Support Groups

NSW Department of Family and Community Services – Ageing, Disability and Home Care (ADHC) funds early childhood intervention services and offers some services directly to children and families.


Down Syndrome NSW provides information and research, support services as well as upcoming events for people with Down syndrome. Support services include Up! Club which is a peer support group for young adults. 02 9841 4444


Better Start is a support program which allows children under the age of 6 who have been diagnosed with Down syndrome to register for access to early intervention funding of up to $12000. 1800 242 636



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Dyslexia – What is it?? Video

Here is a wonderful short video that will explain how dyslexia is like for the people are affected! It is highly recommended to show this video for childs and their parents to help them understand dyslexia.

Dyslexia affects up to 1 in 5 people, but the experience of dyslexia isn’t always the same. This difficulty in processing language exists along a spectrum — one that doesn’t necessarily fit with labels like “normal” and “defective.” Kelli Sandman-Hurley urges us to think again about dyslexic brain function and to celebrate the neurodiversity of the human brain.

Lesson by Kelli Sandman-Hurley, animation by Marc Christoforidis.

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Intervention Programs

There is no standard treatment or cure for Down syndrome with treatments based on the individual’s physical and intellectual needs as well as their capabilities and limitations. Early intervention procedures can improve lives and the future of children with Down syndrome. These programs can begin shortly after birth and continue until the age of 3. After this age, most children will continue to be involved in intervention therapies and receive assistance from their school. A variety of therapies can be used in early intervention programs and throughout a person’s life to help aid development, productivity and independence. The professionals involved in Down syndrome include intervention special educators, speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, and social workers.

There are a variety of therapies which can be used in early intervention programs and throughout a person’s life to help aid development, productivity and independence.

Physical therapy involves activities and exercises that help build motor skills, increase muscle strength, and improve posture and balance. Physical therapy is very important in early childhood as it helps them learn and interact with their surroundings, establishing a foundation for other skills. It will also help a child deal with physical challenges to help them in the future and long-term.
These include teaching the child to walk in an efficient pattern to minimise foot injury or pain and also back strengthening exercises.


Speech-language therapy can help children with Down syndrome improve their communication skills and the ability to use language effectively since they often learn to speak later than other children. It helps the children develop early communication skills such as imitating sounds or using pictures. Learning to communicate and communication skills is a learning process in life and will not only benefit the children from an early age but also during school or later in life. The therapist will help the child with speaking skills, pronunciation, comprehension as well as reading and remembering words.


Occupational therapy is relevant to people with Down syndrome of all ages, and helps them adjust to everyday tasks and duties, addressing their needs within their abilities. It teaches self-care skills including eating, writing or getting dressed. In high school years an occupational therapist may aid with career and job searching, relative to the person’s abilities and interests.


Emotional and behavioral therapies aim to understand why a child may be acting out in desirable or undesirable behaviours. The therapists will help identify strategies and ways to avoid and prevent undesirable behaviours as well as teaching positive ways to respond to situation. Psychologists and counselors can help children deal with emotions, especially during puberty and teach coping and management skills. These techniques will allow the child reach their full potential in everyday life.


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Dyslexia Support Groups


1. Dyslexia AssociationThis is an organisation that is a non-profit, registered national Australian body concerned with the well being, identification and educational intervention of those with dyslexia. They help to screen, assess and support those with dyslexia to help promote learning within Australia.

2. Dyslexia-SPELD Foundation  – They provide support and assistance for those with dylexia and their carers, services such as assessment, tutoring, consultations and free information evenings are provided by this service!

There are many more resources and support organisation available on the internet also but these two support groups are highly recommended because they are professional and accredited support groups.



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Dyslexia – Management

A common management strategy for Dyslexia is using a different method of teaching.

Education changes – Multisensory method of teaching used. 

A multi-sensory approach to teaching involves input from all the senses and requires cognitive imput to process the varied information. It has been shown to be effective in teaching students with learning difficulties. The aim is to pair visual and auditory stimulus with meaningful student activity, in a way that promotes understanding and builds on previous knowledge. It also allows students to use their strengths while developing weaker areas. Experiental learning, such as hands-on activities or computer-assisted learning, can assist those students with learning difficulties to assimilate the information in a meaningful way.


Multisensory Structured Language (MSL) includes the principles of scientific reading research but goes one step further with addition of the multisensory component. The multisensory component is what makes MSL differ to other traditional reading and spelling programs. The MSL Orton Gillingham approach is considered the golden standard and assists ALL children including children who have been identified with dyslexia or a related differences.



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ADHD – Treatment and Management

Treatment for ADHD

Using medication alone is not usually the best treatment for ADHD. The first and foremost line of treatment is to address the child’s emotions (anxiety, panic, hyper-reactivity, impulsivity) and aim at making the child stable. If the child continues to have ADHD symptoms then medications may help.

Stimulant medications such as dexamphetamine and methylphenidate (Ritalin) are the two main medications used to treat ADHD. These stimulants act on neurotransmitters to release a chemical called dopamine. An increased amount of dopamine will help reduce hyperactivity and impulsive behaviours. Moreover, it is to note that the medications will work differently in different children so a particular child may benefit more from one of these medications than others. Some children may even benefit from taking a combination of the two.



Caring for a child with ADHD

Caring for a child with ADHD can be very challenging as the patience of all family members is stretched. The aim in caring for a child that has been diagnosed with ADHD is to formulate the best way to help the child to learn and develop as well as reducing stress on all family members. Remember that a child with ADHD does not intend to be difficult.

Parents and caregivers needs to be consistent in their support routine, and it is very important to take breaks regularly, stepping back from problem to take a look at the situation when it is stressful.



You can choose to:

* Develop consistent routines at home and school

* Keep instructions clear and simple

* Give reminders calmly

* Get physically close with the child and make the child’s full attention is given whilst talking

* Give one or two instructions at a time

* Praising is important, particularly if the child has done something good

* Ignore irritating behaviours and attitudes

* Discipline child for unacceptable behaviour for instance give timeout sessions


Other helpful tips to manage ADHD

Helping a child managing ADHD can be tailored to the individual child. Therapies such as counseling can help a child to develop concentration and social skills and can extend to controlling anger or treating impulsivity.


Therapies for ADHD can include:

* Behaviour modification

* Therapy aiming at rewarding child for good behaviour is more successful than punishment alone.

* Cognitive therapy

* Provides aids for a child to manage thinking skills such as problem solving and self control.

* Anger management

* This is for children with impulsive behaviour who are quickly frustrated and angered.

* Child learns to recognise the signs of growing frustration and learns coping skills which are designed to defuse the anger.

* Child also learns to relaxation and stress management skills

* Social training

* Suitable for a child with ADHD who do not get along with their peers due to aggressive and lack of social skills.

* Training teaches child to interact with peers.

* Family counseling

* Family counseling is for all members within the family and helps with formulating coping techniques for raising a child with ADHD.


Where to get further help

* Your regular GP

* Sydney Developmental Clinic *

* Learning Discoveries Psychological Services *

* Support groups:

* Every day with ADHD and challenging behaviour  *

* Raising children network *

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ADHD – Causes and contributing factors

The exact cause of ADHD is unknown;

however the following contributing factors may play a role in a child developing ADHD:

* Differences of neurophysiology of the brain anatomy, electrical activity and metabolism

* Genetics


* Drug use during pregnancy such as nicotine and cocaine


* Chronic exposure to low levels of lead influencing behaviour and brain chemistry

* Lack of early attachment where the child does not have enough bonding time with parent or caregiver


* Early traumatic experiences relating to attachment resulting in inattention and hyperactivity.

* Childhood posttraumatic stress disorder due traumatic event which has similar symptoms to that of ADHD but treatment options is different. 

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ADHD – Diagnosis


How is ADHD assessed/ diagnosed?

Usually a paediatrician or child psychiatrist conducts an initial assessment or diagnosis of ADHD. A psychologist can focus on how the disorder affects behaviour and learning, and what can be done to improve this.

There are various ways to measure ADHD. Psychologists use rating scales, questionnaires and other tests for collecting information from the children themselves, their parents/caregivers and their teachers. Children are observed at home and school.

To assess whether a person has ADHD, we can consider several critical questions:

* Is the behaviour excessive, long-term?

* Do they occur more often than in people the same age?

* Is it a continuous problem and not just a response to a temporary situation?

* Do the behaviours occur in several settings or only in specific places like the playground?


The person’s pattern of behaviour is then compared against a set of criteria and characteristics of the disorder. The universal criteria referred to for diagnosing ADHD is DSM-IV (diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders version IV) where there are three sub-types of ADHD.


Caution: As everyone shows some of the behaviours mentioned in the above table at times, the DSM-IV contains very specific guidelines for determining when a patient is indicated with ADHD. Such guidelines include:

* Behaviours appear early in life, before 7 years and continue for at least 6 months.

* Behaviours must be more frequent or severe than in others of the same age group

Above all the behaviour creates a real handicap in at least two areas of the person’s life such as school, home, work or social settings.


Behaviours that are not necessarily ADHD

The following conditions listed do not qualify for diagnosis of ADHD as some of these conditions are either temporary or chronic:

o Attention lapses during absence seizures.

o Underachievement at school due to a learning disability.

o A middle ear infection or grommets that may reduce hearing sensitivity.

o Central Auditory Processing Disorder

o Visual Processing Disorder

o Dyslexia

o Disruptive or unresponsive behaviors due to childhood depression or anxiety.

o Anxiety, chronic fears and childhood depression can make a child seem overactive, quarrelsome, impulsive, or inattentive.

o Overactive or under active thyroid.

o Undiagnosed diabetes.

o A child who becomes overactive and easily distracted after the death of a family member or friend or after some traumatic loss or fearful experience may be dealing with unresolved grief and/or emotional problems.

o A chronic middle ear infection or mild asthma, often the result of dairy intolerance, can also make a child seem distracted and uncooperative and lead to Learning Difficulties.

o A child who is emotionally unstable and therefore cannot focus due to living with a family member who is physically or emotionally abusive or neglectful.



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Dysphasia – Intervention and Support

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Treatment process focuses on helping the individual to communicate as effectively as possible in everyday life and is often tailored to an individual depending on the difficulties the individual is experiencing. There is no single approach proven to be affective alone, however effective management can be achieved through combination therapy. Often treatment processes are conducted by a team of speech and language therapist, where techniques are used to address individual difficulties. Examples of techniques may include:

  • Matching words to pictures or sorting words with their meanings for patients who have trouble understanding words
  • They may ask you to judge if certain words rhyme or repeat words that they say for patients who have trouble expressing themselves.
  • Teaching techniques to communicate other than talking such as using gestures, drawings, and communication charts.
  • Specially designed electronic devise may be used for patients who have difficulty speaking but can still write or type for example voice output communication aids (VOCA) which uses a computer-generated voice to play messages outloud.
  • They may also include group therapy where family members and even other patients with dysphasia practice conversational skills by rehearsing common scenarios such as participating in a telephone call.



Australian aphasia association:


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Dysphasia – Explained


Language is the process where thoughts and ideas become spoken or written. It involves the selection of words to bedelivered and the organization of these words to formulate sentences and phrases.Dysphasia is the impairment in language skills due to damage to the left side of the brain. This is to be differentiated to dysarthria which refers to the impairment in speech. Dysgraphia results in changes in certain area of communication such as understanding, talking, reading, and writing. Different areas are affected differently in individuals.

There are two known types of dysphasia:

  • Receptive:  Refers to patients with dysphasia who are able to produce fluent speech sounds but have no meaning. Patients are not able to comprehend meaning and deliver meaningful messages.
  • Expressive: The patient can comprehend language that is written or spoken to them but have difficulty delivering the message by writing or speech. In this type, patients are able to select words of meaning but are unable to formulate coherency in their sentences or phrases. i.e. unable to form language


Conditions that can cause dysgraphia may include:

  • Stroke; reduce blood supply to the brain or bleeding in the brain
  • Trauma to the brain as a result of an accident, infection, or toxic substance
  • Degenerative diseases such as dementia
  • Brain tumours


Signs and symptoms of dysphasia may include:

  • The inability to comprehend meaning (understand meaning)
  • The inability to pronounce letter and words for reasons other than muscle paralysis or weakness.
  • Demonstrates poor written and verbal output
  • Demonstrates difficulty in forming words
  • Demonstrates difficulty in the ability to speak in grammatically correct fashion
  • Incomplete sentences
  • Difficulty in labelling objects or recognising objects


Diagnosis of a learning disability is a process involving history taking, observations of the patient and testing by trained specialist. For a more accurate diagnosis, the process usually involves a multidisciplinary team where a number of healthcare professionals may be involved. Often the diagnostic process may involve input from school teachers and even your doctor.

Your multidisciplinary team may include:

  • Clinical psychologist
  • School Psychologist
  • Child Psychiatrist
  • Educational psychologist
  • Occupational therapist
  • Speech and language therapist

Getting a diagnosis is very important in that it allows early intervention to help the individual to manage symptoms due to dysphasia and provide better quality of life for both carer’s and patient.

speech therapy

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