Ciara McKillop: Mother, fighter, advocate

Life’s most challenging lessons often evolve into our most impactful contributions. 

For Ciara McKillop, her role as a Lived-Experienced Administration Officer in EACH’s Early Childhood Approach team began shortly after the birth of her first child, Jackson. 

“I was not coping with parenting him” shares Ciara. “I didn’t know what to do or what was going on, and people were telling me to just be harder on him or to put firmer boundaries in.”  

Ciara’s instincts told her that something more was going on.  

Gathering her courage, she voiced her concerns, only to be repeatedly dismissed with explanations like ‘developmental phase’ or ‘normal terrible twos’. 

In her quest for answers, Ciara and her husband, Tim, navigated the community health process and attended a parenting course, but the advice and strategies weren’t helping.  

Frustrated but determined, Ciara continued to seek options from the course staff, eventually leading her to EACH, where she connected with an Early Years Specialist. 

“It was the first time we shared our story and challenges, and our feelings were validated,” Ciara recalls. “After that conversation, we felt relieved that someone finally understood what is going on.” 

Jackson qualified for NDIS early intervention funding, granting access to services that ultimately led to his autism diagnosis at the age of 3. 

“Without actually getting onto the early intervention funding, we would never have been able to afford to even link in with the providers.”  

Ciara’s son, Jackson.

The journey as a parent brought both relief and a grieving process upon receiving the diagnosis. Ciara explains, “Initially, the diagnosis provided relief because it validated what I suspected. But then came a phase of grieving… letting go of societal norms and stereotypes about parenthood. It’s isolating because you’re focused on survival.” 

While Jackson’s diagnosis brought some clarity, during an MRI it was revealed Jackson has Chiari Malformation, a Brain condition impacting cerebrospinal fluid flow. 

If left untreated, his symptoms could worsen and a syrinx could form, potentially causing nerve damage to the spine and brain stem.  

Jackson underwent surgery in April 2022, which alleviated his headaches and fatigue to a great extent. However, regular check-up MRIs are necessary to monitor the condition. 

Fuelled by their experience and a desire to help and connect with others, Ciara and Tim created Carers and Parents Spectrum Support (CAPSS).  

“CAPSS offers peer support groups and safe, inclusive chill-out spaces at local events. These spaces allow children to regulate themselves and enable parents to co-regulate with their children, reducing sensory overwhelm.” 

Balancing her role as a stay-at-home mom to Jackson and Jemma and a dedicated full-time carer, Ciara acknowledged the toll Tim’s construction job was taking on him. When Tim voiced his exhaustion and desire for change, Ciara backed his decision to quit his job.  

Ciara’s daughter, Jemma. 

Recognising the need for a shift, she began searching for new opportunities that same night. 

Opportunity knocked when EACH advertised an Administration Officer role in the Early Childhood Approach team. Ciara seized the moment and submitted her application, detailing her background and the skills she had gained as a mother. She also conveyed her aspiration for a supportive employer who understood the complexities of her life. Ciara was hired in 2022. 

Looking back, Ciara cherishes the chance to work in a field she’s passionate about. At home, she takes pride in her strong and resilient family. 

“We’re raising really strong people that will be so inclusive and able to advocate for their own needs, and that’s what the goal is right?”  

EACH is a proud NDIS Partner in the Community delivering Early Childhood Approach Services in Queensland, South-West Sydney, Southern New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, which helps families with children aged 0 – 6 with assistance, advice and access to support in your local community. 

Learn more about EACH’s NDIS Early Learning Approach 

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