By Kaye Young
The Vaughan Park Retreat Centre is a wonderful, peaceful place set above Long Bay Beach in Auckland, nestled into rolling hills with views across bush and towards the beach. The accommodation and food was generous and excellent and it was wonderful to meet other parents who also have a very high needs son/daughter.
My son James is 23 years old has Down syndrome, Autism, Coeliac disease and is non-verbal so it is not often one meets another family whose child has the same diagnosis. For me it was lovely to be in a place where my son was not the most developmentally delayed. I was pampered and my son coped pretty well with all the changes starting with the plane flight, travel in a shuttle van, new peers, food and accommodation. Having head phones on so he could listen to his music helped a lot. When James was asked to do the rock climbing, abseiling and archery he would not participate despite the best efforts of Coen and Glen but I had not allowed James to wear his headphones. The next day he wore his headphones and did wonderful art work for 2 hours. I was amazed and now with the benefit of hindsight how many other things would he do if he could relax listening to his music while doing the activity! So both James and I learnt new things and I loved the company of other Mums/Dads who have children with similar challenges.
Thank you to Zandra and the NZDSA for organising such a great event and if it could be held again for parents with very high needs children with Down syndrome that would be fabulous!