Putting the CARE in Childcare
We know all too well how hard it is to hand your little one over to childcare. But to hand over a child with special needs, as complex as those with PWS, causes your anxiety to skyrocket. So, when deciding on a childcare centre it’s crucial to ask questions about their inclusion programs, explain to them your needs and concerns, make sure you are heard and most of all; go with your gut.
When I met the management team for the first time at Guardian Laurimar, a brand new centre in our area, it was my gut that told me this was the right place for Zac. They didn’t just tell me what I wanted to hear; they told me what they could do, how they would do it and asked us what we needed from them. They were willing and eager to make Zac’s transition to childcare as easy as possible. Almost three years later, their warm and caring disposition hasn’t changed at all.
Whilst Zac’s needs concerning PWS were already quite specific, a stroke not long after he started at childcare heightened the need for extra care and attention. We were lucky enough to have been assigned an additional educator in Zac’s room for almost the entire time he has been in care. The additional educator essentially became a carer for Zac, and we have been fortunate to have two amazing ladies as Zac’s educators. Initially, Francesca, and more recently Jenny, have been with Zac for almost 3 years now and have become like family to us.
These ladies have gone above and beyond to understand Zac, to understand PWS, to understand our family, and to help him become comfortable in the typical childcare environment. As a mother, it has been a huge relief for me to leave him in the care of people who want to understand and help in whatever way they can.
Although Francesca and Jenny have been crucial to Zac’s growth and development at childcare, it really is a team effort at Guardian. Through Zac’s charm, warmth, personality and persistence, he has become loved and spoilt by all of the educators he has come in contact with.
In 2019 and 2021 (unfortunately COVID stopped celebrations in 2020), Guardian Laurimar supported Zac and our family to raise awareness for PWS during the Go Orange Campaign, held on the last Friday of May.
This year the campaign was bigger than anything I expected – Jenny really outdid herself. When I asked her in April to arrange something for Go Orange Day she assured me that it was already taken care of and she did not disappoint.
The whole centre was involved in celebrating Go Orange Day. In each room, kids took part in orange themed activities, there were signs and balloons up promoting PWS plus Jenny and Sheridyn (another educator in Zac’s room) thoughtfully had t-shirts made to promote Go Orange and “Team Zac”. The place positively glowed Orange. The moment I walked in I was so overwhelmed with emotion and I burst into tears.
Along with showing support for Zac, the team also took it upon themselves to educate families in the centre about the significance behind all the Orange and what PWS is. I provided Jenny with a brief summary of PWS which she printed and placed on each door. These proved to be a talking point with many families asking questions. The educators would explain the basics whilst directing families to the PWSA Victoria website.
Group time in Zac’s room was used to chat to the other children about PWS and what it means for Zac. I have been told it provided a wonderful opportunity for the kids to help understand Zac a little bit more.
I am extremely proud of the awareness Guardian Laurimar has provided to our local community.
As you can see from Francesca and Jenny’s kind messages below, Zac is well looked after and loved. At Guardian Laurimar our needs are heard and met. We feel comfortable to discuss any issues that arise and resolve them as a team. He is incredibly well supported through encouragement to be himself, whilst also being pushed to explore new opportunities outside his comfort zone.
It’s a difficult decision to put your child with special needs into an environment where you can’t control everything they do. But for us it was one of the best things we did for Zac and his development.
A WORD FROM FRANCESCA
I still remember the day I was asked to be Zachary’s Inclusion Support Educator. I felt nervous for many reasons, but more than anything, I felt privileged to have been chosen to support, guide and encourage such a bright little boy!
In order to provide the best care and support for Zachary and his family, my first priority was to find out about Prader-Willi Syndrome. As well as my own research, I have found support from senior management at our service and Zachary’s family, who have gone above and beyond to include me in Zachary’s learning and development journey.
Due to the complexity of Zachary’s condition, I felt it was important to build on his strengths to enhance his learning and development. I followed a child-led approach to learning, utilising Zachary’s interests to guide my intentional teaching strategies. However, along the journey, Zachary’s family and his care team (speech pathologist, occupational therapist and physiotherapist) also provided valuable input with tailored ideas and strategies to enhance both his cognitive and physical development.
My aim soon became to raise awareness about Prader-Willi Syndrome amongst our centre’s community, trying to build staff members’ knowledge about the multifaceted aspects of PWS. This was a crucial role I had to play being Zachary’s dedicated educator, and I feel that, by educating my colleagues, they became a lot more confident in meaningfully assisting Zachary on the days I was absent from the service.
It has also been a team effort, where our chef has been working closely with Zachary’s family to ensure Zachary’s meals met his needs, but at the same time, they were prepared in a way that made Zachary feel included.
“Go Orange for PWS” day has become an important yearly celebration for a few years now. Not only to raise awareness but also to celebrate the outstanding commitment and passion that educators, together with Zachary’s family, put into every moment they care for Zachary. It has also been wonderful to have other families ask about PWS and what it means to live with it.
A WORD FROM JENNY
I had the pleasure of being introduced to Zac in the beginning of 2020, during that year we formed a very close bond, his huge smile, cheeky nature and morning cuddles became my days highlights. In 2021 I took over as Zac’s support worker, to say that I was overwhelmed by the complexities of his condition is an understatement! however after many hours of research along with the kind and gentle guidance from his parents Zac and I soon found our rhythm, I discovered what made him tick and what motivates him, I also witnessed the true meaning of resilience.
On the 28th of may 2021 Guardian Laurimar celebrated “Go Orange for PWS” leading up to this day I put a huge amount thought into not only what the day would look like but also what I hoped everyone would take away from it. I firstly wanted the children, parents and staff to begin to understand what day to day life looks like for Zac and what challenges he and his family face each and every day and be able to celebrate his achievements! Mostly I wanted Zac and his family to walk into a sea of orange on that Friday and know that with each and every challenge they face as a family they have us all behind them.