to help do six job interviews the next day. As a maternity leave project, Lisa started up a new clinic in the Hills district and started providing a school service at Pacific Hills Christian school.
Throughout the noughties, the four clinics successfully operated in the four different locations in Sydney. In 2000, the OTHC clinic at Waverley moved into new rooms in the heart of Bondi Junction, opposite Westfield, which was the final move for the Eastern suburbs practice. In 2001, the Elanora clinic moved from its home in Kalang Rd and relocated to Elanora Rd, next to Elanora Heights Public School.
In 2006, Lisa decided to close the Bondi Junction practice and consolidate the business on the North Shore. The main reason for this was that juggling running a business with motherhood made it hard for Lisa to get across to the Eastern suburbs as much as needed. In 2011, the Crows Nest premises was turned from a commercial building into apartments. After months of searching for alternate premises, Lisa decided to leave the Crows Nest area and merge her Northern Beaches and Crowns Nest practice in the middle at Balgowlah. This left OTHC with two locations at Balgowlah & Pymble. The Balgowlah practice in Bakery Mews in Wanganella St proved a great central location, and the business operated out of there successfully until it moved to Frenchs Forest in July 2021. Due to the large-scale development planned for the Lindfield Shopping precinct, OTHC moved to Suakin St, Pymble, in September 2017 and operated out of those rooms until July 2021.
In 2018, OTHC bought a franchise for Sense Rugby from the founders, Jesse and Carlien Parahi and began to operate Sense Rugby at Cliff Oval at Wahroonga. In 2020, OTHC also took over the running of Sense Rugby Northern beaches, operating from Seaforth oval.
In July 2021, äfter nearly two years of planning, OTHC moved to their state of the art “one roof clinic” at Frenchs Forest. The Frenchs Forest clinic has eleven treatment rooms, including three purpose-built gym spaces, a play therapy room, an area to run education sessions, playgroups, and various group programs. This will be the final home for OTHC, and the team is excited to be all under one roof and be able to support the Northern Beaches community.
The Occupational Therapists
In its rich history, OTHC has employed over 80 Occupational Therapists, who have all contributed to its development and journey. Some of these OT’s have gone on to have outstanding international careers, start their own OT practices, become clinical managers, and many other directions.
The number of children OTHC has helped in its 27-year history is vast and too many to record. Let us just say we have restarted the database three times! Many inspirational clients have gone on to be Paralympian’s, world chess champions and outstanding organists. Whatever path they have chosen, OTHC has played a part in empowering them along the way.
Key Changes in Funding
In its 27-year history, OTHC has seen many changes in the private practice scene in Sydney. As one of Sydney’s first private practices, Lisa has witnessed many changes in funding for children with additional needs. Back in the 90’s the only funding available was private health. In the 2000s, some Medicare items were added, which made OT accessible for more families. The FaHCSIA funding introduced in the late noughties saw even more families access private therapy companies. This was an exciting development, as it meant private practices were working with children with a wider range of disabilities. The NDIS was rolled out in Northern Sydney on July 1, 2017, and this dramatically changed the landscape for private practice Australia wide. The NDIS has allowed participants to choose their own providers and be in control of their own therapy budget.
OTHC looks forward to forging ahead in its new location at Frenchs Forest, continuing with Sense Rugby, providing innovative services and using evidence-based therapeutic techniques. We’d love you to subscribe to our website to follow us on our journey and follow us on Facebook or Instagram.