Accompanied by her brothers Izayah and Malakie and mother Deanna Hewitt at the 2013 Variety Motor Mouth Camp, Iyona found new ways to voice her thoughts.
This week they will return, joined by her father Joshua, younger sister Laila and grandfather, for another five days of therapy and training for children who have learning difficulties.
Held between October 1 and 5, the 2014 camp will include 16 children who rely on subtle signs like blinks, nods or noises, or augmentative and alternative communication aids, as well as their parents, siblings and carers.
Mrs Hewitt said her daughter had an intellectual disability and could not verbally speak, although she understood everything.
‘It was a very emotional camp last year,’ she said.
‘It was just so wonderful to see other children who had the same problem as our daughter, seeing her communicate to other kids through the communication device.
‘I remember crying many times because I saw her have friends. She didn’t want to come home.’
Her husband said while the family understood what Iyona meant when she spoke, last year’s camp had helped her communicate with others more effectively using an iPad provided by the Independent Living Centre.
‘She really came out of her shell,’ he said.
Mr Hewitt said that camp was good for their sons as well, who interacted more with their sister and learnt she was not the only child with communication difficulties.
‘Growing up with a disabled child, for the other kids it can be a bit annoying and embarrassing,’ he said.
‘Going to the camp and actually spending time (with them) changed our sons’ attitudes to her.’
Iyona is currently in Year 4 at the Merriwa Education Support Centre, where she enjoys one-on-one time with teachers.
‘She does cool stuff like cooking and shopping when other kids are doing maths and English,’ Mr Hewitt said.
‘They go on excursions once a week.’
The Variety Motor Mouth Camp will provide one-on-one support from volunteer speech, occupational and physio therapists.