A couple from Lindfield have opened the first children’s occupational therapy centre of its type in Sussex.
Vicky Ruffle, 33, and Dominic Simpson, 32, directors of Jigsaw Occupational Therapy, have opened an assessment and sensory integration therapy centre for children with multiple disabilities in Cuckfield Road, Burgess Hill.
Vicky said that the centre had been a dream of hers which she never thought would become a reality until just a couple of years ago.
She said: “It’s something I would like to have done but it always seemed so unreachable.”
After working in occupational therapy for more than 10 years Vicky has slowly realised the demand for her services and the need for her own base.
Dominic, who used to commute to London Victoria every day to work in finance, quit his job to help Vicky fulfil her dream.
Vicky said: “He’s gone from working in London, not knowing too much about what I do, to working flat out at the centre. It’s been a massive career change.”
They put all their savings into converting a 300 year old barn - which used to be used as a hair salon - and they opened the centre in April this year.
Vicky said: “It was quite a big job to get it ready for children to use.
“It took us a couple of months from when we got it to when we opened.”
The centre is the only dedicated assessment and sensory integration therapy centre of it’s kind in Sussex.
The couple will host an open day at the centre on June 17 to allow members of the public to discover more about what they do.
Vicky said she hoped that with both herself and her husband self employed, they would have more flexibility to be able to spend time with their new baby which they are expecting in 10 weeks time.
Vicky has been an occupational therapist since 2003 and has worked at many local school, training teachers and helping set up strategies to help schools work with children with a range of disabilities.
Jigsaw Occupational Therapy is also working closely with local schools in the Mid-Sussex area, maximising children’s access to education and social inclusion.
Vicky said many of her skills are needed to help schools learn how to teach children who are intelligent and bright but find it particularly difficult to concentrate or sit still.
“It’s not that they’re trying to be disruptive”, Vicky explained, “it’s that their sensory processing isn’t very good.”
Some techniques which Vicky implements in schools are the use of “fidget toys” which allow children to quietly use their hands to play with a toy whilst listening to their teacher, or special seats children can wobble on so that they find it easier to sit down for longer periods of time.
Vicky added: “It’s really good for children to fidget. It helps them concentrate.
“We do things like that to keep ourselves alert but we as adults can do it in a more appropriate way than children.”
The centre is open Monday to Saturday and caters to children up to the age of 19.
Some of the conditions Vicky is trained to work with include cerebral palsy, autism and Aspergers, sensory processing disorders, acquired brain injuries, motor coordination difficulties and learning disabilities.
To find out more about the centre visit www.jigsaw-ot.co.uk.