Sheree and Matt have two beautiful daughters Olivia who will be having her fifth birthday soon and Ella who is 2 ½. A busy family life but one that has many more twists and turns than most due to Olivia having a diagnosis of cerebral palsy. When Olivia was a baby, Sheree didn’t feel comfortable or confident to attend regular playgroups because she just didn’t fit in. It can be isolating being a mum, but having a disabled child is even more isolating.
Through a mutual friend Sheree and Matt learned about the Conductive Education Taranaki Trust and organised for an assessment with Conductor – Renata. They say that it was one of the best decisions they have ever made because Olivia has done so well – she has developed skills that have had a huge impact on Olivia and their family life. Sheree has been able to incorporate aspects of the programme into life at home which has helped Olivia.
Sheree says that not only was the support for Olivia amazing – it was also life-changing for her as a Mum. She found a place where she really felt that she belonged – where she wasn’t having to constantly answer questions about Olivia and where she could pick up tips and tricks from other families who were also walking in her shoes.
“Conductive Education Taranaki do family support really well – they run regular coffee groups and social activities like bowling, camps, even surfing – which brings families together but also provide opportunities for kids to have new experiences.”
While Sheree has developed strong friendships and support networks through CETT, she is needing to forge new relationships as Olivia prepares to start school. Any big changes like starting school, are daunting and a bit stressful for families as they leave behind the known and comfortable space that has helped them over four years. Luckily for Olivia she will still be connected to CETT so that she can continue to develop new skills and become more independent.
Although Olivia uses a wheelchair for her mobility she is able to keep up with her peers and is very verbal. Olivia has just had her third school visit – there is so much to take in and so much for the school to learn – but the Principal and school put out the welcome mat and that feels so reassuring. Olivia has children from pre-school at her school.
Sheree is working part-time and is blessed to have a great workplace with a very understanding boss. For the first year very few people knew about Sheree and Matt’s life at home – she didn’t want the pity party. It took a couple of years for her to feel comfortable and open about life and not get emotional when people ask questions. Sheree finds it really hard when she doesn’t have the answers to those questions – its crystal ball gazing – Olivia will be what Olivia will be – no one knows what she will be achieving in the future. Sheree loves being just a work colleague for part of the week and not Mum and being able to have normal conversations that’s aren’t just about kids. Having good boss is important – no questions asked if appointments crop up and Sheree needs to take some time off.
It has been fabulous for Olivia to have a little sister to entertain her – a constant play companion. It also ensures that Olivia has everyday childhood experiences as Ella also needs to have these. Sheree says that the children at pre-school are great with Olivia, but they did wonder how come Ella could walk – they just assume that because Olivia couldn’t that Ella couldn’t as well.
Life is tiring at times – having to advocate and fight for what Olivia needs – but on the other hand parenting is pretty awesome!
Sheree and Matt