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Foundation boosts funding delivers sensory sensitive furniture for special needs kids

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Minerva School in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire

For students of Minerva School in Sydney’s Sutherland Shire, the chatter of classmates, bright light in the schoolyard or the flowery perfume of a teacher passing by could be all it takes to trigger an uncontrollable sensory response.

These seemingly innocuous events for most can make school life challenging for some of the special needs students at Minerva School, and have a profound impact on their everyday focus for learning.

Thankfully, these young Aussie students now have access to specialised disability therapy equipment, furniture and resources, thanks to a $10,000 funding boost from IMB Bank Community Foundation (ICF).

The ICF funding has enabled the school to purchase flexi-chairs that allow rocking movement to calm students, individual height adjustable desks and switch tables to adapt to student learning styles, flip-top whiteboard desks for creative engagement, and a pedal desk to encourage students to regulate behaviour and self-soothe to optimise education.

Students now also have access to sensory calming tools such as mini trampolines, fitballs, and therapy putty to calm anxieties and encourage concentration for prolonged periods.

The purchase of a 3D printer supports students in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) learning. Students have created a variety of models relating to the curriculum, fidget tools for regulation and jigsaws to develop fine motor skills.

“On behalf of the entire Minerva community, I would like to thank IMB Bank for their support of our students and their learning. Furniture and learning resources enable our students to be provided with meaningful and relevant learning experiences that encourage focus and engagement with the curriculum for longer periods,” said John Mazzitelli, Minerva School Principal.

“The 3D Printer provides a new way to teach and motivate our students. Students are excited to learn and eager to watch their designs become a reality. The overall enthusiasm towards STEAM and learning has increased. Students who are typically reluctant learners have come to life with this new technology. It is really wonderful to see,” said Mazzitelli.

Eleven-year-old Billy is a student of Minerva School who is directly benefiting from more sensory sensitive options in the classroom. His mother, Alicia, has noticed the positive learning outcomes that her son has experienced since engaging with the new pedal desks.

“Billy is loving the pedal desk at school. His concentration and attention to tasks have improved greatly, and he has also improved his reading and comprehension, which is a joy to see. The desk allows him to move and gain sensory input in an appropriate way while being able to engage in activities.” Alicia explained.

Now in its 21st year, the ICF has donated more than $10million to charities and community groups across NSW and the ACT since 1999. In the past three years, local groups in the Sutherland Shire alone have benefited from over $300,000 worth of funding.

With local communities needing funding support now more than ever, ICF is one of the few charitable foundations to continue its funding program in the face of COVID-related disruptions.

“The events of 2020 have really brought home to IMB Bank the importance of our Community Foundation,” said Robert Ryan, IMB CEO. “Since 1880, IMB’s core philosophy has always been to help build strong, resilient communities. At a time of such uncertainty and change, supporting grassroots charities and not-for-profit and community groups is more important than ever.”

IMB Bank’s Community Foundation has a rich and diverse history of community engagement and improvement. Projects have ranged from the establishment of recycling programs and Men’s Sheds, through to public walkways, school gardens, youth driver training, mental health first aid training, equipment for volunteer rescue services and increased security for victims of domestic violence.

IMB Bank is one of the longest-standing financial organisations in NSW and was RFi Group’s Best Mutual Bank of the Year in 2018. Its Community Foundation program is considered one of the best of its kind in Australia.

As testimony of its commitment to customer service and satisfaction, IMB Bank ranks in the top four best banks of Australia, according to a Forbes magazine global survey of more than 40,000 customers for their opinions on their current and former banking relationships. The survey, conducted by market research firm Statistica, rated banks on overall recommendation and satisfaction, as well as subdimensions, which included trust, customer service, digital services and financial advice.

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Pearl Dy is a community manager and journalist. She is passionate about business and development particularly involving not-for-profits, charity and social entrepreneurship.


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