Kayla Chaseling, 6, and her mum, Anna, enjoy the youngster's new sensory room. Photo: Andy Zakeli
Six-year-old Kayla Chaseling got to visit a magical land yesterday - and it's just down the hall from her bedroom.
For Kayla, this magical land is a sensory room featuring dimmed light, beads hanging from the wall, mirrors and an illuminated column of water and bubbles.
Built with help from the Make-A-Wish Foundation, the sensory room is designed to help Kayla with Rett Syndrome - a neurodevelopmental disorder she suffers from.
"She was just absolutely enthralled," said her mother, Anna, after Kayla walked into the room for the first time yesterday.
"It was just a magical land for her. She can't use her hands and she's lost her verbal ability, so she experiences everything through her eyes. So, everything she experienced in there was just magical.
"When I was watching her go in, her face just lit up. I could see the joy in her face. As a mother, that's a special thing to see because there's not a lot out there she can enjoy."
Rett Syndrome is a disorder that can rob children of the use of their hands and other motor skills, such as the ability to move from a sitting to a standing position unaided, and also of their ability to communicate. They may also exhibit antisocial tendencies similar to autism.
Also, the child will develop normally until about 18 months, which is when Kayla's father, Paul, said they first noticed something wasn't right.
"She was going along like any normal child, playing with toys and she had some speech but around 18 months, she started losing her hand movement, she couldn't grab or touch things," Mr Chaseling said.
"She used to be able to pick up her food and feed herself but she started to have difficulty doing that."
They took Kayla to a number of doctors and specialists, some of whom said she had autism and that Mr and Mrs Chaseling were "in denial" about that.
The couple researched autism and, while Kayla did share some of the symptoms, there were others that she didn't have.
Finally, they went to a paediatrician in Campbelltown who, within 10 minutes, mentioned Rett Syndrome. They had Kayla's DNA tested - the only way to diagnose it - and 10 months after the symptoms were first noticed, they had their diagnosis.
"At least then we knew what we needed to do with regards to therapies," Mr Chaseling said.
"Once you understand the syndrome, you can take an approach to make her life as enjoyable as possible."
That includes the sensory room, which will help Kayla deal with anxiety and sensory overload - both conditions of her syndrome.
Pam Rimmer, the president of the Wollongong branch of Make-A-Wish, said the sensory room would have cost $27,000 but the supplier, couriers and others discounted their prices so the cost was $16,000.
Mrs Rimmer described seeing Kayla's response as "magic".
"I've seen her several times since she was a little girl and there's a desperation in her eyes to communicate, so to see her happy is great."
From: Illawarra Mercury