A word that people who get to know Leanne commonly use to describe Leanne is that she is 'passionate' about helping young people. Get her talking on the subject and it just gushes out. Leanne is a qualified Occupational Therapist, who tends to be a bit unconventional, and mother of two special needs children. In 2010, she discovered through the process of trying to find good therapists for her own children, that it was hard to find therapists who did what made sense and addressed her immediate needs and long term goals.
She also discovered that some of the therapy models that made sense like DIR Flootime were considered 'emerging' or 'promising' in the research, but were not yet considered conclusively effective, but she saw they worked with her own children's lives. Others were firmly established as effective - and were even fun! They worked too! Leanne was an early adopter of the Secret Agent Society program in 2011 with great success, spread the news about the award winning program far and wide, and many other therapists started to offer the program.
In 2019, Leanne reflected on what had been effective in her own kids’ lives, and was surprised to realise that telehealth was one of the most effective forms of therapy they did, amongst others. This was because Leanne, her husband Paul, and their private therapy aid were empowered to help the children in their everyday lives, rather than just in a clinic setting. That was when she started offering a 100% telehealth service from 2019 to 2021. She discovered that not many other occupational therapists in Australia seemed to be offering group services for young people via telehealth. Luckily, due to her prior research, training, knowledge and experience in telehealth, she was able to help thousands of therapists make the switch to telehealth during the COVID pandemic from March 2020, to ensure that clients had continuity of service. In collaboration with AHPA (Allied Health Professionals Association), her telehealth case studies had an important role to play in Medicare approving permanent Medicare rebates for a broad application of Occupational Therapy telehealth services during COVID. She also assisted OT Australia with policies, procedures, and a webinar about telehealth; assisted AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency) with a podcast on telehealth; provided a keynote address to Southern Cross University health promotion conference about telehealth; and was a guest speaker on the OT Telehealth Summit. She has led a Telehealth OTs and Digital Transformation Facebook group for nearly 900 therapists from around the world since 2019. Leanne also noticed that training in telehealth tended to be more theoretical rather than practical, when therapists just wanted to see how to do telehealth. That's when she launched her You Tube channel 'Leanne Hopkins' with examples of how to do telehealth, and her telehealth training service. Therapists reported their confidence in delivering telehealth services doubled after the practical training. She now provides advanced training on the subject. In 2021 she will be commencing work teaching post graduate Occupational Therapy students at Bond University.
When her son was a tween to teen, she found that many paediatric therapists lacked the knowledge, skill and willingness to help her son. A dedicated Occupational Therapist with skills in Dialectical Behaviour Therapy and complex conditions, a tutor/support worker, and a multidisciplinary pain management team were critical during this time. This was when Dialectical Behaviour Therapy became an important part of what Leanne offers, helping young people with strong intense emotions to deal with them more effectively. This model is only just being researched in terms of it's effectiveness with Autism. Yet people with Autism have an increased risk of mental illness and suicide. Again, the model made sense, but with modifications to suit different learning styles. Leanne uses a broader application for the principles for managing chronic pain or sensory differences that affect function. She found they are great concepts for anyone in life. She combined those principles with elements of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy to create her Family Fulfilment Club for improving family well-being.
Her journey has been one of personal development, reading, and doing courses. This is because one appointment with a therapist per week or fortnight is not enough to make a timely difference in many young people's lives, where they have complex needs. Young people need to see that therapy is making a difference in their lives or they may give up. Carers need to be up-skilled to help their young person between sessions. This is a core part of her service philosophy. She is on a journey of balancing acceptance with change that she thinks is important for everyone to consider.
As her kids got older, she sought her kids input on different therapy models. Where they were too boring or repetitive like some aspects of Social Thinking Methodology and Zones of Regulation, she adapted them to be more appealing and to cover the most important concepts over a shorter and more defined period of time, using evidence-based principles.
Leanne was surprised to discover that she was not told about other therapy models that have been around for 20 years that are effective (such as the Children's Friendship Training Program - 'Super-friends Club') and would have suited her children's needs as they grew up. Luckily she has what she refers to as a 'Google search gift' - intensive online research about a particular gap until she find the right thing to fill the gap. She was determined to find techniques that harnessed kids interest and skills in technology, to teach improved coping skills. This is when she discovered the Mightier and HeartMath biofeedback programs. She wants to share what she has learnt with others so they can benefit.
What is important to Leanne is evidence based practice. Evidence based practice is a combination of what the research says works, what clinical wisdom says will work in a particular circumstance, and client preference. If the therapy does not take client preference into account, the client is unlikely to continue with therapy. When a client is not engaged in therapy in some way (even if it is 'DIY'), it doesn't matter how evidence-based a therapy model is, it will never work. That's when Leanne developed the gamers clubs. These have particular appeal for young people who would otherwise not engage in therapy. When young people are motivated to engage in therapy, the carers are more able to receive support on how to assist their young one to achieve their potential.
After being approached by carers of young adults in 2019 and teenagers in 2020, Leanne noticed a gap in evidence-based services that were appropriate for adolescents and young adults and expanded her services to assist them with making friends using techniques that socially successful young people use, learning dating etiquette, improving cognitive function, and preparing for work. This is mainly using the programs developed by UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) such as PEERS for Adolescents and Young Adults. Some programs such as PEERS for Preschoolers, PEERS for Careers, and ThinkSmart are not fully released and are still in the research phase but make a lot of sense, so an adapted version is being offered by Succeed Healthcare Solutions until the final products have been published.
Leanne has always been able to identify gaps in the market, and find ways to fill those gaps. Since becoming an amateur triathlete, Leanne discovered that whilst there are sports programs in Brisbane for people with an intellectual disability or physical disability, many young people with Autism and ADHD are expected to fit into mainstream sports programs. Whilst some excel in this environment, many flounder and either drop out or don't even try. This is when the popular Ninja Warrior, Team Seasons and Generation Pound therapy services were born. They seek to provide a sport style therapeutic atmosphere, whilst teaching young people skills to cope more effectively in a mainstream sport environment, if they wish to pursue this.
2021 also welcomed Pizzazz, Leanne's daughter's medic alert Assistance Dog into their lives. That was a journey with lots of learnings in itself, that Leanne would like to share to help others prepare well in advance for the experience.
Leanne discovered that different therapy models suited her children's development at different ages. This is how she came up with the concept of a 'Therapy Map'. This is a recommended journey that young people can travel through at Succeed Healthcare Solutions, as they face various transition points in life.
The programs at Succeed Healthcare Solutions could not be what they are now without the valuable input from the families we serve. Our team approach is to take signs of an unmotivated child seriously and treat that lack of motivation as if it is a complaint, and seek to remedy the situation. Leanne realised she has strong skills not only in finding programs that make sense and are helpful, but also in adapting them to be more relevant or effective for young people, and using the concepts to create completely new programs.
With the rise in controversy over the language and therapy models for Autism, in 2021 Leanne reflected on her own beliefs. Her services teach concepts that would help anyone, not just people with Autism. She approaches behavioural needs like an employer would - when the employee knows what is expected of them, they know what to focus on, and they are rewarded for their hard work and focus. She approaches social needs like anyone should - we are all on a journey of personal development and have strengths and weaknesses. Everyone is better off when they leverage their strengths, and improve in areas that are meaningful to them and to society. She believes in a respectful dialogue that recognises that everyone is different and is on their own journey. She believes that two opposite opinions can be true at the same time! She believes in having as many tools in the tool box as possible. Sometimes a surprising strategy is what is effective.
Registered practitioner with AHPRA
Medicare Better Access to Mental Health approved provider
Member of OT Australia
Heart Math biofeedback training, 2021
Pound Pro/Generation Pound Training, March 2021
PEERS for Young Adults Training, UCLA, 2020
PEERS for Adolescents Training, UCLA, 2020
Pain Management in Practice Workshop, 2019, Empower Rehab
The Secret Agent Society Small Group Program, 2011 & 2019, 2020, Social Skills Training Institute
Social Thinking Webinar series of 10 Core Concepts, 2019, Social Thinking - Think Social
Accredited Standard Mental Health First Aider, 2017, Mental Health First Aid Australia
Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, 2014, Dr Marsha Linehan, Byron Clinic
AUSTWIM Teacher of Aquatics to People with Disabilities, 2012
The DIR Floortime Model, 2011, Sensory Connections
Training with Professor Bruce Tonge, Carol Gray and Dr Tony Attwood