POSITIVE PARENT: Fiona Zanardi with her daughter Mackenzie Trahair, who has an extremely rare developmental condition. Picture: Ryan Osland
FIONA Zanardi had been told her daughter would never walk or talk, so after four years of silence she was stunned to hear Mackenzie utter her first words.
‘‘Mum, I think you should buy me a monkey,’’ said MacKenzie, who has a medical condition so rare that it doesn’t even have a name.
‘‘I nearly died – she didn’t just say ‘mama’ or ‘dada’, she said a full sentence, I was absolutely shocked,’’ Ms Zanardi said.
Mackenzie was born with a chromosome syndrome described only as Duplication 10P–Deletion 10Q. It affects both Mackenzie’s physical and intellectual development.
But it didn’t deter Ms Zanardi, who set about teaching her daughter sign language when it appeared her daughter would never be able to talk.
‘‘I wouldn’t accept it, like most parents wouldn’t, and tried everything I could to work with her’’ she said.
‘‘I took her to [special education program] Firstchance at the University of Newcastle and through that we had physiotherapy and OT [occupational therapy] and speech pathology, and we tried to get her out of her little world and into the world that we live in.’’
Since her first words, Mackenzie’s accomplishments have continued and last year she entered kindergarten at Telarah Public School.
It was there that Ms Zanardi had the chance to be involved in the Stepping Stones Triple P (Positive Parenting Program) project, a program successfully trialled at Telarah Public School that was launched by the University of Sydney last week.
‘‘[The Triple P project] has been like my bible, it has taught me skills that I just didn’t even think of,’’ Ms Zanardi said.
‘‘You have to put in something extra if you want to see results, and I really feel that the things I’m doing now after the program are going to make Mackenzie a better adult in the future.’’
Following successful trials in Queensland and Victoria, the project will be rolled out across the state and is aimed at curbing emotional and behavioural problems in children with a disability.
The University of Sydney’s Chair of Mental Health, Professor Stewart Einfeld, said there had been ‘‘substantial improvement’’ in dealing with children with developmental disabilities by parents and teachers in the trial.
Professor Einfeld said that by allowing parents to register online, the program could be accessed by those in regional areas across the state.
To register for Triple P: