Building a Strong Foundation: Tarnya, Jacob and Zahra’s Story
Tarnya’s middle child Jacob had a significant language delay at the age of three and had difficulty engaging with others and regulating his emotions. The Community Health team that was working with Jacob suspected that he had an intellectual disability and thought it unlikely that he would be able to attend a mainstream school in the future. Jacob was later diagnosed with Level 2 autism spectrum disorder and ADHD.
Tarnya first learned about The Infants’ Home from a Speech Pathologist who was working with
Jacob. She told Tarnya about The Infants’ Home, where children attend our mainstream early childhood education and care centres and receive early intervention support from our Speech Pathologists and Occupational Therapists within the daily program.
Tarnya brought Jacob to an intake meeting at The Infants’ Home and was heartened to find that our Children’s Services Manager, Mariam, and Senior Occupational Therapist, Justine, were not only empathetic and committed to learning all they could about Jacob’s strengths and challenges but could also reassure her that Jacob would experience genuine inclusion in our service and be supported to develop to his full potential. This was a huge relief for Tarnya who had previously had the distressing and disempowering experience of her eldest child being turned away from other early childhood services because he was deemed ‘too difficult’ to include due to having additional needs.
Jacob was enrolled in our Johnson House early childhood education and care centre in 2020. Tarnya’s youngest child Zahra then enrolled in Johnson House in 2021, when she was three. Zahra, who has a diagnosis of ADHD, also needed early intervention support to help develop her self-confidence, speech, social and self-regulation skills.
An inclusive and supportive environment
Tarnya found The Infants’ Home to be inclusive and supportive for both her children and herself, and she was grateful for the way in which the team got to know Jacob and Zahra so that they could create focussed learning and early intervention strategies for them. Jacob and Zahra felt welcomed and valued from day one, and they were supported to participate in day-to-day play, learning and routines in the centre, as well as in targeted early intervention groups to help children with additional needs to develop specific skills through play-based learning with small groups of peers. Tarnya says that to truly thrive, “Kids need to feel safe and that they belong”, and that Johnson House’s “inclusiveness and celebration of diversity develop children’s understanding and acceptance”.
Tarnya appreciated the regular communication she received about her children’s progress. Twice-yearly meetings between herself and the integrated team, comprising the centre director, educators and allied health therapists, were meaningful opportunities to review and further plan for Jacob and Zahras’ progress toward the goals that had been identified collaboratively by Tarnya and the team.
The integrated team shared ideas and strategies with Tarnya for supporting Zahra and Jacob’s learning and development at home, and they assisted her with preparing an application for NDIS support for Jacob. The team suggested that Jacob might benefit from starting school a year later than his required start date, and they assisted Tarnya to apply for an enrolment exemption for him. The additional year at Johnson House gave Jacob the opportunity to develop to his full potential. He gained confidence, developed his learning and play skills, engaged with and built friendships with other children and was able to make a successful transition to mainstream school.
Jacob started school at the beginning of 2023 and continues to do well, and his sister Zahra is on track to also take this next big step in 2024. Tarnya says, “I look forward to watching Zahra’s continuous growth and development as her parent because of the strong foundation Johnson House preschool provided her throughout these vital early years of her [learning] journey’.