Early Start Australia - Mercedes' story transcript

Sasha Pendal: Early Start Australia brings together teams of Allied Health specialists to work with children, with developmental delay and disability in their families.

Vanessa: At the time, it was very overwhelming. You feel like a terrible mother because you can't work out the needs of your child and satisfy them. As a parent of a young child with problems, you do become very isolated because you can't attend little playgroup or your child doesn't play with other children the way normally developing children play together. And so, you do become very isolated. When we discovered Early Start and started attending therapy sessions there, it was a relief and it felt like coming home. Because we were accepted for how we were, Mercedes' challenging behaviours were almost welcomed because they were so experienced with the children like her.

So, it was like, I could just relax and just let them do their job. The therapists at Early Start were interested in Mercedes as a person, rather than just as a subject. They explored her life and the things that she enjoyed. They really valued her and validated the things that she had to talk about and her experiences. In that environment, she was able to really emerge as a person with disabilities rather than a disabled kid.

I can't begin to tell you the difference it has made not just in my life, in managing her, but in her life. Mercedes started horse riding at three. She screamed for the first two years of that therapy, and then one day she just sat up and realized that this was fun and now it's her main purpose in life. She's training to be a Paralympian. She has many people interested in her abilities as a horse rider. She competes regularly, she wins lots of ribbons and it's really where she excels in life.

Sasha Pendal: Every child we work with is unique and special and their needs are different. And one of the wonderful things about Early Start is the way that we adapt our therapy programs to support the needs of the individual child.