Team Profile

Michelle Newby

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Michelle Newby is Clinical Director of Stepping Stones Therapy for Children and is enjoying being back in Newcastle after many years of work and study abroad, including the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Azerbaijan and China.

Michelle is a registered Occupational Therapist with extensive experience in the field of paediatrics. She graduated from the University of Newcastle in 1998 with a Bachelor of Health Science (Occupational Therapy), and has also completed a Master of Science with Distinction (Health and Social Research) from City University, London in 2007. Since 2018, Michelle has been a PhD (Occupational Therapy) Candidate at the University of Newcastle. She is using her doctorate to examine the developmental challenges of children with Paediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS), including the impact that sensory processing has on daily performance. You can find out more about PANS here. Further details of Michelle’s certification and training can be found here.

Passionate about helping children to achieve their potential, Michelle has a strong family centred approach. She has extensive experience in working with children of all ages and levels of ability, and particularly those with dyspraxia and other coordination challenges; sensory processing disorders; developmental delay; neurological disorders (e.g.: cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury); developmental trauma, those on the autistic spectrum; those with PANS/ PANDAS and ADHD. Michelle has a special interest in working with babies, toddlers and children who have been born preterm, and has worked on neonatal units and within neonatal follow-up programs.

Michelle is committed to providing high quality, evidence based care to her clients. She has post-graduate certification in Sensory Integration, Paediatric Neurodevelopmental Treatment (NDT-Bobath), Cognitive Orientation to daily Occupational Performance (COOP) and the PEERS Social Skills Certification Training. She has also undertaken training in developmental trauma and sensory processing, feeding therapy (SOS), handwriting remediation, visual perceptual training, postural management and infant massage amongst others. As Clinical Director, Michelle provides regular supervision and mentoring to the other members of our Stepping Stones team.

Alex Gray

Alex Gray is a registered Occupational Therapist and Clinical Lead for Early Childhood Intervention. She graduated from the University of Newcastle in 2016 with a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy first class honours. Alex was born in Australia and has been living in Newcastle since 2008.

For her Honours research project, Alex completed a systematic review looking at the ‘Effectiveness of a Multidisciplinary group based early intervention program for children with developmental delays’. The results of this have been implemented at John Hunter Children’s hospital for future studies. She is also getting ready to publish her research so that other therapists around the world can benefit from this work.

Since finishing her Occupational Therapy degree, Alex has enjoyed working with children on the Autism Spectrum, children with congenital disorders, sensory processing disorder, ADHD and other developmental challenges. Alex has experience and training in using Positive Behavior Support (PBS) which is a client centered, evidence-based approach that is used to understand what maintains an individual’s challenging behaviour. Alex has additional training in developmental trauma and sensory processing.

Throughout Alex’s practice she believes in being holistic and maintaining a person and goal centered approach. Alex has a strong passion for working with children and their families to assist them in reach their potential.

Beatrice Spring

Beatrice Spring is a registered occupational therapist. She completed a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy receiving first class honours at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland in 2018. Her keen interest in supporting children and families to reach their full potential has seen her make the move interstate. Beatrice is a member of OT Australia and participates in ongoing professional development courses to expand her knowledge and skills in the area of Paediatrics. She has completed training in areas including sensory processing, DIR Floortime, handwriting, toileting and emotional regulation.

Beatrice has paediatric experience in various settings including private practice, community, school and cross-cultural areas (Vanuatu). She has experience assisting children with a range of different conditions and varying challenges, and really enjoys working collaboratively with the child and family to support them grow and develop. Beatrice is enthusiastic about providing positive outcomes for children and their families in an evidence and play-based way, with goal-directed therapy at the forefront of session.

Marla Barker

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Marla Barker is a registered Occupational Therapist. She graduated from the University of Newcastle in 2018 with a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy (Honours). Marla grew up in the country town of Elands on the mid north coast and moved to Newcastle in 2013 to pursue a career in Occupational Therapy.

Marla has a keen interest in supporting children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), attention and hyperactivity challenges (e.g.: ADHD), sensory processing challenges, developmental trauma and developmental delay. She has completed additional training in sensory processing and social skills training (PEERS Certification), and has a special interest in supporting children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) or with challenges processing sensory information.

Marla has a strong family and goal centred approach and enjoys supporting and empowering children and their families to thrive and be the best they can be.

Alex Mead

Alex Mead is a registered Occupational Therapist. She graduated from the University of Newcastle in early 2019 with a Bachelor of Occupational Therapy First Class Honours, and was awarded a Faculty Medal for academic performance. Alex grew up on a small farm on the Mid North Coast, and recently relocated to Newcastle to further develop her clinical skills.

For her honours project, Alex was involved with a research project on Fussy Eating and Autism, looking at the relationships between mealtime behaviour, sensory processing and parenting stress associated with eating difficulties in children with Autism.

Since completing her studies, and before joining the Stepping Stones team, Alex has worked as an Occupational Therapist in a rural setting with a variety of children, helping them to achieve their goals. She has a special interest in developmentally supportive care, working with babies and young children, and supporting children with feeding difficulties and their families. Alex has received training in Marte Meo (play based intervention), and attended training courses covering areas including autism, sensory processing, trauma, mental health, and cerebral palsy.

In her spare time, Alex enjoys cuddling babies, coffee dates with friends, and visiting with family (especially the dogs, chickens, and Alfie the sheep!).

Tiarne Pendlebury

Tiarne Pendlebury is a registered Occupational Therapist. She graduated from La Trobe University in 2017 with a Bachelor of Health Sciences / Master of Occupational Therapy Practice. Tiarne grew up within the Gippsland region in Victoria, and moved to Newcastle in 2018 to start her career in Occupational Therapy.

Since completing her Occupational Therapy degree, Tiarne has had experience working in a paediatric setting and has enjoyed working with children of all ages and abilities across a range of settings. Tiarne has a keen interest in supporting children living with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), sensory processing challenges and developmental delay.

Throughout Tiarne’s practice she believes in being holistic and maintaining a family and goal centered approach. She also holds a strong passion for implementing evidence-based practice to empower children and their families to be the best that they can be!

Taya Heagney

Taya Heagney is our superstar Occupational Therapy Assistant. She is studying to be an Occupational Therapist and will graduate at the end of 2020. She loves working alongside our therapists to deliver family-centred, evidence-based interventions to Stepping Stones clients.

Taya grew up in the northern New South Wales country town of Glen Innes and moved to Newcastle in 2017 to study Occupational Therapy. She has always enjoyed working with children, holding a variety of volunteer roles as a student in Occupational Therapy clinics and sporting groups.

Her special interest areas include supporting children to develop to their full potential; working with children and adolescents of all ages with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD); and working with children of all abilities to improve their handwriting quality.

Tim Moore

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Tim Moore brings more than 20 years’ experience in a variety of industries to the role of Practice Manager at Stepping Stones. Completion of his Masters of Business and Technology in 2014 has assisted Tim in handling the finance, IT, and administration sides of clinic operations.

Coming from a corporate background in business analysis, project management and business development, and having helped to implement numerous successful projects, Tim understands the importance of delivering exceptional customer service. With 2 young children of his own, Tim is very empathetic and understands the needs and challenges of Stepping Stones’ families.

Tim loves working with the dynamic team at Stepping Stones and helping families in all aspects of their child’s occupational therapy needs.

Mary O’Connor

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Mary O’Connor is a member of our admin team. Mary has lived and worked in Newcastle & the Hunter since the early 90’s. She is a Master’s Qualified Librarian who has worked as a Children’s Librarian, Library Manager and in Research Library positions.

Mary has 2 children and to give her the flexibility to raise them to school age she and her husband started a fresh & gourmet food business together. After 10 years they decided to change focus and here she is at Stepping Stones.

Mary loves watching children grow into their own special personalities. As part of the admin team Mary brings along data management, organisational, customer service and communication skills.