One perfect day

It is surprising how dramatically someone’s life can change when they suddenly fit in. 

Mackenzie Paterson, a 14-year-old Year 8 student at St Dominic’s Centre, Mayfield, experienced that change when he transitioned from a mainstream school into the caring and supportive environment of St Dominic’s this year.

Mackenzie has been diagnosed with moderate cognitive disability, and autism spectrum disorder level 2. He used to hate school and would often avoid it, which was becoming a case of school refusal.

“He never went to school,” his grandmother Janet Paterson said. “He had panic attacks on the way to school and just flat out refused to go. He used to get agitated and this was coming out in some violent and aggressive behaviours. That happened for two years and resulted in ongoing absences from school, which became an issue with the Department of Education.”

Everything changed when Ms Paterson found St Dominic’s website.

“The first day we visited the school, Mackenzie was anxious and reluctant to go inside. But when he came in and was introduced to the staff and the principal he said, ‘Do you know what Nan? I think I’m going to like it here, these people are so nice.’ They made him feel comfortable. He just needed to have support.”

Since that day, Mackenzie has had a perfect school attendance record. 

Principal of St Dominic’s, Veronica McLoughlin, says she noticed Mackenzie’s level of anxiety has decreased as he has built friendships at school.

“Mackenzie has formed lovely social relationships with his peers and has grown in leadership, confidence and self-esteem,” Ms McLoughlin said. “We saw great potential and he’s been given the environment where he feels safe to contribute and try new activities.”

Ms Paterson has also noticed how the supportive environment has changed Mackenzie. “He's come along leaps and bounds socially. In his demeanour, his confidence, he has even lost weight. Everything about the school has been good for him. Absolutely everything. They are fantastic.”

School photos show the change. “I’ve never seen him smile so much,” Ms Paterson said.

Ms Paterson says she could not find a greater group of people at St Dominic’s. “I would recommend it to anyone. The staff and the principal are beautiful. They will do anything they can for the kids, anything at all. Also for the parents. If you've got a problem that you're not dealing with, they'll help you, and they're just so good.”

St Dominic's caters for Kindergarten to Year 10 students with a range of disabilities including hearing impairment, autism spectrum disorder and moderate cognitive disability.

The school’s purpose-built design minimises noise, distraction and sensory overload. Each student has a personalised plan that promotes the development of listening, language and academic skills and positive social outcomes. 

There are places now available for students with moderate cognitive disability entering Year 7. Contact St Dominic’s Centre today. 

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Brooke Robinson Image
Brooke Robinson

Brooke is Content Officer for the Communications Team in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle

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