CONSUMER STORY – When we hear about the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) we’re often told about the importance of setting goals. For 19-year-old Liam, who is on the Autism spectrum, his goal was to study Information Technology (IT) at TAFE.
However, to achieve this he first had to learn how to catch public transport to get to the TAFE campus, a commute he wasn’t comfortable with at first.
But with the help of a tailored program and support worker through disability service provider, Challenge Community Services, Liam was able to shape a bright future beyond high school.
Not only did the disability service provider help him achieve his goal of studying, but also offered plan support by vouching for Liam’s needs to ensure his NDIS plan included everything he needed to set him up for years to come.
Liam’s journey into adult life has been an exciting one, from undertaking work experience at a local nursing home, starting an IT program at TAFE, and participating in the Challenge Community Services’ Connexions program.
Liam has had lots of opportunities to discover what he enjoys the most.
“It’s a big change, to be honest, I loved being in school, but now I really like being out in the real world,” says Liam.
“I like associating with a lot of people out in the community and getting to know TAFE. I’d like to explore so many options that could lead to a career that I would like.”
Towards the end of Year 12, Liam started to consider his options and decided to study IT.
“I wanted to try a computer course where I could expand my knowledge; to learn how to use more Microsoft programs, improve my understanding of the hardware components inside a computer machine, and so forth,” explains Liam.
“I’ve been doing the TAFE course for a few months now, and it’s been going along really well. When I finish, I would consider doing another TAFE course.
“Maybe another computer course to gain more knowledge that could lead me to a career.”
Liam’s patience and ability to explain processes clearly have led him to consider working in computer support services but he’s not tying himself down to one career path just yet.
“It can be a big step up. I’ll see how my studies go and maybe I might want to consider going into computer support,” says Liam.
“I get along well with people in my class at TAFE on the computers, and if they have any problems I help them out and I assist them with that.”
Gaining confidence and overcoming shyness
Jonathan Daley, Team Leader of the Connexions Program, initially worked alongside Liam as his support worker and says Liam was a shy young man when they first met.
“He was very shy and uncomfortable with silence,” says Jonathan.
“Now I see him in a group environment and he is being involved in the conversation, is okay with both talking and listening, and is generally a lot more comfortable around people.”
According to Jonathan, Liam is now the first person to say “hi”, a stark contrast to when he first engaged with the Connexions program.
Jonathan was also able to help Liam get the supports he needed through the NDIS by vouching for what he had already achieved, as well as what is needed for him to develop further.
“I didn’t work on his initial NDIS plan but when he came up for a review I was able to put together a sort of cover note detailing what he has accomplished and recommendations for the new plan,” says Jonathan.
And it was this plan support that helped Liam get the NDIS plan he wanted.
“Liam’s mum was happy and they went forward with that and got the supports they required through the NDIS.”
Liam attends Connexions social events and learns new life skills, such as cooking and dealing with public transport, which he says has improved his confidence.
“Challenge has helped me out a lot; they are teaching me some important things like skills in everyday life. It’s made me step up with my confidence as well,” says Liam.
“For example, before I wasn’t confident to get the train into Newcastle by myself, but my support worker talked me into it. He just outlined positive things that could lead your confidence to rise up and make you independent with travelling.”
Liam is also a sports fan and enjoys taking part in Connexions social events to watch games and participate in sporting activities such as mini golf and bowling. Liam’s support worker also joins him on bike rides and golf at the driving range.
“A support worker will say ‘this group will meet at this place’ like bowling or so forth, and they ask me if I would be interested in joining the group,” says Liam.
“I usually join in and have a good time taking part and getting to know the other people who have joined Connexions.
“I enjoy bowling and golf. I also don’t mind rugby league, I follow the Newcastle Knights. I haven’t been to a Knights game with Connexions yet, but I have been with them to see Newcastle Jets games a few times which was really great.”
Connexions gave Liam the opportunity to learn new skills, meet new people, and improve his self-confidence and he would urge other young people to join too.
“I strongly recommend joining Challenge’s Connexions program, especially to people with disabilities who don’t know what they want to do and want to step up their life skills,” Liam says.
“A support worker will be able to help them find the right direction in life and teach them more everyday life skills and provide assistance with what they would like to learn.
“Taking part in Connexions can lead you to be more confident to do things in life, like getting to meet new people, building friendships, and also learning to cook and getting your driver’s licence.”