FOR the first time, Caitie Hughes (6) feels confident going back to school and talking to her peers.
The Middle Swan youngster joined the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) a year ago and since then, her speech has improved by leaps and bounds.
Parents Bronwyn and Brett Hughes said the change in Caitie’s speech and confidence after enrolling her in a language development centre had been nothing short of miraculous,.
“Caitie had childhood apraxia of speech and this time last year we had to guess what she was saying because we simply couldn’t understand her,” Mrs Hughes said.
“The kindy kids didn’t understand her and – as a mother this is really hard to admit – I also didn’t understand her a lot of the time.
“Watching a recording of her kindy class sing Christmas carols is really hard because she is just opening and closing her mouth.
“We didn’t even know what she wanted for Christmas a year ago, we had to guess.”
Mrs Hughes said the prospect of Caitie becoming lost or separated in a shopping centre or playground played on her mind.
“She couldn’t communicate clearly so I was always thinking ‘what would she say, how does she tell anyone who she is?’.
“If she cannot be understood by her own family, she cannot tell anyone else she is lost.”
“She can now speak well enough to make friends her own age, and she can sing as well.
“The NDIS planning process was really easy and we are so grateful for the help and assistance.”
Mr Hughes said NDIS community information sessions were valuable and a good opportunity to share knowledge with other parents.
He can now talk to Caitie from his fly-in, fly-out job in North-West WA.
“I previously couldn’t speak to her the whole time I was away because she was not that understandable,” Mr Hughes said.
“And it is not just her speech that has changed, it’s her confidence too.
“We knew the real Caitie but no one else did because she was so self-conscious; she would avoid answering a question or hide.”
Mr Hughes said he was proud of his daughter.
“Now she is walking up to parents at school and starting conversations,” he said.
“They are gobsmacked.
“Every single day someone remarks about Caitie’s astounding progress.”
Caitie’s sister Regan (9) has also benefited.
“It is easier to play with her and more fun because she can tell me what she wants her dolls to do and how she wants it to go,” Regan said.
Mrs Hughes said Caitie had met all of her goals, her speech was at an age-appropriate level and as a result, she had exited the NDIS.
“Caitie was always a happy kid but she is so bubbly, over-the-top happy now,” she said.
“It’s a much louder house and it is great.”