At 16 years old, she weighed 12 kilograms.
She had severe cerebral palsy, could not walk or talk and could not use her hands.
Had she received the simple therapy Dexter received in her first year, she may have had use in her hands.
This simple fact highlights the fact that life in the institute was detrimental to Anne's development.
In a twist of good luck, Anne met Rosemary Crossley when she was 16. Rosemary taught Anne to read and communicate, using an alphabet board.
(Read Rosemary's account of the Institution, and teaching Anne here)
The first thing Anne did, was fight for her release from the institute.
Then, she closed the institute.
And earned a degree in humanity from Deakin University.
And went bungy jumping!
(Read more of her story here)
Anne McDonald was recognised for her efforts in advocating for people with a disability.
She was an integral part in the development of what is now known as the Anne McDonald Centre.
Essentially, they help anyone who has difficulty with speech.
Initially, the Centre was known as DEAL.
(Dignity, Education, Advocay and Language)
Anne personally understand how difficult life was without a voice.
When DEAL opened in 1986, it was the only centre for people with speech difficulties in Australia.
So, what do they do?
People like Dexter... people without words, know and understand far more than they are able to say.
At the Anne McDonald Centre, people with Severe Communication Impairment and those with Complex Communication Needs are assisted through the use of Augmented and Alternative Communication.
Alternate forms of communicating are offered.
Speech therapy is offered.
Over 2,500 children and adults have received therapy through the Anne McDonald (or DEAL) Centre. Kids and adults just like Dexter.
At the Centre, children are supported in their mainstream education.
People who, through a lack of oral communication, were regarded as stupid, have had access to a university education and have earned degrees in a variety of subjects.
And the most beautiful thing this centre does... it helps adults find the words to tell their mothers they love them... words Lenice is waiting to hear from Dexter.
Of course, there is no government funding. So, what are the fees?
This is from the Anne McDonald Centre website:
If you can pay and you're being funded for therapy, we'll ask you to pay.
If you can't afford fees we'll ask for a tax deductible donation.
If you've got no money, come anyway.
We love that!
Anne McDonald... Thank You!
Not only has the Anne McDonald Centre designed communication boards here in Australia, they have designed a collection of bi-lingual communication boards in Chinese languages.
Even better, these board designs are available for free download from the website.
In our three years experience with cerebral palsy, we have definitely learned one thing. Therapy and equipment is very expensive... ridiculously expensive.
And yet, the Anne McDonald Centre in Australia seems to have developed a people first policy. Because of Anne's incredible childhood, and her determined nature, a centre now exists where people without a voice can be heard.
If you want to contact the Anne McDonald Centre:
538 Dandenong Road
Ph: 03 9509 6324
Fax: 03 9509 6321