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Whitney Westrope is an incredible upbeat and positive person. She is the mother of 17 month old identical twins August and Jasper and she laughs a lot.

But when she starts to talk about her hopes for her boys futures, Whitney becomes emotional.

“I just want them to be all they can be. They are just so happy right now. They love life, they love people, they love exploring.

“I just want them to keep being happy and not let anything bother them … I don’t want anything to get in the way of them reaching their potential.”

Whitney’s fears for her sons are valid. Jasper and August were born premature, at just 26 weeks old. Babies born before 28 weeks have a far greater chance of physical and intellectual development issues than full-term babies.

They can have trouble learning to speak. They may not develop the social skills needed for play. They can have motor impairments and be unable to hold objects. They may even struggle to walk.

Yet there is a serious lack of programs for babies in need of early intervention.

Ability Centre has a program which is making a huge difference to babies like Jasper and August, who attend a playgroup every fortnight. While the boys play, therapists observe them and give advice to Whitney. For a mum who has struggled to get information about her children’s development, the chance to speak directly to a therapist and have her questions answered is invaluable.

Right now this service is only running in one location and for many parents, getting there is simply not possible. To ensure these babies don’t miss out on crucial intervention, we are looking to make this program available in all 3 of our locations.

These playgroups assist parents of babies who are not meeting their early developmental milestones, with play-based group therapy and monitoring. Developed and run by paediatric therapists and early intervention specialists, parents are provided with guidance and advice on their child’s development and have access to support from dieticians and meal-time specialists.

It’s a service that’s seeing great results but needs funding to continue.

Jasper and August have been attending since May and Whitney says the difference she’s seen in her boys is incredible.

“I love the Ability Centre program because they still get to play but it also acts as a check in, to see how they are progressing and what areas we need to focus on.

“When they first started going, their calf muscles were really tight and they weren’t crawling properly. So the physiotherapist worked with us to help ease the tension in their muscles and get them zooming around.

“We haven’t looked back since. It’s been amazing.”

In the space of just five months, Jasper and August are confidently crawling and eating on their own — two obstacles that could have made their lives a struggle in the future that have now been corrected, thanks to this program.

Occupational Therapist Diana works closely with Jasper and August and says the feedback she gets from the parents in the group proves what a valuable program it is.

“These families have had a very complicated start. Having a newborn baby in the intensive care unit is extremely stressful.

“So, knowing there are playgroups where there are families with similar experiences to yours and therapists who will give your child the best chance of reaching their milestones — it just provides them with so much reassurance.”

The demand for these services across Perth is growing and we need to meet it.

Whitney is sharing August and Jasper’s stories is because she “hopes it helps to get the funding that is needed to help other families.”

This Christmas, Ability Centre is looking to raise $45,000 to continue and expand these playgroups across Perth.

Please make a tax-deductible donation to this program and help us continue this vital service in 2020.