Joe’s Story

Joe suffered traumatic impact from the devastating 'Black Summer' bushfires of 2019/20

Joe is 10 and lives in the Eurobodalla region on the south coast of NSW.

The 2019/20 summer bushfires threatened his home and Joe and his family evacuated several times. Joe was also separated from his family when visiting his grandparents while fires unexpectedly flared up.

Joe was referred to Royal Far West’s Bushfire Recovery Program by his school. Initially attending the Stormbirds group, Joe struggled with the additional sensory input of being in a group. When noise increased, he withdrew and covered his ears. He had difficulty sitting still.

Joe was referred to occupational therapy (OT) via telecare, where Joe’s mum explained that the experience of the fires meant Joe had difficulty sleeping, was having nightmares and found changes more challenging. Some long-standing difficulties had also worsened.

OT sessions involved activities for Joe and his mum on regulation and sensory processing. Joe identified his stress response and how he felt this in his body, exploring stress triggers. He learnt to name feelings, helping him accept them, allowing them to pass and seek help.

Working his muscles through fun activities helped him feel calm and focused. Other strategies helped him manage home routines, feel calm before bedtime and supported his attention in class. Joe’s school also monitored noise levels and his teacher was supported to understand his needs.

Joe no longer has meltdowns or withdraws when noise levels rise. He shows greater resilience, is braver when facing new situations, is more independent at home and sleeping restfully. Joe reported increased confidence in understanding and managing his anxiety, and felt more confident facing his fears. Joe and his mother reported Joe’s sleep had improved and he was feeling less afraid at night-time.

*To ensure privacy and confidentiality for our client family, real names or images are not used.