HAPPY Dots paediatric occupational therapy founder Rachelle Day is about to have her third child but in her mind she has four.
"In a way, Happy Dots was our first born baby, so it is something I will always continue to have involvement in. Even from afar," says Ms Day, who has two young sons.
Raised in country NSW, she understood her calling in life when she was in Year 10 and did work experience at a hospital in Dubbo.
"I loved the idea of helping people being the best version of themselves," she said.
Influencing her decision was the fact she grew up around disability: "My mum was a teachers aid in Special Education, so it was always close to my heart and I had involvement in it from an early age," she says.
Graduating with first class honours in Sydney, Mrs Day worked for the Autism Association in Adelaide and another private company before relocating to the Hunter with her husband, at the time working in defence.
In 2012, she leapt at a chance to buy a business as was planning a family: "I knew the business would bring for me what was important to me - work life balance - and I had a long-term goal of being with my kids in school holidays and never missing a school concert or event," she says.
Ms Day has grown the business to now operate from offices in Cardiff, Singleton and Williamtown, with three mobile vehicles.
"There are more and more children in need of assistance," she says of demand.
She says key areas in contributing to her business growth and ability to take leave for her family was mentoring from the Business Centre in Newcastle, her very supportive staff and encouraging husband.
Happy Dots assists children aged between 2 and 18 with varying conditions, predominantly autism, through the private health system and those within the NDIS. The most common reasons parents seek assistance for their child are messy handwriting, anxiety, trouble with self-care and fine and gross motor developmental delay.
"The word occupation in OT is all about us looking at how a child is functioning in their everyday occupation and how to best maximise their performance across all areas of what they do in everyday life," she says.
"We aim to create a brighter future for all children and their families."
The hardest part of Ms Day's job is seeing children struggle with tasks that sometimes typically developing kids do with ease.
"That combined with some of the social isolation I see families endure as a result of their child’s difficulties. It is never nice to hear a mother say “I just want my child to have friends”."