This week, we talk to Mandy Elderfield about her amazing daughter, Grace, who is 10 years old, has Down Syndrome, and enjoys horse riding and painting murals.

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Tell us a little about Grace, her age, disability and current situation…
Grace is 10 and has Down Syndrome. She’s in Year 5 at school, and is in a special unit. She enjoys the playground (like any kid), as well as learning Maths and Auslan.
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Share with us all the amazing things she can do, especially those that people in her local community may not realise she can do?
Grace has just started at the Lollyjar Circus, which is promising to be a fun activity where she can learn some exciting new skills like juggling and make friends. She also really loves riding ‘Wombat’ the horse with Riding for the Disabled. In fact she enjoys spending time with lots of animals – we have two dogs, a cat and frogs. She absolutely loves her new bike, which she got just after Christmas, and rides it down to the playground. She also loves painting with her dad – they have done some amazing murals on the house windows. Grace adores her older brother, Jarod.

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What has been Grace’s biggest achievement to date? How did she achieve such big heights?
Swimming! Just this summer, Grace has turned a corner with swimming lessons. She has started putting her head under the water and taking her feet off the bottom, even jumping in by herself. She used to be quite frightened around the water. Our family spent a lot of the Christmas holidays playing in her aunt’s pool. Her confidence in the water is much better now, and she is able to hold her breath. Grace wanted to copy everyone having fun in the water, so much so that she took the brave leap.

Grace also found horse riding a little hard to start with, but she has been doing it for two years now. She has also taken to riding her new bike quickly. It has given her a fantastic new way to get around, and helps her feel independent.

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What has been the hardest barrier for her to overcome?
Education has definitely been the hardest thing. Her school life initially was quite hard, and we had to try a few schools before finding ‘the one’. The school she’s at now is wonderful and she’s just started her third year there. The teachers and staff have been extremely caring and welcoming. It seems getting her away from the playground will be the next challenge!

What is one positive thing about the NDIS for you and how do you think the scheme will assist inclusion in your community?
The whole NDIS is great. It has transformed our access to all the therapy Grace needs – we don’t need to worry about it whether we can afford it this week. For a while, Grace needed me to be on call, for while she was at school. The NDIS has given me the opportunity to stay at home for as long as Grace needs me to be ‘on call’. She also has equipment that will help her, that we never could have afforded before.

All of this means that she can get the help she needs, she can learn, she can become independent and she will grow up to be a contributing member of society – just like everyone else. I couldn’t ask for more.