Laura has moderate cognitive disability, autism, anxiety, and severe expressive and receptive language disorder. She was one of the first students to join St Dominic’s Year 7 and has continued to experience growth and confidence.
Over that time, Laura has grown from being a student who displayed characteristics of selective mutism to a young woman with confidence and a leader. Laura, her mum Mary-Jane Malone and dad Paul Malone all agree, St Dominic’s has made all the difference.
Laura attended St Brigid’s Primary School in Raymond Terrace up until to Year 6. At school, the gap socially and academically was widening with her peers. She would find it hard to understand what was happening in class and would not want to draw attention to herself.
The Malones knew that something had to change, and that is when they read about the plan to expand St Dominic’s. The school would no longer only cater for students with hearing impairment but planned to open its doors to provide an individualised education for students with other needs.
“We weren't even sure when we enrolled her whether it was the right choice or not,” Mr Malone said. “It was unknown to us. I think at the time we thought 'look if she gets in it's meant to be’.”
That decision to enrol Laura has resulted in her growing in confidence, self-esteem and self-regulation of her emotions. Her reading, writing, and spelling have increased dramatically in quality and accuracy. The principal of St Dominic’s Centre, Veronica O’Loughlin, said Laura is now “self-directed and a leader amongst her peers”.
The biggest difference Laura noticed when she came to St Dominic’s was “probably how much attention you get and how nice and understanding the teachers are”.
Laura loves her experience at St Dominic’s and enjoys going to the gym for sport, stepping up to do things for events such as reading aloud in liturgies, or singing on stage at the Civic Theatre in the inclusive choir at Dio Sounds.
“There are just some children that do suit this kind of environment, who thrive in it and I think she's a perfect example of a child that's come in and has just blossomed into this beautiful flower,” Mrs Malone said.
“They have children of all different abilities, and they don't rest on their laurels. They set standards for each child, and they work to help that child.”