Reach has been fortunate enough to have been awarded a 2022 Telethon Grant in order to provide the Reach Baby Program to families of low-socio economic areas, to adolescent mothers and to first nation families.

During the first years of life a child’s brain has the best opportunity to develop the connections they need to be healthy, capable, successful adults. The early brain development relies on the quality of a child’s experiences in the first years of life and has a lasting impact on a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school and life. Reach Foundation delivers a movement program for babies from birth, based on an understanding of sensori-motor development in relation to neurodevelopment. The program incorporates functional and transitional movements, locomotion, organic strength, balance and coordination.

The Australian Government Department of Health recommends 30 minutes of ‘physical activity’ (floor based play, on their tummy) for infants until the age of one year old. For children from one to five years old, three hours of ‘physical activity’ inclusive of one hour ‘energetic play’ is recommended. It is recommended that ‘sedentary behaviour’ (except for sleeping) be limited. Research shows that early childhood experiences can impact a child’s development significantly. Reach’s evidence-based program provides specific movement opportunities through functional movement activities, organic strengthening exercises, stimulation to the proprioceptive and vestibular systems to assist with the development of body awareness and balance. It is a program that is easily translated into daily routines at home and most importantly is enjoyable for the baby and adult, enhancing critical connections.

Reach Baby Program will directly impact lives of children in WA in the short term by providing families with the opportunity to empower themselves in the journey of their child’s development. As a parent myself, I am aware of the acute learning curve of parenthood. Parents often say that they wish there was a manual. Most child development experts will tell you that every child has their own unique journey and parents know their children better than anyone. The challenge in modern day is not the lack of information but an overload of information. The Reach Baby Program takes this into consideration. The facilitators are sensitive to the delicacy of guiding parents through the journey of parenthood. The program being based on movement and the connection we have with our bodies, encourages parents to tune in to the knowledge that already exists within them and align with their unique parenting pathway. As adults we have often forgotten how to play. In the short term, Reach Baby Program is a way to incorporate daily, fun routines – guiding families in the ways they can engage and connect through movement with their children while also facilitating the attainment of motor milestones and the opportunity for early intervention where required.

The Reach Baby Program not only facilitates the natural development of sequential motor milestones through a play based, fun program. Our social media presences helps to build supportive communities guiding parents who have connected through Reach’s sessions, through their individual journey of parenting thus reducing mental health concerns. In the long term, we believe that the Reach Baby Program will have children more prepared for entry into formal schooling and parents with children with developmental vulnerabilities will be better supported to make the best decisions for their children’s future.

Each child is assessed in a group environment, to collect quantitative and qualitative data relating to individual developmental milestones. The motor development is assessed in terms of sequence of development of motor milestones. Longitudinal assessment of different types of motor skills is completed which has the benefit of providing a profile of each child’s sequence and tempo. The developmental milestones of each child will be tracked using Reach’s formalised milestone chart which is based on the Australian Children’s Education and Care Authority and the World Health Organisation. Quantitative and qualitative data is collated at intervals and documented from this data. The data collected for children with developmental vulnerabilities will facilitate their individual intervention process thus providing appropriate professional with sound foundational documentation.

Reach’s program is unique in that it is introducing from birth sequential patterns of movement relating to a baby’s intended motor development. Research shows that these motor patterns assist neurodevelopment within the first years of life. While movement is significant to brain development within the first five years of life, it continues to be vital to mental and physical health throughout life. As children enter formal schooling their strengths tend to dictate their opportunities. For some children their sense of a lack of ability becomes a limiting factor to moving their body. Reach Foundation’s mission is to encourage the right attitude of parents and their children towards movement tasks, as well as highlighting, targeting, and providing remedies for individualised limiting factors – whether due to nature or nurture – that inhibits participation. Participation verses achievement becomes increasingly important in an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, often associated with societal changes that come with living in a vastly technological world. Such a world often deprives children and adults of more and more movement opportunities in their day-to-day life. The technological world tends to favour mental performance and excellence, displacing movement of the body often leading to chronic pain and physical ailments becoming more common in younger and younger populations. Fostering a healthy attitude in parents, toward movement aids the journey of development of their children, as it becomes less about ‘ticking a box’ (rolling, sitting, crawling, walking), and more about the time in-between those milestones that matters.

When families are engaged in Reach Baby Program over a period of time, facilitators are able to develop fundamental connections that not only aids gross motor development and milestone progression, but also provides mental health support for greater well being of parents and their babies.