Team Profile

Michelle Newby

Shell03Michelle 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 will use her doctorate to examine the developmental challenges of children with Paediatric Acute 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); 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 and Paediatric Neurodevelopmental Treatment (NDT-Bobath), and Cognitive Orientation to daily Occupational Performance (COOP). She has also undertaken training in 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.


Leah Gencheff

leah-gencheffLeah Gencheff is a registered Occupational Therapist. She is American, but obtained her Masters Degree in Occupational Therapy in 2011, from the University of Queensland in Brisbane. She had planned a return to the US once she finished her degree, but she fell in love with the beach, lifestyle and people of Australia.

Leah has experience in working with children of all levels of ability, including those with coordination difficulties, developmental delay, organisational/ attention difficulties and children on the autistic spectrum. She is skilled with both preschool and school aged children. Leah is experienced in play-based therapy and promoting skills and independence for learning (handwriting, concentration, organisation, and self-management), play and daily living. Leah has post graduate certification in the Cognitive Orientation to daily Occupational Performance (COOP) approach. Leah has completed a comprehensive sensory integration training course run by Winnie Dunn in 2014. She is continually implementing and developing sensory strategies to help better assist kids with sensory processing disorder. Leah is also trained in feeding therapy (SOS).

Leah is a certified yoga instructor (children and adults) and has a passion for enhancing one’s body awareness, self-esteem, coordination, and concentration in physical activities whilst providing skills that assist with relaxation and calmness. When children learn techniques for self-health, relaxation and inner fulfillment, they can navigate life’s challenges with a little more ease.

Leah is also a mother of two young children and is learning that having both the role of mother an Occupational Therapist allows her unique perspective on each. Being a mum has enabled Leah to fully appreciate the importance of adopting a family centred approach, as she works with families to help further their children’s development.


Laura Powell

Laura PowellLaura Powell is a registered Occupational Therapist. Laura is Irish, and graduated from Trinity College, Dublin in 2011. Laura has been living and loving Newcastle since 2013 and she feels that Australia is similar to Ireland, apart from the weather of course!

Laura has experience working as an Occupational Therapist with clients and their families in both Ireland and Australia. Laura enjoys working with children and teenagers of all abilities and has worked in school, home and community environments. Laura is passionate about helping children to achieve their goals so they can participate in their everyday lives. Laura has post graduate certification in the Cognitive Orientation to daily Occupational Performance (COOP) approach.

Laura enjoys volunteering and has worked with children in Vietnam and female prisoners in Dublin.


Alex Gray

Alex GrayAlex Gray is a registered Occupational Therapist. 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.

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.


Mandy Merlin

Mandy MerlinMandy Merlin is the administrative “wizard” who helps to ensure that the Stepping Stones back office functions at its best. Mandy has worked in similar positions in University and private settings in London and Australia and brings a strong passion for helping organisations to organise, simplify and improve. Her catchcry around the office is “let’s make life easier”.


One thought on “Team Profile

  1. Hi Shell.. Just wanted to let you know that i have nominate you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Please check the details on my website! Thank you for inspiring me.. Xoxo

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