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A voice to the voiceless

Five-year-old Mackenzie Barnes struggles to communicate with the world and is often left frustrated by that. Unfortunately, she’s fallen through some gaps in the healthcare system. Satan’s Little Helper stepped in to offer some help

“As soon as she was born, we could tell something was different about Mackenzie ,” says her mum Kristin. “We initially had her tested for Down’s syndrome. My son is autistic and, as she got older, we could tell Mackenzie was too.” Mackenzie was born at 29 weeks and spent 100 days in hospital, before contracting bronchiolitis, which required two years of treatment.

She also suffered from delayed development (she couldn’t walk until she was three), is non-verbal and lacks cognitive ability, which means Kristin must watch her like a hawk.

“I’ve safety-gated the entire property, because she’s a runner. If someone opens a door, in a split second she’ll be out of it and running down the road because she has no awareness of how dangerous it is. The police have had to bring her back to me twice!”

However, the biggest struggle Mackenzie and Kristin face is communication.

“She gets so frustrated that she can’t communicate, sometimes she’ll just scream and have a meltdown. Normally, she’ll just pull at my hand if she’s trying to tell me something. At the moment, we’re trying to get her working towards using visuals and sign language to communicate.”

Kristin says it’s been difficult to get help from mainstream health providers and after running out of people to turn to, Satan’s Little Helper jumped in and offered to supply a tablet to help with her speech therapy and development.

“One of the really encouraging things is that she’s started humming along to music on the tablet, which she has never done before. Any new sounds that she creates with her mouth is amazing progress, because she’s never made any noise apart from screaming or crying.”

Mackenzie has also been using it to play instruments.

“It’ll be a huge benefit for Mackenzie over the next few years,” says Kristin. “Her occupational therapist is really excited about the progress she can make by using a tablet.”

While the tablet can help the cause of Mackenzie’s meltdowns, a weighted blanket also supplied by SLH can help with the symptoms.

“The weighted blanket helps her sleep and, if she’s frustrated, it helps calm her. It works really well.”

Kristin has two children with autism and life can get extremely busy for her. Thankfully, the tablet and blanket have helped slow the pace she operates at.

Mackenzie is only five and has a long road ahead. Her progress is encouraging, but it’s just a start. Hopefully in the next few years, we’ll be able to report that Mackenzie has found her voice and that Kristin has a few more hours in the day to herself!


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