Milla’s off to school with her sis­ters

Auckland City Harbour News - - News - By Carly Tawhiao

The dif­fi­culty Milla Gray has in con­tain­ing her ex­cite­ment about school brings joy to her par­ents’ faces.

The five-year-old has joined her sis­ters Ge­or­gia and Tay­lor at Mar­shall Laing Pri­mary School this term, even though she has down syn­drome.

The chro­mo­so­mal ab­nor­mal­ity causes in­tel­lec­tual and phys­i­cal de­lays which could make Milla’s tran­si­tion into main­stream ed­u­ca­tion dif­fi­cult.

But through speech and lan­guage ther­apy in­ter­ven­tion, sup­ported by the UpdsideDowns Ed­u­ca­tion Trust, her learn­ing path will run a lit­tle smoother.

Tools aid­ing Milla’s tran­si­tion, in­clud­ing flash cards and Maka­ton sign lan­guage, are taught by speech lan­guage ther­a­pist Sarah Goodall, who vis­its Milla once a fort­night.

“Milla has been more pre­pared for her ar­rival at school but the gov­ern­ment still doesn’t pro­vide ad­e­quate fund­ing to sup­port their learn­ing needs,” she says.

Ms Goodall also helps Milla’s par­ents so they can con­tinue her work be­tween the vis­its.

“Sarah teaches Milla and we’ll fol­low along so it gives us tools in­stead of hav­ing to guess,” says Milla’s mother Rochelle Gray.

“It’s a mat­ter of putting the hard­ware in place and the ear­lier they start learn­ing, the bet­ter.”

Mrs Gray says al­though her daugh­ter has to try a lot harder to learn things usu­ally taken for granted, she has been an amaz­ing gift.

“It gets your pri­or­i­ties in line as you learn to be pa­tient and kind and ac­cept­ing,” Mrs Gray says.

“Milla loves peo­ple. She opens peo­ple’s hearts by be­ing so friendly and is a great con­ver­sa­tion starter.”

Milla’s speech ther­apy in­ter­ven­tion costs more than $3000 a year and is made pos­si­ble through the Up­sideDowns trust.

Al­though the char­ity helps 38 fam­i­lies pay for this spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion, there are still 25 fam­i­lies on the wait­ing list.

The ed­u­ca­tion char­ity, set up in 2002 specif­i­cally to make spe­cial­ist speech ther­apy avail­able to chil­dren with down syn­drome, re­lies on grants and do­na­tions to fund teach­ing ses­sions.

Op­er­a­tions man­ager Keryn Haynes says the pro­grammes are ben­e­fi­cial for young chil­dren in com­mu­ni­cat­ing with them­selves, their fam­i­lies, peers and com­mu­nity.

“The long-term ben­e­fit of this speech ther­apy is a greater in­de­pen­dence that th­ese chil­dren will have in later life as a di­rect re­sult of early in­ter­ven­tion.

“It also pro­vides them with the ground­work to as­sist them achiev­ing their own per­sonal goals.”

The trust’s an­nual char­i­ta­ble event, Share the Dream, is a gala din­ner and auc­tion to help in­crease its fi­nan­cial ca­pac­ity to as­sist more chil­dren.

Ms Haynes says any spon­sor­ship or do­nated items for the auc­tion are ap­pre­ci­ated.

“This is a huge event for us as we con­tinue to raise aware­ness of our small trust, the chil­dren and our mis­sion to raise money for

Photo: JA­SON OX­EN­HAM

Amaz­ing gift: Rochelle Gray says with the help of speech ther­apy through the Up­sideDowns trust, her daugh­ter Milla, 5, looked for­ward to start­ing school.

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