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Down Syndrome NSW
Level 6/410 Church St, North Parramatta
9am-5pm Monday - Thursday
T: 9841 444

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Let's celebrate!

We wish you a joyful World Down Syndrome Day. Tell the person in your life who has Down syndrome how much they mean to you.

Events around NSW are listed here.

Here is a great story from the Maitland Mercury, about the welcome response of a large bureaucracy to a family and community's persistent advocacy for real child's very real needs to be met. This post is the story of the difficult process of getting to this point for Sarah's family and supporters in her local community and school. As her mother Sue says, Sarah's face says it all, in Cathy Bowen's glorious photo:

Sarah stays

Mal Kearney, Maitland Mercury, 19/03/2009

Sarah Coutts will stay at her beloved Martins Creek School – at least until the end of 2010.

Her mother, Sue Coutts, has fought a dogged battle for at least two years with the Department of Education, which wanted to move the 12-year-old with Down syndrome to a high school in Maitland or Dungog.

But the department has relented and this week sent a letter to Ms Coutts confirming her place at the school.

A frail Sarah did a victory dance when she received the news. Hunter-based MLC Robyn Parker, who has advised and represented Ms Coutts and Sarah for several years, said credit for the decision to allow Sarah to stay went to the Maitland Mercury and to people who had written letters to the editor and to authorities to support Sarah’s cause.

“Thanks must go to the Mercury and the community for the letters and support,” Ms Parker said. “This is a commonsense decision at last.”

Pleas to allow Sarah to stay at the school until she was 16 went to the education minister Verity Firth and Premier Nathan Rees, but they had gone unheeded until this week.

Sarah’s circumstance for 2011 and beyond will be reviewed next year but, for now, she will continue to go to school with 8-year-old sister Connie at the small school a few minutes away from her home.

Sarah has heart and lung conditions and a fragile immune system that makes her vulnerable to illness and infection.

There was medical opinion that travel to a high school would have put Sarah’s health at risk.

“Connie is very good with her and can help her here at school,” Ms Coutts said outside the school yesterday.

“I live five minutes away and can come and get her if she is tired or ill.

“This wouldn’t be possible if she was in a high school.”

Asked if she was happy with the decision to let her stay, Sarah said: “Yes. (I can) stay with friends.”

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