Discovering the artist within

Hayley, our 35-year-old daughter, was born before genetic testing for Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) existed and little was known about the condition. Diagnosis was given when a person displayed at least 7 out of 10 common traits of PWS. Hayley was 10 when we received her diagnosis. With no name up till then for her disability and limited support services, accessing care was an ongoing battle.  How thrilled am l to see what is available today.  

As an infant, we had weekly group physio sessions at Noah’s Art Toy Library in Prahan. From there we attended Elwyn Morey Children Study Centre at Monash university which ran preschool sessions with a special focus on language. Hayley started prep in a local main stream school but two years in she was struggling and we moved her over to the special school system. And before I could believe it, our little girl was 18.  

After visiting several day centres we came across Bayley House in Brighton. I remember my first walk through where a client stopped us. He wanted to discuss this retirement. I knew we had the place for Hayley and fortunately she was accepted.  

A year or two into Hayleys time at Bayley House, Hayley began developing anxiety issues. They intensified to the point that they were impacting on every aspect of her life. Fits of rage were a regular occurrence and Hayleys behaviour was deteriorating. Finding someone would help us was our next hurdle. Medicating was seen as a chemical restraint. This was an awful time as we saw daily the torment Hayleys deteriorating mental well-being was causing her.  

It took over a year until I came across a medical physician with a family member who was disabled who could relate. Hayley was given medication and her whole world changed. Within weeks Hayley was telling us she felt so much better.  

And in this new found state, Hayley discovered her art. Prior to this she wouldn’t attempt such an activity as she was frightened she would “get it wrong.”  

With the guidance of the wonderful staff at Bayley House, Hayley has produced numerous works. Of course her favourite subject matter is food. 

Each year Bayley House hold an exhibition of the clients art work at the Bayside council chambers and a piece of Hayleys work sits proudly in the mayor’s office. She loves her painting and each piece is done with a certain person in mind.  

While Cindy, her art teacher, was holidaying, Hayley painted her white Westie only to exclaim on completion “l am never painting white again. There are just too many whites”.  

Not only has Hayley discovered a happy place through painting, she delights in the joy they bring others. 

This article was written by Annie James (Hayleys mum) and shared with her consent.

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Article By Sarah Rees

Sarah lives in Geelong and her youngest son Jayden was born with Prader-Willi Syndrome. Sarah has been an active member of the Prader-Willi Syndrome community and holds a position on the Prader-Willi Syndrome Association of Victoria Inc. board and holds the position of Vice President and Event Coordinator.