- June 13, 2016
Sam, now aged six, was born with Down Syndrome. His special needs required medical support in many ways. He was placed in the NICU for six weeks, tube fed for the first six months of his life, had open heart surgery at five months old, and survived Leukaemia and Osteomyelitis at 18 months old. To say he’s had a bumpy start to life would be an understatement.
Sam’s parents Natalie and Mat were living in the area at the time of his birth and heard about The Infants’ Home through word of mouth. They were especially interested in the fact that The Infants’ Home had an onsite nurse, accepted children with additional needs and was a mainstream early childhood organisation. Sam joined our program when he was just over a year old.
From the start, Natalie, Mat and Sam worked closely with one of our social workers, which Natalie considers a crucial element in their journey. From coordinating Individual Educational Plans with external therapists, sourcing respite services, and just being there to talk to, the added support was instrumental for Natalie and Mat, who had no family in NSW. The collaborative efforts of all relevant professionals and therapists involved in Sam’s development plan enabled everyone to be on the same page and to problem solve as a multidisciplinary team.
Our educators became advocates for Sam during his time in our educational programs, they would help other children in the program to see Sam as he was and learn to share space and time in real and meaningful ways together. For example, as Sam learned sign language, so too did the other children. Sam, over time, came to develop reciprocal and true friendships. He developed a real sense of belonging and was able to be part of the group. Amy, Sam’s focus educator at Johnson House, recalls:
“Some of the children got really protective of him, knew his moods and told other children to back off when they needed to. They didn’t see him as ‘the boy with Down Syndrome’.”
Sam started school this year with Florence, his friend from Johnson House. Natalie thinks that despite Sam’s perceived limitations, the integrated services at The Infants’ Home and the dedication of his educators, all helped achieve Sam’s milestones and really model inclusion into mainstream early childhood education and care.
“I think The Infants’ Home has helped Sam in so many ways but being such a source of support for us as a family has been invaluable! It really is such beautiful community spirit” – Natalie (Sam’s Mum)
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