Naomi Simmonds

‘Eat Well, Live Well’

‘The surrounding community of Giant Steps really believe in the students, so it’s really heartwarming when we see organizations like Boroondara Youth Foundation also believe in them.’

Giant Steps is a Kew-located school which opened in 2016 as a specialist school for children with autism. Naomi Simmonds’ daughter is one of around twenty students attending the school, and Naomi regards herself as ‘incredibly lucky’ to have a space there. She states that it is a place that really ‘values children and loves children’, and their ‘individual way of teaching each child’ is incredibly important to her.

Food is a big challenge for many of the children at Giant Steps. Many of the students have anxiety around trying new foods, and often are limited to foods of certain textures, or certain behaviors of eating. This is often incredibly difficult for parents, and it can take months to introduce a new food into a child’s repertoire.

Naomi, along with the foundation Flying Fox, applied to Boroondara Youth Foundation for a grant last year. The grant was to introduce the ‘Live Well Eat Well’ program to Giant Steps for secondary students and funded the purchase of kitchen equipment. The program sought to teach students to make and try their own food, and thereby help with many of the anxieties surrounding food. The program has now been running for half a year, and Naomi states that ‘the students have gained a lot, as it makes their lives easier, makes their dinner times easier, and makes it possible to eat new foods. Sometimes it can be hard to go through school due to food limitations but this encourages them to go through the entire school day.’

Naomi originally was uncertain about applying to Boroondara Youth Foundation since many other organizations prefer to support neurotypical or high-achieving causes, ‘so it was really lovely to see that they were also supported’. Although Giant Steps has also sought funding from other organizations, ‘BYF was different in that it would be interested in seeing the project through and seeing updates from the project, while other organizations would give money but not be so invested in the project afterwards.’

‘The only way for us to live in an inclusive society is for the whole of society to be involved in its creation.’ – Flying Fox