About Us

Marelize Phelan
Occupational Therapist (BA. Occupational Therapy (HONS); NZROT, B.Soc.Sc (Psychology)

The Better Kids™ project has been an ever growing thought since the creator went into private practice over six years ago in New Zealand. This practice was primarily focused around vocational assessments and traumatic brain injury work, a common trend in New Zealand occupational therapy private practice. It became obvious, through the volume of enquiries received from concerned parents that there was minimal private assistance for children, not only within the creator's local area, but within the whole of New Zealand. The creator's primary concern was that New Zealand's clinical approach and intervention were very much focused on assessing rather than treating. As a result, while a concise and thorough assessment is often carried out, there are limited options for children to receive focused, intensive and functional treatment for these identified issues.

The allocation of the current public funding system for children appears to work on a glide scale, meaning those with more severe disabilities receive input before those with more mild impairments. As a result, it is common for these mildly impaired children to receive only minimal or, no therapy or interventional input. Needless to say these children continue to fall further behind in their functioning and initial minor issues can develop into more severe and debilitating problems. The creator's personal impression was that while parents and other concerned parties like schools are willing to pay for private services, the services simply are not offered or available.

As a South African trained occupational therapist, the creator's training had a significant focus on paediatrics, and as a result she had immediate exposure to paediatric practices during training placements and various post-graduate ventures. The competition and development of paediatric practices in South Africa could be compared to that of Adult practices in New Zealand, hugely competitive and dedicated to providing the best service for exchange of work, often with Medical aid funding available, and with the likes of, New Zealand’s, ACC contracts. In South Africa most private practices are specializing in paediatrics. In comparison, New Zealand private paediatric practices appear scarce and the public service has long waiting lists and strict criteria which limits the amount of occupational therapy input.

After further thought (and the selling of her Adult private practice in New Zealand) the creator decided that she wanted to research paediatric practice further. She returned to South Africa and made valuable contact with her training University and an occupational therapist colleague that has spent over 10 years developing and working one of the most influential paediatric practices in South Africa. During her stay in South Africa, she observed closely with experienced occupational therapist practitioners in their practices, and how they administer the assessments and treatment of children. She reviewed patient files and alongside her clinical observation and her occupational therapy colleague, she identified a common ground with the practitioner's approach to paediatric occupational therapy. While there was no standardised method, there was definitely some form of consistency.

The creator initially developed a paediatric practice only for herself to implement in New Zealand but when she eventually put the program into practice the creator realised that this easy step by step or hand-fed program approach could assist other occupational therapists to enter or expand in paediatrics in a similar way she had. With that, Better Kids™ was born.

This program's approach was deliberately assembled to target occupational therapists in private or general practice. It was evident to her that occupational therapists, like herself at that time, lack confidence in branching into or specialising in paediatrics in New Zealand, due to a lack of support, confidence or knowledge of where to start. It soon became apparent due to the sheer volume of enquires after releasing the Better Kids ™ program that this was a worldwide phenomenon.
Many of the included treatment activities have come from paediatric companies in America, with whom the creator has formed formal relationships with. This program includes a variety of activities from around the world, as well as South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, making it recognisably international in its approach.

Better Kids™ therefore provides an option or “vehicle” for occupational therapists to easily branch into private practice or into an alternative practice area.

Better Kids™ program can also act as a best practice training tool for new graduates or students, or supervisors and the aim was to provide an accessible starter kit, or step by step program,(in digital format) to allow occupational therapists to start up a private practice with confidence with an immediate earning potential.