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Oliver is just one of thousands of children in remote Australia needing our support

Imagine being a parent of a child who you know has difficulty communicating and you are worried they are not ready for the classroom, or perhaps you worry they won’t make friends at recess or might be bullied. Now, imagine being a child growing up in a rural or remote area, struggling with speech difficulties, not even being understood by your own parents or teachers, and not being able to make friends because you can’t communicate, tell jokes, or share stories.

To compound an already difficult situation, these country children live in areas where there is an acute shortage of Paediatricians and allied health clinicians, exacerbating the limited or non-existent support available. Intensified by the cumulative impacts of natural disasters our regional towns have faced and will continue to face, this is undeniably concerning…

Access to the right support, as early as possible, can positively reset a child’s life. We know that children who fall behind developmentally, face an uphill battle to catch up again. We need to be reaching and supporting kids before they start school. The earlier we are able to intervene with the right support the greater the chance we have of shifting a country child’s trajectory so they can reach their full potential.

Sadly, the necessary services for ongoing care simply don’t exist in many country regions. But here at Royal Far West, we aim to wrap around rural and remote children, parents, and school communities to ensure families can access essential developmental and mental health services.

Oliver, a bright and energetic 10-year-old, lives in regional NSW with his loving family – Emma, Michael, and his siblings. His journey with RFW began in June 2021 when his general practitioner referred him due to concerns about learning and attention issues, potentially indicating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

The challenges faced by Oliver and his family in accessing paediatric assessment services were immense. Living in a remote area meant navigating through prolonged waitlists and extremely limited resources. Without access to RFW’s Child and Family Services, Oliver and his family would have been left without the support and guidance they desperately needed to help Oliver thrive at school.

When Oliver and his family came to the Centre for Country Kids they were greeted with open arms and immediately their worries lifted. During his two assessment phases at RFW, Oliver’s overall cognitive (thinking) abilities were found to be in the high average range, with a clear strength in working memory skills. It was found that his ability to concentrate and sustain his focus in group environments was a significant challenge for him, which is exactly what his parents were worried about.

Also, it was found that Oliver was having increased difficulty and needed to put forth increased effort and concentration in writing tasks. It was anticipated that writing tasks were a potential source of frustration for Oliver that was likely impacting on his confidence and esteem in the school setting.

Despite his challenges, Oliver presented with strengths in his overall cognitive abilities and oral language skills. His parents and teachers voiced that he displays a variety of skills and strengths when he is in a one-to-one setting with the right supports in place, something that isn’t an option all the time. Oliver, like most active children is both interested in sport and has strong sporting abilities especially swimming and tennis. Oliver is a determined and friendly young man and his family described Oliver as having a beautiful and sensitive heart but, they knew he needed support especially in group settings.

The comprehensive multidisciplinary assessment by RFW’s Child and Family Services team showed Oliver’s struggles with maintaining focus in group settings and managing writing tasks, was due to ADHD – Combined Subtype. The Child and Family Services team have been pivotal in Oliver’s journey. Through RFW’s intervention, Oliver experienced reduced anxiety and improved attention management. Collaborative efforts, involving teachers, parents, and RFW clinicians, facilitated the exchange of vital information. Oliver’s successful completion of the MacqLit program marked a significant milestone, enhancing his overall confidence in a school environment – something that before wouldn’t have been thought possible.

While all parents want the best for their children, not all parents in Australia have the same access to resources to help their children with their health and development needs. There is a widening gap between the needs of country children and families and the health services available in rural and remote regions.

The evidence is stark and indisputable – where you live matters. The rates and consequences of not addressing developmental vulnerabilities increase the further a child lives from a metropolitan centre and can have impacts that last a lifetime.

The demand for our services is driven by the increasing complexity in children and their environments. RFW clinicians are now supporting highly vulnerable families, children struggling in both school and home life, often with a history of early-life trauma. Alarmingly, challenging behaviours are surfacing at younger ages, and the issues faced by country children are becoming more complex.

Without timely intervention and support, these children risk lifelong challenges. RFW’s child development expertise, strategic use of technology, and a strong history of working with country communities uniquely positions us to bridge the gap for children, caregivers, and educators. Your support contributes to success stories like Oliver’s, where RFW not only diagnosed his condition and unlocked answers for his family, but also nurtured his self-confidence and reduced negative self-talk.

As we witness the growing need for our services, we invite you to join us in making a lasting impact. Your generosity ensures that RFW can continue providing multidisciplinary assessments, interventions, and support to children like Oliver, empowering them to overcome obstacles and achieve their full potential.

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

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