“It’s such a big relief to know we can access the services Lachie needs through Royal Far West. He’s been through so much already and we don’t want him to struggle through life”
Margaret*, Lachie’s grandmother
Four-year-old Lachie lives in a small country town in northwestern New South Wales. Lachie is a sensitive, intelligent child who is absolutely fascinated by dinosaurs. Although Lachie has an advanced vocabulary, he struggles with expressing himself, engaging in conversation and social interaction, and he often seems frustrated, confused and overwhelmed. Lachie hasn’t made friends at preschool and can’t throw or kick a ball. When Lachie started preschool, it became more apparent his behaviour was different to other kids. His mum Kristy began to see how vulnerable Lachie was to the world around him and worried he wouldn’t cope when he started school.
Early identification and intervention for developmental health issues is crucial for the long-term health and well-being of all children.
In particular, country kids like Lachie who start school with unidentified developmental challenges are at risk of slipping through the cracks.
Lachie’s preschool teacher also had concerns about his communication skills and difficulties engaging with the other children, so she suggested a hearing test. Limited local services meant Lachie’s wait time for the test was months long. Before Lachie could have his appointment, tragedy struck – Kristy passed away unexpectedly and Lachie moved in with his grandparents, John and Margaret, 30kms outside town.
John and Margaret continued to take Lachie on the long drive to preschool every day in the hope of keeping his life as normal as possible and help ready him for school. They also tried to find Lachie a counsellor or psychologist for support, but services were limited and the psychologist in the next town was booked out for months.
Lachie’s preschool teacher encouraged Margaret to book Lachie in for a screening at Royal Far West’s Healthy Kids Bus Stop when it came into town. Healthy Kids Bus Stop is a collaborative community outreach program that provides health screenings for pre-school aged kids in rural and remote areas.
Screenings aim to identify developmental issues early and give kids a clear pathway to care and the best possible chance to learn and thrive.
At the ‘Bus Stop’, the team of Royal Far West clinicians and local health services assessed Lachie’s general health, including his food intake and nutrition, and checked his fine and gross motor skills, speech and language development, and administered a hearing test and oral health check. They also asked about his interests, attention and behaviour, as well as his sensory needs, like whether he can tolerate having his hair cut and his sensitivity to sound.
Healthy Kids Bus Stop screenings are a fantastic example of how Royal Far West can target rural and remote regions with limited services and coordinate multiple players in a very busy system. Working with local health services means we can provide a ‘one-stop-shop’ for families, and collaborate with them to bridge the gaps that exist due to factors like availability, cost and distance.
By filling the gap, we can ensure country kids like Lachie don’t slip through the cracks.
At the end of each Bus Stop, all the clinicians come together and hold a case conference to collate their observations and make recommendations about a child and their health concerns. Together, they decide what support and services a child might need.
The clinicians all agreed that Lachie’s situation, the range of concerns with his developmental health, and the difficulty facing his grandparents in accessing and affording the services needed, made his case particularly complex and agreed early intervention was necessary. Due to the number of areas of concern regarding Lachie’s social communication skills, fine and gross motor development, sensory processing, emotional regulation and his level of anxiety, the team decided to refer Lachie into our Paediatric Developmental Program (PDP).
The PDP is an intensive, week-long residential program, delivered in our state-of-the-art Centre for Country Kids in Manly. During Lachie’s initial visit, he will have a comprehensive multidisciplinary assessment by our team of paediatric specialists, including a paediatrician, nurse, psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, speech pathologist, occupational therapist, ophthalmologist and dentist. It will also be his first ever visit to the beach.
Our clinicians work in partnership with parents, carers, teachers and local health providers to create a tailored plan for services, therapy and support, to ensure the best possible outcomes.
Lachie will attend the on-site school between his appointments and after school, our recreation team provides children with an incredible variety of activities and excursions, allowing parents and carers to have some much-needed respite. The unique integration of accommodation, education, health and recreation provides opportunities for kids, parents and carers to meet other families in the same boat.
Providing comprehensive, specialist services for such complex issues is expensive. But, the cost of developmental healthcare is an investment – a necessary one for our country kids; their health, education, livelihood, community, and most importantly, their future.
You can help kids like Lachie reach their full potential by making a generous donation today. Thank you.
*Names changed to protect the privacy of the family