The Sydney mother of a four-year-old girl, who has severe cerebral palsy, is trying to find the family whose kind gesture made her and her daughter smile, on a particularly bad day.
On Wednesday 9 November, 27-year-old Amanda Preece was shopping at Coles in the western Sydney suburb of St Marys, with her daughter, Ella. Ms Preece told Essential Kids that after spending time on the phone with the National Disability Insurance Agency, (NDIA) trying to resolve issues with Ella's funding, she was really "hitting a wall".
While in the supermarket, Ms Preece says, "a beautiful girl tapped me on the back. When I turned around she had the biggest smile and was holding up a bunch of flowers."
The little girl with the big smile, told the exhausted mum, "I just wanted to give these to your little girl."
Taken aback, Ms Preece says she was overcome with emotion – and asked the girl if she could give her a hug. "Thank you so much," she told her. "You made our day."
Ms Preece added that the little girl's father came over then - and told the young mum he had a brother who was in a wheelchair. "He said he knew how hard it could be and just wanted to make someone else's day," she says.
And it certainly did. For Ms Preece, the sweet encounter turned her whole day around – the mum spending the afternoon "on a high".
"It is so nice to see the good side of human nature," Ms Preece says, "it really puts things into perspective which we all lose track of sometimes, going about our day."
Now, Ms Preece is hoping to find the father and daughter whose kindness brightened her – and her little girl's – day. "I would just love to send them a card or something," she says, "to just let them know how much it really meant to us."
Ms Preece says that Ella, who along with severe cerebral palsy and epilepsy has microcephaly, and profound vision impairment, is a very happy and sociable little girl who gets excited when she hears other children. "It really made her smile," she says.
For Ms Preece, the kindness came after a year of challenges following the roll out of the Federal Government's National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). After watching its successful implementation in other states where the mother says, the NDIS has made other families "fairly happy", Ms Preece describes that the NSW roll out has been different.
"[There have been] lots of changes in the way it is rolled out and managed and the NDIA are clearly not able to keep up with these issues," she said. "So many families are absolutely drained trying to navigate the issues."
Ms Preece is currently awaiting a hearing for an external review at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, something she describes as a "massive strain" on top of her caring responsibilities. "It feels like we are getting nowhere," she says, "though we are – albeit very slowly."
Ella requires intensive 24-hour care, which includes support around positioning, tube feeding, and medication management. And yet for Ms Preece, this is simply their norm, "It's having to fight the system that is the really hard work," she says.
Fighting the system is precisely what Ms Preece found herself doing on the day she encountered the kind strangers in Coles. The mum had been on the phone following up on approval for a headrest for Ella's wheelchair. Currently, she explains, her little girl is not able to travel safely in the car.
To her frustration, Ms Preece was told that the headrest for Ella "wasn't an NDIA issue." The mother-of-one added that she has submitted photos, which do not appear to have been handled correctly. "The evidence submitted has not been thoroughly handled by someone qualified as it is the responsibility of NDIS to fund reasonable and necessary supports. Safe car travel definitely falls into that category," she says.
After a stressful day, for Ms Preece, the little girl's kindness reminded her of the positives of having a child with special needs. "If this little girl could see the joy that Ella has to offer, it's a big reminder of why we are fighting so hard."