Courage can come in many forms and sometimes, you find largest amount in the smallest places. Like four-year- old Ashton Binskin.
Just 6 weeks after Ashton was born he was diagnosed with a brain tumor that required immediate surgery. During his operation Ashton suffered a severe infantile stroke that has left him vision impaired, unable to walk - as he now has right-sided hemiplegia - and with multiple conditions that require a lifetime of medication.
"He has only 20 per cent of his vision," Ashton’s mum Renee says. "His pituitary is effected, which means thyroid and growth problems. He has global developmental delay and he’ll be on multiple drugs for the rest of his life," Ashton’s mum Renee said.
"Two years after his operation he started to have severe seizures and at one point we were having to consider removing the left half of his brain effected from the stroke, but fortunately he responded well to the medication."
"He has trouble getting around because he has little function on the right half of his body and we are looking at hip surgery sometime next year."
Despite all of these setbacks early in life, Ashton, armed with mum, dad Greg and brother Hayden choose to spend their days smiling into the sun. While acknowledging the ups and downs, Renee says Ashton’s unique condition is just as unique as his spirited personality.
"The right hemisphere of his brain, which forms his personality is still functional," Renee said.
"He is silly, super cheeky and he never stops laughing, just like any four-year-old boy."
"He is a happy and he just brings us so much joy. At the moment he has been developing really well and he has become so able."
After medications managed to stabilise Ashton’s seizures, Renee said he has been ‘ticking off most goals’.
"He has learnt to use his vision to the best of his ability. He was completely non-verbal until Christmas (2015) … but now he is up to 4 and 5 word sentences. He used to get very frustrated trying to communicate, so we learned signs, but now he can tell us what he wants."
Renee admits that while Ashton’s bravery propels him forward in his development, he ‘wouldn’t be where he is today without his therapies’.
Ashton has been taking part in KidzWish’s speech therapy, physiotherapy and occupational therapy programs for a little over a year.
"They just make things easier for us," Renee said. "When I don’t know what to do or when we are time poor, they help us."
Renee said that Ashton’s speech pathologist Roisin, occupational therapist Domanique and physiotherapist Suzy always go ‘above and beyond’ in their programs with Ashton.
"They don’t just teach speech, and saying words, they really tailor the program to suit Ashton."
"Ashton doesn’t always enjoy the physical aspects of therapies, so his speech and physiotherapists combine their programs to make it fun and he doesn’t realise he is doing it. Roisin, helps us create ways of communicating with each other and come up with news tasks that help us talk to one another. There are support groups and workshops and even if you can’t go along they send you information."
Due to Ashton’s condition loud places like shopping malls and schools can be a bit daunting, but Domanique together with KidzWish’s speech pathologist Roisin, developed ‘social stories’ – a program to prepare him for social situations.
"We write visual picture stories together to give him an idea of what to expect," Renee said.
"He used to hate going grocery shopping because of all the noise, so we started drawing stories about shopping. And now he is really good. He doesn’t get upset and knows how to tell us when he wants to go home. I think he actually enjoys it. He also didn’t like going to preschool, or playing with other kids because of the noise. But now he loves it and even talks about playing with kids at school."
"Today he got his very first birthday card invitation from his new best friend, Xander."
It has been leaps and bounds for the Binskin family over the past 12 months and every day they are grateful. Grateful to those that help, whether it be their close network of friends, family and local programs like KidzWish.
But most of all, they’re mindful of the strength and gratitude they bring to each other, a happy hug of four - as well as their furry pal Erin - and when the sun comes out, they grin from ear-to- ear and head down the beach.