Ningi’s Janelle Ford only launched her business a little over a year ago – but already she’s won four awards recognising her contribution to the mental health and disability sector.
The Director and Clinical Nurse Consult at Progressive Play won gold, silver and bronze at the Roar Awards for Start-Up of the Year, Business Growth and Business of the Year respectively and a silver in the Emerging Ausmumpreneur of the Year for Queensland/Northern Territory at the AusMumpreneur Awards in 2022.
Progressive Play provides educational services to health professionals, educators, parents and caregivers to deliver alternative therapeutic interventions using Lego bricks.
Janelle says it was an honour to be nominated for the awards.
“I was nominated by my customers,” she says.
“I was speechless and excited when I found out.
“I didn’t realise just how much of a positive impact I was creating just by providing affordable, flexible, evidenced-based training and when I put it into perspective, I am helping to improve the mental health and wellbeing of participants across the nation.
“The more professionals that are trained in this modality, the more programs will be available for participants and service users to access.
“My training programs have been well received, with hundreds of professionals having already completed the training, which is very encouraging, I am really proud of what I have achieved so far.”
About Janelle Ford
Janelle has worked in the mental health and disability sectors for 20 years, and discovered many people were not happy with the limited therapy options available.
“Many other therapies involve a component of additional homework, and for some people, it can be a real struggle to find the motivation to get through tasks of everyday living without them doing all the extra work they need to do with the other therapeutic options.
“When I first came across Lego Based Therapy, it was not a therapeutic activity that was readily available to service users within the mental health and disability sectors, and while some services offered Lego Based Therapy for children, there were none that were offering it within the adult sector.
“There were also no CPD (Continuing Professional Development) accredited providers in the region who were delivering specific training for health professionals either.”
To fill the gap, Janelle trained in the methodologies and introduced the therapy to a handful of participants, who were delighted with the results.
“The Lego-based intervention provided them with the intrinsic motivation they were searching for and provided them with hours upon hours of mindfulness techniques that helped to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression,” she says.
“It was an activity that they could undertake as a group and also alone at home, and was an activity that didn’t feel like homework and one that they actually enjoyed.
“The beneficial effect this therapy intervention has had for participants is amazing.
“That was my ‘aha’ moment - I knew then that this therapeutic intervention needed to be in every health professional and educator’s professional toolbox.”
Janelle then began writing, researching and developing training programs to teach others.
“I’m not the original inventor of Lego Based Therapy interventions – I share the knowledge with others in my online facilitator training programs, which includes additional training specific to mental health and disability."
Since launching Progressive Play, Janelle says she has seen significant improvements in people.
“For example, it’s a great intervention for people with anxiety because it allows them to engage in a mindfulness activity that helps them to get away from the negative thoughts and allows them to live in the moment and be in a better headspace,” Janelle explains.
“Lego Based Therapy interventions can also help people with mental health issues acknowledge their own feelings and share that with others, when delivered in a facilitated group setting.”
Janelle has also seen major changes in children with neurodevelopmental disorders.
“When children participate in a therapeutic Lego group, the Lego bricks become the tool that helps with social skills and communication skills and gets them to work together towards the same goal,” she says.
“With smaller Lego sets being so affordable, and with lots of cool kits available, it’s having a positive change for mental health and disability service users and that’s worth getting excited about.”
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