Sam Gately, Occupational Therapist
Sue Williams wrote to us on behalf of her son Thomas, aged 7, to nominate Sam Gately, Thomas’ Occupational Therapist (OT), as their Unsung Hero. Sam has made a huge difference to their lives. Sue told us, “Out of all the professionals Thomas has seen she is the only one who has actually given us any insight and advice on how to help him move him forward.”
As well as providing Thomas with Occupational Therapy in school, Sam also takes him for fortnightly group sessions to her clinic, which is based on a farm. Here, Sue tells us, Sam is developing Thomas’ skills without him even realising as it is such a natural environment!
Thomas sustained his brain injury after falling from a standing position on his first birthday and hitting his head. This caused a haemorrhage, after which the family were told to take him home as he would be fine. Four years later, Thomas was struggling but it wasn’t clear until Sam got involved with the family that his difficulties could be attributed to a brain injury.
When Thomas needed an Occupational Therapy assessment for school, a contact recommended Sam. Sue told us, “She visited home and school and spent a lot of time interacting with Thomas and getting to know him. She is the only professional I have met who has wanted to try to find out about him as a person and what makes him tick. She highlighted many areas that he was having difficulties with that we didn’t even know about, such as processing and scheduling tasks. She wrote such a comprehensive report that from there we eventually had the diagnosis that his issues were due to the brain injury he’d had as a 1 year old… Without that report I am doubtful we would have got a diagnosis.”
Sam’s support continued after this initial involvement. When Thomas’ school was closed, the Local Authority decided to move him to another facility that was unsuitable for his needs. Sam stepped ‘out of her comfort zone’ to speak out at a Special Educational Needs Tribunal to make it clear what was needed. The Tribunal then advised that Sam be appointed as his OT for school due to, as mum says, “The understanding and obvious bond and trust she had already established with Thomas.”
“She has spent a lot of time researching TBI (traumatic brain injury) as there are so few people, if any, in Wales who have any experience of assisting children like him. He falls through the cracks in the system as he appears “normal” when you initially meet him.”
We asked Sue what difference Sam had made to their lives:
“Thomas adores her and they have a very natural relationship. She likes him rather than “puts up with him because that’s what she’s paid to do”. Thomas is very sensitive to the reactions of adults to him on a 1:1 basis and there are very few people he is completely at ease with. He loves going off to the farm with her because he knows he can relax with her and she accepts him as he is, he hasn’t got to try to conform as he does in school and other places. If you mention her name his face lights up and he talks about her often, keeping things to show her when he next sees her and so on.”
The group sessions Sam provides are, “encouraging and enabling Thomas to interact with other disabled children in the same age group. The pressure isn’t as great as it is in mainstream school where he is all week.”
And Sam has been a massive help to Sue as well. “She has supported me, as Thomas’ main carer, for the past two and a half years. She always tries to help, or to guide me to someone who can. This does make a huge difference to Thomas as if I am unsure what I am doing or am upset then he picks up on that. I really don’t know how I would have survived the past few years without her encouragement that I was doing OK.”
The Williams’ live in Newport, South Wales.
We have recently appointed a Child and Family Support Co-ordinator in Wales. If you would like to make a referral to this service, please contact our Helpline on 0303 303 2248 or by emailing Helpline@cbituk.org.