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