Mother designs cards to help the public understand her little girl and her behaviour video

ANDY JACKSON/Stuff.co.nz

Jess Callaghan has been "sworn at" and called the "worst mother in the world" over her sick child's behaviour.

When Jess Callaghan's toddler sits on the floor and starts screaming, strangers tell her she's a dreadful parent.

"People just walk past and say really hurtful things," the 36-year-old says.

"I've had it all. I've been told I'm a terrible mother, a bad parent, I've been told to take my kid home, that my child is spoilt.

Little Lydia has a chromosome disease called 1q21.1 microdeletion.
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

Little Lydia has a chromosome disease called 1q21.1 microdeletion.

"Before she was diagnosed, we were upstairs in the public library and Lydia had one of her meltdowns. A man yelled and yelled at me, and then swore at me and told me I was a useless mother.

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"I just burst into tears."

New Plymouth mother Jess Callaghan has made cards to explain that her child Lydia Callaghan, 3, is not "naughty", but ...
ANDY JACKSON/Fairfax NZ

New Plymouth mother Jess Callaghan has made cards to explain that her child Lydia Callaghan, 3, is not "naughty", but that she has traits of autism.

Then in August little Lydia was diagnosed with a chromosome disease called 1q21.1 microdeletion. It's a disease that has only 57 reported cases in the world.

It means that the New Plymouth toddler is missing a piece of her first chromosome; the piece that is responsible for at least nine genes.

This impacts on her behaviour, as well as her muscle tone and the functionality of her kidneys and her heart.

Callaghan said this means that while Lydia's meltdowns may look like a typical toddler tantrum, they are not.

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Instead, they are caused by the frustrations the little girl feels because of her sensory issues and her speech and communication difficulties.

These meltdowns stop once Lydia feels safe and calm again, so the people who scold her or call her naughty don't help the situation.

In fact they make it worse.

So, in an effort to educate the community and to help people understand what Lydia is going through, Callaghan has created cards to give out when Lydia is in public.

The cards explains that Lydia, who is 3, is not naughty, but that because of her chromosome disease she has epilepsy, sensory issues, meltdowns and autistic type traits.

"Eventually I got to the point where I thought enough is enough," Callaghan said.

"When your child suffers from autistic meltdowns people just don't understand. You don't have enough time while your child is lying there, to explain the problem.

"It's about time that a parent stood up and said that it is not OK to treat us like that. These cards will inform people that my child is not naughty.

"The cards are a great idea for parents who are struggling to get that message across to people."

Callaghan said she started using the cards recently and the response had been really positive.

"Some people have even said thank you," she said.

That positive change has been great for Lydia, and for her 8-year-old sister Marcia, who was becoming affected by people's reactions to her little sister.

Callaghan said Lydia started on epilepsy medication in September, which has helped immensely with the fits, as well as the meltdowns.

"But she will still have meltdowns in certain places," Callaghan said.

"So it is about knowing how to handle it."

 - Stuff

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