Parents back KidzWish program

The program will help kids such as Kiara Risku, 12, realise their potential. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

The program will help kids such as Kiara Risku, 12, realise their potential. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

A new KidzWish program will help Illawarra children with Down syndrome, such as Kiara Risku, reach their full potential.

The 12-year-old Dapto girl has struggled with communication and mobility all her life, yet parents Vanessa and Sam have never been able to access the formal speech or occupational therapy she needs.

Mrs Risku welcomed the new KidzWish program - a combination of speech, occupational and physiotherapy - which will help her cope better at school and in social situations.

"I had so much trouble trying to access these type of services when Kiara was little that I just gave up, as she had so many medical issues that we had to focus on," she said.

"The waiting lists for publicly funded services were years long and we just couldn't afford to pay for private treatment with all the medical costs we have to fork out.

"So Kiara just missed out and she has not progressed as much as she would have as a result. Now we're excited that she may finally be able to get the one-on-one therapy she needs."

KidzWish is hoping to raise $100,000 at a special fund-raising dinner on Wednesday to fund the program - the first of its kind in the Illawarra.

"Services in the Illawarra for children with Down syndrome have tended to focus on their acute care and medical needs such as swallowing difficulties and heart conditions," KidzWish speech pathologist Alysia Revell said.

"While it's vital to focus on these things, there's been limited services which focus on helping these children develop their play, their communication and their motor skills.

"That's why we plan to set up this new trans-disciplinary service which will help each child achieve their maximum potential and be better able to engage with their peers and in community activities."

Ms Revell said the program would focus on early intervention, but children such as Kiara who had missed out would also be eligible.

The Voice 2013 runner-up Luke Kennedy will headline the entertainment at the inaugural KidzWish Orange All Stars dinner at the Lagoon restaurant.

Other guests include Ed Halmagyi from Better Homes and Gardens and Wave FM announcer Jade Papesch, who will talk about her journey with baby Lulu, who has Down syndrome.

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