Madeline’s Story

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Meet Madeline

Each day at Irabina we are fortunate enough to see first hand the incredible achievements of our children and their families. We celebrate every step of their journey.

Today, we’re bringing you a story that inspires us and makes us so proud, we had to share it with you.

Madeline was three years old when she came to Irabina, and this is her story.

When Madeline was referred to Irabina she was not speaking, and her behaviour was becoming increasingly challenging for her parents Lisa and Dean, impacting their time spent with younger brother Harry.

Madeline’s difficulty communicating left her frustrated and acting out to those close to her. She was only attending half a day at day-care, and Lisa would often be called saying Madeline was distressed. Lisa reported Madeline, with a diagnosis of autism, was struggling with human contact, and the sensory overload she experienced when she left the house was debilitating. It was an extremely stressful time for the family.


Lisa and Dean say they are forever grateful they found Irabina. Even though it meant travelling an hour and a half for appointments from Gippsland, Madeline’s family was devoted to getting the help they needed.

Madeline’s progress was amazing, a few months after she started at Irabina, she spoke her first word. This quickly progressed to two words and before long she was constructing sentences. As she was able to communicate and have her needs understood, her acting-out behaviours improved, and the family started to see the glimpse of the happy girl she is today.

The family could now see positive results, Madeline was happier, she could attend kinder, and homelife had improved.

However, mealtimes were still an issue.

By now Madeline was four years old and referred to Irabina’s feeding clinic for an intensive eight-week program. This meant leaving Dean and Harry at home to move to Melbourne for two months. This was difficult for the family to be separated especially for Harry who was only a toddler at the time.


“Madeline has always struggled with food, with eating. Mealtimes involved lots of distraction and intervention, always a two-person job, it was hard work, for her and us. With all the difficulties she faces as a child on the spectrum, eating was yet another hurdle”.


Madeline never enjoyed mealtimes, it did not come easy to her and she struggled tremendously with textures. When Madeline commenced the program, her entire diet consisted of dry biscuits, shredded cheese, McDonald’s chicken nuggets, and chicken Twisties.

“We had never sat down to a nice calm happy family meal together as a family, all mealtimes consisted of high anxiety and chaos”.

Madeline was becoming malnourished, her hair and nails never grew, and she twice needed hospitalisation requiring intravenous nutritional replacement and hydration.

“The second time Madeline needed hospitalisation was on Christmas morning, which happened to be our son Harry’s first Christmas. It wasn’t how we planned to spend a special day for us all”.


Madeline responded positively to the program and, by week seven Madeline had met all her goals and had introduced 16 new nutritional foods from four food groups into her diet. As the program finished and weeks went by, Madeline flourished and continued to increase the number of foods she wanted to try. Her hair and nails started to grow again, and she was able to learn and develop. Lisa says a time she will never forget or take for granted was going to a salon and having their nails done together for the first time.

“Thanks to Irabina, our beautiful girl who is now seven years old, is happy and living her best self. Of course, she is different, but this makes her even more special to us. She attends regular school now which we could never have imagined she would before Irabina”.

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