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Family Stories

Willow’s Family Story

“There’s always a place for someone. They’ll always have a purpose in life,” is one of the things Janelle has realised since attending Hunter Prelude with her young daughter, Willow.

“You realise that what they do at Hunter Prelude makes a difference for your child and for other children too. You want to be there and get involved.”


Willow doesn’t have one of the well-known labels for her disability. She has been described as experiencing “global delay”, having poor muscle tone and she isn’t saying many words yet. Janelle remembers some complications at Willow’s birth but these were quickly dealt with. In the first year or two Janelle was aware that Willow wasn’t reaching all her milestones but she didn’t think too much about it.

“She had some of the problems that a lot of children have like needing to have her tonsils and adenoids removed and fluid in her ears,” explains Janelle. She also noticed that Willow had some difficulties with her vision. “I knew there was something wrong and Willow’s Preschool teacher pointed out some of the areas in which she was different from the other children in her class.”

The paediatrician at Maitland Hospital recommended Janelle contact Hunter Prelude so that Willow and the family could benefit from tailored support from early childhood, disability and educational professionals to reach their goals. Janelle has noticed big changes in Willow since they began attending Hunter Prelude.”She has interests and hobbies now. She loves gymnastics and swimming. Her attention span and behaviour are improving and she is using more words. She loves riding her bike, doing puzzles and climbing.”

“Willow loves Smurfs – especially ‘Bad Smurf’ – I’m not sure why,” Janelle laughs. “She’s learning how to play with her older sister and last Christmas she finally sat on Santa’s knee!”

Janelle admits she was anxious when she and Willow first attended Hunter Prelude. “I can’t remember why exactly. Maybe it was just the transition. I remember the tears in my eyes, and the overwhelming feeling that the support Willow needed was never going to end.”

Soon however, Willow and Janelle were in the swing of things at Hunter Prelude, attending a weekly group for kids and parents. Janelle was glad of the opportunity to speak with other parents about their experiences and says it was good to have small goals to work on.

Janelle appreciated the visit from Hunter Prelude staff to her home and also their support at Willow’s pre-school. “They talked to the teachers about how to work with Willow, to use signs and cards to show her what to do.

Janelle still worries about Willow’s education but she says she is much more optimistic about her future now. “I just want her to live a typical life. I think it’s important to get in early and work on things that will make things easier for the kids. It’s harder later, I think.”

Janelle advises other parents to “Keep talking to other families. You’ll learn a lot from them. Take things you hear on board and Give them a go. Don’t sit back and wait.”

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