Dionne Snyders qualified as a physiotherapist in 2007 at WITS University. She then did her Masters degree in Neuro Rehabilitation while working at an inpatient neuro rehabilitation unit. She worked there for 3 years and then opened her own adult neuro rehab practice at Balance Therapy Centre in Die Wilgers, Pretoria and in Wilgers Hospital. She currently still manages her practice with another neuro physiotherapist working for her.
In 2016 her first child, Hannah, was born. After a long diagnostic journey, Hannah was diagnosed with Rett syndrome. This severe, genetic neuro-developmental disorder took away Hannah's ability to control her body, communicate and use her hands. In 2017, Dionne, along with another Rett mom, took over the management Rett SA: an NGO providing support to families affected by Rett syndrome in South Africa.
In 2019, Hannah's family put funds together to get Hannah an eye gaze device, in the hope that she would be able to use this device to communicate. Due to lack of support and very limited knowledge of healthcare providers and schools on how to use the device, the device was barely used. Dionne became passionately interested in learning more about AAC and the eye gaze device so that she could teach Hannah how to use it. She watched many webinars and online courses and read countless articles. She went on to complete her honours degree in AAC in 2021.
Their AAC journey began but not without difficulty. In her mission to help Hannah, it became clear to Dionne that there is so much potential in children with Rett syndrome, and even other conditions where children are non-verbal, to learn!!! She then tried to get Hannah into a school where she would be given a mainstream education, and where her physical limitations and communication needs would be accommodated. This proved very difficult. Dionne dreamed of a place where Hannah would be given the opportunity she deserves to get an education and learn to communicate. A place where no pressure would be put on her to perform and prove herself, where she would feel safe and confident to express herself. In a conversation with 2 other special needs moms, the idea of Nova was born.
'Hannah, this is for you.' (D Snyders 2021)
"How will we know what is possible if we never try?" - D Snyders 2021