When Rebecca started school we were very concerned about whether she would be
accepted, but we really wanted her to have the opportunity to go to our local school and
make friends with local children, so we went ahead.
It turned out well - but you don't need to take my word for it! I've asked some
of Rebecca's schoolmates and their parents to write something - whatever they like - about
Rebecca's time at school.
Some responded to suggested topics I sent them, and some wrote a few paragraphs. Some
of it I find quite embarrassing, but ... here is what they wrote (unexpurgated!):
Wackrow - My friend Rebecca.
Becky was like any other best friend you ever had, except we had a different way of
communicating. She used a Yes/No card and her eyes for quick answers. You just kind of
knew what she meant from the look on her face.
One of the best games that we played during playtime was racing around the school. How
we did this was Rebecca would have someone pushing her and of course, an opponent to race
with. Gaylene, her aide, would be the starter. "Ready? Set. Go!!!" We would race
off and of course Becky won. Wheels against legs, we had no chance! We had a great time.
At school, Becky was no different from me or any other child in the class. She did her
work, she went outside and played, did some more work, ate and played, then did more work.
Her mum didn't believe us when we told her that Becky could eat her sandwiches by herself.
But she did for us!
A really good thing about having a best friend that can't talk is that they don't
spread your secrets around. I think a real drag for Becky being a best friend was she had
to listen to me talk talk talk all the time and she couldn't get a word in. But she
We were friends from when she started at St Michael's School.
What did you think about Rebecca attending St Michael's school?
It was an experience, the children gained lots of insight from her presence. (Debbie Primrose)
A really good idea to integrate handicapped children in the main stream of a school. It
is a very positive experience for both sides. (Sue Hall)
I was on the St Michael's Board of Trustees at the time Rebecca's application to enrol
was received and I was dubious as to what benefit main streaming would offer Rebecca. I
later realised the benefits - these were twofold. Rebecca was treated as much as was
possible, the same as every other pupil and the other children accepted Rebecca firstly as
being different from them but also accepted the fact that everyone is different in some
way. (Gael Dwan)
It was a huge commitment by everyone involved and at times it was very difficult for us
all, most of all for Rebecca herself. In spite of this it was always a positive and
fulfilling experience. She accepted and was accepted by the class. (Rosie Peacocke
- mother and also Rebecca's teacher)
We thought it was valuable for the whole school and community because it helped those
more fortunate to remember and understand the reality that there is a very wide range of
people with special needs in every community. (Jennifer and Grant Lilley)
We were very happy about this. It meant the school began to even more accurately
reflect the community in which it is set. Rebecca's presence/attendance enabled pupils to
experience the diversity that makes up our communities and indeed our Church. (Janne
and Michael Pender)
It was an opportunity to see and share in someone else's life. To learn about other
people. (Rese Gray)
Whilst having some reservations about mainstreaming the experience with Rebecca had
many positive results for all concerned. (Jill and Ken Connoley)
Both think it is important to have children with disabilities at the school - makes
children and adults more accepting and also reinforces our Christian belief. (Bernadette
and Peter Hogg)
That she appeared to be no trouble and that it was a good thing she could be
mainstreamed. (Vivienne and James Steele)
What effect, if any, did it have on your child(ren)?
It had a lasting effect - the children often talk about little Rebecca.
I think it made them more caring and it made them aware that there are different people
in this world not as fortunate as themselves. It made them more thoughtful of other
people. (Sue Hall)
Rebecca and Victoria always took a special interest in Rebecca, they played with her at
school and often talked about her and her condition at home. (Rosie Peacocke - mother and
also Rebecca's teacher)
It helped our boys understand the special needs requirements of others. (Jennifer
and Grant Lilley)
No discernible effect either positive or negative. Rebecca was just another pupil as
far as he was concerned. (Janne and Michael Pender)
It made them realise that we are all different but just as important as each other. (Rese
It provided the opportunity for Elizabeth to relate to a disabled person. (Jill
and Ken Connoley)
Loretta was a little young to have been affected by Rebecca attending the school, but
she does remember her. (Bernadette and Peter Hogg)
Indifferent. If things were in place for Rebecca's physical needs she was just another
child starting St Michael's. (Michelle and Mark Bebich)
She just took the situation in her stride. It was a normal situation for her. (Vivienne
and James Steele)
One special memory of Rebecca?
Doing mother help and the kids - heaps of them - crowding around Rebecca, constantly
making her part of their lives. (Debbie Primrose)
A picture of her in my mind sitting in her special wheel chair surrounded by all the
children in her class. (Sue Hall)
Our memory is of children at St Michael's queuing up to push Rebecca's wheelchair. They
saw this task as a privilege. (Gael and Michael Dwan)
Suddenly laughing and taking us all by surprise - we'd all stop what we were doing and
laugh too. (Rosie Peacocke - mother and also Rebecca's teacher)
Rebecca came to our twins' birthday party, and she seemed to enjoy it, and the boys and
their friends enjoyed having her there. (Jennifer and Grant Lilley)
Being part of the Gospel story at the end of year school Mass, just like any of the
other students. (Janne and Michael Pender)
Sports day. Sitting with her and watching the swimming and all the kids around her like
bees to honey. (Rese Gray)
The Sunday morning at St Michael's - Rebecca in her chair with the little card pinned
to her dress announcing 'Catherine's arrival'. (Jill and Ken Connoley)
Mara found a friend in Rebecca. Anton - no effect, just another girl at school. Alana
was just starting to know Rebecca. (Michelle and Mark Bebich)
Her sitting up bright and alert in her special chair. (Michelle and Mark Bebich)
Anything else you'd like to say?
The way the children treated her so very naturally. Talking, laughing with her. (Debbie Primrose)
Good luck and a great idea! (Sue Hall)
I feel Rebecca was fortunate to have been born into the Hulst family, where treating
her the same as everybody else went a long way towards how others viewed Rebecca. (Gael
I felt, as a teacher, that it would have been beneficial if Rebecca could have gone to
special needs swimming classes for her physical fitness since she couldn't participate in
our programme, it would not have mattered if it had been in school time. (Rosie
Peacocke - mother and also Rebecca's teacher)
It is important to comment that our boys, and the other children, didn't regard Rebecca
as different. To them she was just one of the other children and every child is
'different' in some ways or characteristics. (Jennifer and Grant Lilley)
Rebecca's presence at school, at school activities, and at parish Masses and activities
was welcomed by us, a reminder that disability does not diminish the value of the human
life, people with disabilities are real people. (Janne and Michael Pender)
It was not just Rebecca who inspired us, it was her parents also. They both ooze love.
Our lives have been blessed from the contact. (Rese Gray)
Rebecca's condition afforded us an insight into the qualities of the Hulst family in
coping with their circumstances. (Jill and Ken Connoley)
When Rebecca was sick Craig (the school principal) explained to the children that their
prayers may not be answered and Rebecca may not get better. Talking to my children later,
Anton's comment was "that means she will be back but still in her wheelchair".
He obviously believed in the power of prayer. Rebecca was just not going to walk.
(Michelle and Mark Bebich)
We both admired the love and care that you both lavished on your little angel. We have
no doubt that she is in heaven. (Vivienne and James Steele)
What was it like having Rebecca at your school?
It was special, she was in my clan. (Michelle Primrose)
Sorry, I can't remember. (Joseph Kingstone)
It made us aware that not everyone has use of their arms and legs and can do things for
themselves. It made us more unselfish and more caring. (Sophie and Joseph Hall)
At first it was different as I had never been introduced to a person with Rebecca's
disability. I later realised that looks aren't everything, it's what's on the inside that
counts. Having Becca at my school helped me to realise that everybody is different in
their own special ways. (Kimberley Dwan)
Wonderful! We both loved having here there. (Rebecca and Victoria Peacocke)
Everyone cared for her at the school, and she had a nice family to look after her.
Sometimes we felt sorry for her that she couldn't do all the things we did. (John
and Robert Lilley)
David says he just remembers Rebecca being at school, she just was there like anyone
else. (David Pender)
She was different but not really. (Rebecca and Kate Gray)
Having Rebecca at school was a good experience and very interesting. I learnt that
disabled people are not weird, strange or scary - they are just made differently. (Elizabeth
It was like having another special friend. (Mara Bebich)
It was alright and it was a good experience to have somebody like Rebecca around. (Rose
How did you communicate with her?
I just talked to her. I also walked around the school with her.
I would normally say 'hi' and have a chat. (Joseph Kingstone)
We never really talked to her but we smiled and made eye contact and pushed her
wheelchair around a couple of times. (Sophie and Joseph Hall)
Talking to her a lot and watching her eyes. I know she could understand me quite
clearly from her actions and her eyes. (Kimberley Dwan)
We talked and read to her and pushed her around the school grounds at lunch time. We
would also talk and laugh with her. (Rebecca and Victoria Peacocke)
We used to talk to her and she would look at us and concentrate on what we were saying.
She used to smile when she was happy. (John and Robert Lilley)
David had almost no contact with Rebecca because he was in the senior school so had
little reason to come in contact with her. (Janne and Michael Pender)
Touch. Walking about pushing her.. (Rebecca and Kate Gray)
I used to get a piece of card - one end would say YES and the other end NO. I would ask
Rebecca questions and she would move her head to the side of the right answer
would let Rebecca listen to me! (Elizabeth Connoley)
I just talked to her whilst wheeling her around. When talking to her you could sense
she could understand you. (Mara Bebich)
I just talked to her like a normal child. (Rose Steele)
One special memory of Rebecca?
I used to ask her questions and she would use her yes and no. I know she could talk. (Michelle Primrose)
When we would sit on the mat together and read books. (Joseph Kingstone)
Seeing her in her wheel chair and everybody waiting to push her around the school. (Sophie
and Joseph Hall)
My memory of Rebecca is her wide, bright smile. I never did see the corners of her
mouth drop. (Kimberley Dwan)
Watching her draw pictures and listening to her laugh. (Rebecca and Victoria
John remembers pushing Rebecca's wheelchair around the school, taking Rebecca about,
and both boys remember taking her back to her room at rest times. Robert enjoyed reading
her books. (John and Robert Lilley)
The school concert. (Rebecca and Kate Gray)
A good memory of Rebecca was when she used to smile - I liked that. Also I liked how
she was such a good listener! (Elizabeth Connoley)
Of Rebecca at church with a close friend of mine. (Mara Bebich)
I was reading her a story and she was not looking at me but when she turned her head
she had a cheeky grin on her face. (Rose Steele)
Anything else you'd like to say?
I miss Rebecca. (Michelle Primrose)
I can't remember anything else. (Joseph Kingstone)
Rebecca was a wonderful, happy girl, living in a very loving environment. She gained a
lot of special friends whilst attending St Michael's and I know that none of us will ever
forget her. All the pupils treated her the same as themselves and I feel that Becca fitted
in perfectly. : ) (Kimberley Dwan)
I think it was very sad that she died and I miss her a lot. (Rebecca and
The boys were very sad when Rebecca died. They felt a real sense of loss. (John
and Robert Lilley)
I think this web page is a great idea. I wish you the best of luck with it and I'm sure
if Rebecca knew she would be very proud of her Mum and Dad! (Elizabeth Connoley)
I think the school atmosphere and the facilities put in at St Michael's helped Rebecca
to feel more like an ordinary person. It also helped the school community to be more aware
of different people's needs. (Mara Bebich)
Although she was different she fitted into our class well. (Rose Steele)
Rebecca was one million things but a way to describe them all is "fun".
Year after year she became a closer friend to everybody who knew her.
I can never remember Rebecca not smiling.
When she was happy, I was happy.
When I became Rebecca's reading partner my heart danced in circles. I loved reading to
So every time it came to "partner reading", I read Rebecca's choice of books.
I was so proud to have been her partner.
These are only a few examples of the fun Rebecca was. And there are still 999,998 more!
One of the most delightful and fulfilling times for parents at St Michaels School
and Parish is to take their children through the "Becoming Church" or First Holy
Communion program. The program is delightful because of the opening of the childrens
eyes and hearts to the Holy Spirit and fulfilling because of ones personal
reaffirmation of the holy trinity.
One of the first things that children (and parents) are taught on the program is the
important and unique nature of their names. Their names identify them individually as one
of Gods children, as members of their families and as members of the community of St
Michaels. There is also a sense from the children of their own uniqueness and that
they are all special in the eyes of their parents, the Parish and God.
It was with this sense of belonging as one of Gods children that our family
approached Rebecca. She was seen not as a child in a wheelchair with movement restrictions
but as one of Gods children, special in her own way - a way that was not for us to
question but one that was accepted as part of Gods plan.
Because we are all created in a unique way by God we can learn much from others. I know
that the association of my daughter, Meilisa with Rebecca taught her a great deal about
caring for and respecting other children.
It also gave her a greater appreciation of the good things in life - things not related
to money or possessions. Things like the feel of fresh sunlight on your face, the warmth
of friends and the joy of listening to a good story together.
Just because Rebecca could not communicate with us in the same way as other children
does not mean that she did not exchange subliminal messages with us all. There was a
positive human spirit about Rebecca and her parents that we could sense. This spirit was
not man made but born of the Holy Spirit.
Perhaps the best way to express our feelings for Rebecca and to put her special life
into context is to quote Meilisas favourite saying from the incredible Helen Keller:
"Some of the most beautiful things in life can not be seen or touched, they must
be felt by the heart".
I understand that this message will be included on an Internet page to be dedicated to
Rebecca with the objective of helping others who have family members or friends with the
same condition. I would encourage those in that situation to think not of their
childs physical or mental challenges but of the role of the Holy Spirit in working
through us all.
Your child will touch the hearts of many in a positive way and make a contribution to
Gods plan for us all far greater than you know or imagine.