With her cheeky smile, irrepressible curiosity and keen sporting talent, Ellie is a little girl who is most definitely going places.
Despite suffering from complex health conditions including cerebral palsy, autism and severe epilepsy, 11-year-old Ellie has made amazing progress since becoming a pupil at Chailey Heritage School two years ago.
She loves to ride on her favourite horse,Tod, excels in wheelchair sports including boccia, curling and table cricket, and has a fascination for the animals that live at Patchwork Farm (especially the tortoises!). Taking part in team sports has awoken a competitive streak in Ellie, and she now has dreams of competing at the highest level.
“Chailey is unique in every way – just like Ellie!”
Liz, Ellie’s Mum
Watching Ellie interact with her teachers and fellow pupils, it’s hard to believe that she once found the classroom a very daunting place. At her previous school, she had become withdrawn and insular, and as her epilepsy worsened, it was clear that more specialist support was needed.
Ellie’s mum Liz explains: “A nurse told us about Chailey Heritage Foundation and as soon as we began researching the school, we felt sure it could be the right place for Ellie. On our first visit, we were bowled over by the warm welcome and friendliness of the staff, the wide variety of activities on offer and the fact there was so much medical expertise on-site.
“We were very fortunate to secure a place, and from the moment Ellie joined Chailey Heritage in the spring of 2017, she has never looked back. When the school minibus picks her up in the morning she always has a smile on her face.
“Connecting with other parents via the Chailey Facebook group has been so helpful. It means a lot to be part of a community that understands.”
Liz, Ellie’s Mum
“Ellie now follows a ketogenic diet and we think this has helped to control her epilepsy. Although she still has profound challenges, to know that these are being managed by experienced nurses on-site – with an NHS Consultant always on call – is just an immeasurable relief. It’s fair to say that Ellie lives each day with a huge amount of drive and zero self- pity – we couldn’t be more proud of her.”
Knowing that Ellie is happy and confident has had a positive effect on the whole family. Ellie’s new school hours mean there’s more time for Liz and her husband Terry to take their sons Bill, 9, and Daniel, 8, to clubs such as karate and swimming. And Liz has been able to return to her job working four days a week as a Registrar.
“Chailey Heritage has been the best thing ever - not just for Ellie, but for all of us,” adds Liz. “The boys are able to take part in so many more activities, which means we don’t have to feel guilty that they are missing out. And Ellie’s happy too – in fact she’s in her element, and we feel quite blessed to know she’s being cared for so brilliantly.”