Written by Dr Tessa Grigg and Thomas’s Mum
Every child at GymbaROO-KindyROO holds a special place in the heart of their teacher. Each week when parents bring their children, as teachers, we are given the best gift – a little slice of time with their child.
For typically developing children, we know that we support their development and enable them to be the best version of themselves that they can be. However, for children with additional challenges, GymbaROO-KindyROO can be a vital part of the child’s program. Below is the story of one of our children. His mother has given us permission to publish her email, but due to the age of her child and, thus, inability to give meaningful consent, we have chosen to change their names to protect the child’s identity.
“As Thomas’s GymbaROO journey comes to its conclusion due to his kindergarten schedule next year, I wanted to let you know what the program and your educators have meant to us over our four years at GymbaROO.
Thomas commenced in the Platypus class as soon as he could join, and he loved it. The socialisation for him was fantastic as he was an only child, and as a first-time Mummy with no clue, I benefited from the education and information sheets we were provided at the end of the class.
When he first started experiencing challenging behaviour in the class, not being able to complete the activities and wanting to run around when it was mat time (before he was diagnosed with the brain tumour), his teachers (Brooke and Sophie) were always so patient with him. There were times when I was struggling with the behaviour and would be on the verge of tears in class, and a small smile from Brooke or a reassuring pat on the shoulder from Sophie would be enough for me to hold it together until the class was over.
When we received the diagnosis of his brain tumour and epilepsy, your team were amazing in supporting us with payments, make-up classes, deferment and the provision of information so we could claim his sessions through NDIS. I will be forever grateful for you enabling us to continue at the centre.
Now, this is the part where I am starting to cry, just recalling how amazing your staff have been to Thomas. From modifying activities for him, understanding his challenges whilst never judging him and Brooke even incorporating sign language, so he understood, I could not have wished for a stronger support structure each week from Brooke and Sophie. The advice Sophie has provided to me as a struggling mother has been invaluable and well outside of her job description, I’m sure.
A few months ago, was the first time he managed to say a word at treasure bag – I was a blubbering mess, but luckily Brooke and Sophie were there to cheer him on. On her own initiative, Brooke had created a version of the flashcards with Thomas’s name on them and his photo so we could practice at home. He still loves holding the cards and mimicking Brooke showing the picture and the word.
For my son, who only greets a few people by name, to watch him run into the centre to look for Brooke and Sophie with a “Hi Brooke Sophie” has been a fantastic thing. I have enjoyed watching their relationship develop independently of me. When Thomas felt overwhelmed, or he could not quite grasp the activity, he looked for Sophie at the desk, where there was his safe little space to calm down for a short time and then rejoin the group. The consistency your staff at GymbaROO has provided to us as a family over the past four years has been invaluable.
Please know the difference GymbaROO has made in our family and the acceptance that Brooke and Sophie have shown my son is something I’ll be forever grateful for, and I know it is a debt I can never repay. My son has a better life for being in their class, and I can honestly say that those two women have been a key part in his recovery post-lobotomy brain surgery. They have truly impacted his path in life.”
To Thomas and his Mum, thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. We wish Thomas all the very best as he takes on his new adventures. We are very proud that we have been able to be part of his development and recovery.