31 August 2021

LIVING your dreams is never an easy ask, but when you are a person with complex needs, in a wheelchair and non-verbal, daring to dream might seem pointless.

Image: The Great Barrier Reef as seen by a helicopter.

So when Jason* saw a helicopter waiting for him on the runway to take him for a spin out over the Great Barrier Reef, it was proof that nothing needs to be an impossible dream. All you need is a little bit of help from your friends.

"Jason just loves helicopters," Life Without Barriers disability operations manager Asher Meadows said.

"We got him up for a flight and his reaction said it all. It was pretty obvious to all of his support team that this was one of the best days for Jason. He loved it."

Mr Meadows said that Jason's support team at Life Without Barriers know how important it is to understand what makes their clients happy, to help them live their dreams, not just support their everyday living.

"We have a lot of people who we support that identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander and understanding cultural connection and helping to reconnect people with kin and country is a huge part of what we do," he said.

"It's one of the things that makes us an organisation of choice for many of our clients and attracts people to work for us as an employer. We go the extra mile to make our clients dreams come true."

Soraya Shah is Life Without Barriers' regional director in North Queensland for disability, aged care and mental health.

She says that Mr Meadows is right on the money about the Cairns office focusing on connecting clients with their goals.

"We really are bolstering our lifestyle program to a point where it is making a huge difference to so many of our participants," Ms Shah said.

"We get to know what a participant needs to make them happy, and our support workers know how to optimise opportunities to bring some joy into the everyday for them.

"We are focusing on matching workers and participants depending on what they're after.

"We might send someone young and 'hip' to take a client to the gym or dance class or someone a bit quieter for the person who is an introvert. It's all about helping people feel happy and comfortable with their support worker.

"We appreciate that our participants want to build relationships with the same people; they don't want a revolving door of staff, so we are spending a lot of time ensuring rosters are built around that."

"The focus is on consistent and familiar support workers who get to know their participant's needs, wants and dreams.

"And given that we have more than 80 per cent of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander clients in our SIL program, our staff work hard to meet their cultural needs - that might be getting people back to country for reconnection, or it might be understanding how important family is at any given touchpoint in a person's journey.

"We have one woman who has spent a bit of time in hospital lately. Knowing and valuing her cultural needs is a big part of what we do at Life Without Barriers.

"We want to make sure she feels culturally safe and supported in her time of need."

Ms Shah said working with vulnerable people in the COVID-19 environment is adding another level of need and complexity and has caused some people to withdraw from their communities.

"We want to build their confidence to access the community and to try things they may have been too afraid to try due to their anxiety or lack of confidence," she said.

"We're working with young people under 18 years to support them to reach their goals. It may be something as simple as going for a walk with their support worker or something more challenging like joining a social group.

"It's really important to ensure young people can get back to, or start, feeling socially connected."

Mr Meadows says Jason is going from strength to strength, quite literally.

"His team got him a Sara Stedy device, which is a strengthening apparatus, and he's increasing his weight bearing really well," he said.

"He's also connected to the Taipans - going to games pretty regularly now, and he's loving working with a support worker on getting a vegie garden going. He really is hitting his own goals and it's great."

Ms Shah and Mr Meadows said Life Without Barriers is always looking for dedicated, creative people to apply to become support workers.

*Name changed for privacy.

Story originally in the Cairns Post.

Image: Jason and his support worker in the helicopter

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