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“I knew from experience that if she was struggling like this verbally, she was going fall behind in her reading and writing, and that would be such a shame…”

– Jane, Millie’s teacher

Stories and storytelling are a bedrock of almost every culture across the world. Many of us have fond memories of a parent, grandparent or relative telling us stories which amazed, soothed, or entertained us as children.

Stories help us build friendships, communicate ideas, and interact effectively with others. Our ability to communicate and tell stories can affect our education, career and life outcomes.

But the ability to tell a story doesn’t always come naturally.

This was certainly the case for Millie. She struggled with a severe language disorder, and without the right kind of support, was quickly falling behind at school.

Millie lives in a remote community in NSW with her family and when she started at the tiny community school, she seemed to settle in well for the first few weeks. She loved getting messy with the creative activities, and her warm, friendly demeanour made the other kids gravitate towards her.

But as the first school year wore on, her teacher Jane started to notice Millie wasn’t communicating as well as some of the other children. Despite being incredibly vivacious and confident with her peers in the playground and during sports classes, she appeared to lose confidence when it was time to work or play in smaller groups.

The teacher also noticed that despite her obvious enthusiasm for outdoor activities, when she tried to relay stories of her adventures, she would give only a brief answer and become frustrated – eventually giving up and shutting down.

“Millie was such a bright kid – one of those really sparky ones – an instant joy to teach. It made me feel disappointed to see her struggle with her words and get frustrated trying to interact with the other kids. I knew from experience that if she was struggling like this verbally, she was going fall behind in her reading and writing, and that would be such a shame.”

It’s not unusual for speech and language delays to first be identified when a child starts daycare or school. At home, family may not notice there is a significant problem, as they tend to naturally accommodate the child’s needs. Children are also often most comfortable in their home environment, meaning delays may not be as apparent as they are in new environments like school.

When Karri, Millie’s aunty took Millie to the GP to see if her delays might be hearing related, she also told him she had a few concerns about Millie’s behaviours at home. She would sometimes ‘transform’ from the sweet loving girl she usually was, and ‘explode’ into a fit of rage, when her brother teased her and sometimes for seemingly almost no reason at all.

The GP suggested the two things might be linked and said he would like Millie to see an audiologist, clinical psychologist, occupational therapist, and a speech pathologist.

He knew there were very few services locally, so sourcing these appointments within the next year would be virtually impossible. He also knew every month that passed without help would impact Millie’s ability to keep up.

Without the generosity of our wonderful supporters, children like Millie might never have received the care she needs to thrive, simply because of where she lives.

Thankfully, Millie’s GP referred her to Royal Far West.

Millie has now been receiving speech pathology and occupational therapy for three years – in-person at the Centre for Country Kids, and via telehealth into her school. Jane, Millie’s teacher says,

“It really is quite phenomenal how far she’s come. She’s a completely different child now. I knew she was smart, and boy, is that coming through now!”

By making a donation today, you can connect country children like Millie to a multidisciplinary team of psychologists, speech pathologists, occupational therapists and paediatricians.” Your support can be the difference between a child thriving – or falling behind in the new school year.

Will you make a generous donation today to set a child like Millie on the path to a brighter future?

* To ensure privacy and confidentiality for our client families, our stories are representative in nature and real names or images are not used.

Will you please make a kind donation today to ensure country children and their families have the developmental and mental health services they need to thrive?

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