Talking to Deb Hopper of Life Skills 4 Kids, you can’t help but be caught up in her infectious passion for families. This chat was a real pleasure!
Deb, tell us a little about your background and what led you to work so closely with children?
Hi Jeremy! My professional career has been varied. I started working as an Occupational Therapist in Forensic Mental Health and the Melbourne Assessment Prison, to mental health work in Gosford, before working with children in Forster. This may seem a little disjointed, but the mental health skills I developed are an excellent basis for working with children with self-regulation, behavioural and learning difficulties.
Are you a Great Lakes local?
I was born at Cape Hawke Hospital in Forster, but left town as a baby. I moved back here in 2001, when I married Bruce. I guess I’m almost a local now? I have two awesome boys, Leighton and Trent, and we have lots of fun hanging out at the beach.
Some may not know what an Occupational Therapist (OT) does. Give us the “man in the street” explanation.
Occupational Therapists work with adults and children to promote health and wellbeing through helping them do the things they need to do independently. We work across all ages and help people identify what activities they struggle with, assess why they might be struggling, and then help them either develop these skills or develop new ways of completing them.
As an OT working with children and adults, I help with a variety of issues, including sensory processing, learning difficulties (concentration, reading/spelling, copying from the board, listening and understanding), behavioural, self-confidence, social skills, balance and co-ordination, self-care tasks including brushing teeth or getting organised for school, fussy eaters, auditory processing disorder and anxiety.
I’m passionate about empowering people to understand the impact of sensory processing difficulties (being over-sensitive to noise, movement, or other senses, or seeking out movement).
OT is only part of what you do at Life Skills 4 Kids. Give us a run down on other offerings through the business.
Our business is transitioning from selling sensory products online at www.lifeskills4kids.com.au (massive sale on now!) to offering online courses and webinars. Our next releases include a 20 Day Classroom Detox, where teachers are guided through an online course to review their classrooms and fine tune the learning environment. This includes an audit of the visual environment and fine tuning how they display posters and crafts in their classroom, monitoring the noise in the classroom and even looking at their playgrounds to check if the equipment is meeting children’s sensory needs.
Our first online webinar, launching Term 2, is “Practical Tips for Worried Kids”. This is for parents and professionals who have kids with anxiety.
I am very passionate about sharing my knowledge. With my busy mobile clinic locally, I have limited time now for running workshops around Australia, so I am moving to be more online for delivering education.
You’re a mum yourself. Is it handy having your skills with your own children?
I’m very human, and of course the wheels fall off sometimes! My professional knowledge helps me to think about the big picture and helps me pick my battles. My kids teach me so much, and it gives me perspective of the day to day struggles of parenting and the reality of what parents are able to complete in a home program.
My kids do feel hard done by at times, as we have very little screen time, no TV in the morning, and we don’t own an Xbox. Our backyard is filled with swings, sandpit, cubby house and many ropes and pullies weaved through our big tree. Outdoor play is what kids really need these days.
Great fun! How do you juggle full-time mum and full-time owner of a very diverse business?
I love the variety of my business. Restructuring recently has allowed me to refocus on where I’m heading. I set very focused goals and break the tasks into small steps, and then go for it! Keeping fit makes everything go smoother. Bruce is the glue in our house that keeps things going daily. He is great at putting the washing out! Prayer and handing over my worries to God is also important.
Being a parent, I realise that sometimes “we” are the problem. Is there one top tip you give parents to help them with the growth of their children?
Make quality time for your kids, put the screens down, eat together at the table, and talk and play with your kids. Get back to old fashioned basics.
What one aspect of your business gives you the greatest pleasure? Do you enjoy working with children, or doing more in the public speaking and writing space?
I love it all! The children I work with feel like an extension of my family, and working with families longer term is very special. I also love sharing my knowledge, either through speaking at workshops, conferences or online, as I can get my ideas out to people around the world.
Where do you see your businesses in the five years from now? More awards?
I hope to be busy with my therapy locally, as well as having a suite of online webinars and courses, and more family holidays and balance. Being named Business Person of the Year for the past two years and Runner Up Business of the Year Overall in 2016 was fun, but all business owners deserve an award!
For you, what is the best part about being in business in the Manning-Great Lakes?
Combining life, work and being outside in our beautiful waterways makes life beautiful. I love running One Mile Beach, swimming with the Cape Hawke Surf Club Sunrisers year-round, participating at Forster Tri Club or having a swim at the Bullring after work. It’s like being on holidays all year round!
For more information, you can find resources and links at www.lifeskills4kids.com.au