For children with a disability, simple things make all the difference.
Zayla is a very bubbly, friendly and determined girl. She will tell you that she loves pink, flowers, ballet and going to Little Learners. She is willing to try anything, making her the perfect student. Zayla has a genuine love of life and a genuine interest in the people around her—she’s a true inspiration.
Zayla was born with cerebral palsy, affecting the entire left side of her body. Her family wondered what lay ahead for their precious baby girl. Zayla was referred to Little Learners, our Early Intervention Centre in Forbes, at two months of age.
When she first met our Occupational Therapist, Louise French, Zayla’s left fist was clasped shut and her left arm bent so tight that her wrist was close to her face. Louise recalls: “We had trouble straightening her arm. Our role then was to work with the family, to inform them about cerebral palsy and to give them the tools to help care for Zayla. It’s a hard time for families.”
Her grandmother Belinda was especially worried: “I remember feeling so sad for Zayla. I have nine grandchildren, and I wanted Zayla to be able to do everything my other grandchildren could.”
To feel included is incredibly important for self-esteem, especially for a child. And to give children with a disability every opportunity to be included, Early Intervention is essential.
It became clear that for Zayla to have the best chance at an active life—to be included with her peers—she needed someone to be there for her. Devoted to her granddaughter’s wellbeing, Belinda decided to quit her job to provide Zayla with the care she needed: “Zayla never gives up, and I wanted to be there for her.”
So Belinda could be there for Zayla, our team needed to be there for Belinda as well.
Our therapists work with Zayla, her family and preschool, to form a ‘strong circle’. Through regular communication, this circle ensures Zayla’s progress is monitored and her program tailored, giving her every opportunity to reach her potential. It is an invaluable support for Zayla’s family as they navigate their challenging journey.
Louise explains: “It can be a very lonely existence being the parent or carer of a child with a disability. Having the House with No Steps centre and staff there for support becomes a ‘safe place’ for families as they go on their journey.”
Caring for someone with a disability is a big commitment, but it would be even more difficult without the support of House with No Steps. Donations from the community are so important as it helps us support many more families faced with this daunting and often overwhelming challenge.
Now aged four, Zayla continues to receive the individualised therapy she needs. And it’s already made a remarkable difference.
According to Belinda: “Without the Early Intervention team, I don’t believe Zayla could do all the things she can do now. She wouldn’t have been able to dress or feed herself. It has helped her to become very independent.”
Zayla’s occupational therapy centres on encouraging the regular use of her left arm, building strength and developing her motor skills. But, getting a four-year-old to concentrate for extended periods is a challenge, forcing her therapists to think outside the box.
With Zayla’s left side still far weaker than her right Louise suggested Constraint Induced Modified Therapy (therapy that restricts the strong right arm to make Zayla use her left). Belinda was willing to give anything a go: “It seemed cruel at first to take a child already dealing with so much and make it harder for her, but I trusted Louise.”
They began the therapy by placing Zayla’s right arm in a sling. This was not received well by Zayla, who firmly, but politely, told Louise: “No thank you very much!”
Louise continued the approach—and a pink glove was introduced. Zayla named the glove Coco, and Coco would have a profound affect on Zayla’s rehabilitation.
For three hours a day, over a period of eight weeks, Zayla wore Coco and the improvements were extraordinary. Belinda was amazed: “If you didn't know she had cerebral palsy, you often wouldn’t be able to tell because her movement is so good.” Zayla has come so far, and with continued support her future is looking very positive.
This type of individualised care makes all the difference. To be able to fund quality services like Little Learners—and support people with a disability to live life to their fullest—we need community support.
Everyone who knows Zayla is inspired by her tenacity and determination. Belinda is especially proud of her granddaughter: “Everyone thinks children with disabilities are weaker. I didn’t realise how strong they are. Zayla never gives up.”
Today, Zayla does ballet, an activity many would have thought impossible. She is also hoping to go to school next year with her peers. It’s an incredible achievement for the little girl who was born with cerebral palsy. Zayla can now take part in activities she enjoys and, more importantly, feel like she belongs to her community.
Please give generously to House with No Steps.This means being able to attend school with their peers, participate in the same activities, play with friends and feel ‘the same’.