Lisa Leftley – Pivotal Point Charitable Trust - making a difference

3 minutes read
Posted 20 June, 2024
Impact100 chair Clare IronsJ leftJ and Lisa Leftley being presented with the 100J000 cheque copy

Impact100 chair Clare Irons, left, and Lisa Leftley being presented with the $100,000 cheque

A Queenstown mum of four with a medical science background has put her entrepreneurial skills to work to ensure that no neurodivergent kids miss out on screening and support, with interest in her findings already gathering national momentum.

Lisa Leftley is now hoping to prompt change at central government level using data gathered locally by Pivotal Point Charitable Trust, which she founded after the Covid lockdowns. “I realised how unfair it was that my son was receiving private tuition on Zoom while people were standing in queues waiting for food. The inequity was outrageous,” she says.

Thanks to a $100,000 seed funding grant from Impact100 in 2021, the trust has already been able to make a significant difference locally. Up until then, Leftley and her husband had self-funded the project, enlisting some amazingly, supportive trustees. “It was the first charitable trust I’d ever set up – a very new entity for me,” Leftley says. “It was a massive undertaking.” But passion pushed her through.

With the $100,000 boost from Impact 100’s funding the trust has been able to start educating the community and local teachers about neurodiversity and the indicators to watch out for. “We’ve been able to deliver educational funding and development to all the local primary schools and teachers, offering practical strategies,” Leftley says.

When Leftley and her husband arrived from Britain, they were shocked at how far behind New Zealand’s education system was in supporting children with neurodiversity, which includes everything from dyslexia to ADHD and autism. “Everything we’ve accessed has been through private funding and I couldn’t sit back and just let my children be okay while others struggled.”

Leftley says equality in education is a basic human right, regardless of socio-economic status. “Children are our future and education will help improve NZ’s economy and societal behaviour ensuring everyone reaches their goals.”

She’s concerned that so many NZ kids are falling through the cracks undetected when they’re super intelligent but just ‘out of the box’ thinkers with brains that are wired differently.

Pivotal Point is all about “removing the negative stigma” and prejudice that keeps many parents from seeking help for their children.

At least one in five NZ children are neurodivergent – 20% of the population, 10 to 15% are dyslexic. Leftley says it’s paramount that these subtle differences are picked up at school to ensure they don’t fall through the cracks. “Up to 90% of our prison population are dyslexic and between 25 and 50% have ADHD,” she says. “If we don’t do something now in our education system, there will be huge social ramifications, leaving our justice system overrun by those who weren’t offered the right support early on.”

In just a few years, with Leftley at the helm as CEO, the trust has launched a local screening programme, starting last year in two schools and six schools this year. That’s in addition to free one-on-one support for parents and children, all driven by Leftley’s passion to make a real difference for the community.

“I really care and believe the right support at the right time can be life changing,” she says. “My son is a perfect example.” She wants every primary school-age child in the Wakatipu to receive free screening through the trust, something she’s driven to achieve.

The screening programme is scalable and Leftley’s aim is to have Year 4 screening for every local child (with consent). Tangible NZ data could then be provided to the government so they’re aware of what’s lacking in our schools, she says. They’re currently relying on international data. “This will help identify the extent of the problem and get kids the support they need in our school system, and ensure teachers get the proper training and resources to provide that.” There’s interest in the programme from Auckland, Nelson, Te Anau, the West Coast, all asking for help, she says.

The trust has helped more than 28 families through its Pivotal Point Pledge so far and provided more than 330 families access its one-hour, free tele navigation service alone. Applications have now opened for the third round of Pledge funding which provides help towards essential specialist assessments and therapies.

Parent Support Groups are also run monthly on the first Tuesday – 9.15am – 10.45am at Te Atamira.

Pivotal Point Charitable Trust
To donate or apply for funding assistance see: pivotalpoint.org.nz

Impact100 Wakatipu
Expressions of interest applications for 2024 Impact100 grants are available at impact100wakatipu.org and close at 5pm on 21 June.


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