Meet Rebecca and Kelly

"Kelly has been really good for me, she’s brought the best out of me and has given me a lot of confidence."

Kelly and Rebecca have been spending time together for almost a year. Being both teacher aides and having a mutual love of nature and finding treasures in op-shops, they immediately formed a strong bond.

"Until I met Kelly it was really hard to get the right match and the right support. Once I looked through the profiles of people on Kynd and came across Kelly, it was just a match made in heaven."

10 Australians Living With A Disability You Need To Follow

Here are 10 Australians living with a disability that you need to follow!

Drisana Levitzke-Gray

Born deaf into a family with deaf parents and a deaf brother, Drisana Levitzke-Gray, very much understands the challenges of living with a disability. She’s dedicated her life to helping deaf people advocate for their human rights.

Drisana has worked with leadership communities all around the world to develop greater human rights understanding of deaf youth.

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Dinesh Palipana

Dinesh Palipana is an Australian doctor, lawyer, scientist and disability advocate. He was the first quadriplegic medical graduate in Queensland, and co-founded Doctors with Disabilities Australia, helping to develop national policies for inclusivity in medical education and employment.

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Nikki Hind

Nikki Hind was working as in public relations and pregnant with her first child, before she experienced a series of incredibly challenging health and life events that left her legally blind and a single mother. Determined to become a positive role model for her children, Nikki decided to pursue her life long dream of fashion design.

An important disability advocate, Nikki is on a mission to change how the fashion industry view disability.

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Nathan Parker

Nathan Parker was on the way to his dream job as a fighter pilot when a military accident left him badly injured and his left hand amputated.

Despite his injuries, Nathan went back to flying in three months and resumed his military and university studies within seven months. An Invictus Games winning athlete and practicing flying instructor, Nathan has never allowed his disability to stop him from doing what he loves most.

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Madeline Stuart

Maddy always new she could conquer the world. Before becoming the world’s first professional model with Down Syndrome, she represented QLD in cricket and basketball at the Special Olympics.

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Jenny McAllister

Jenny McAllister is on a mission to transform the fashion industry, to make it more inclusive and accessible for people who have a disability.

Her business StyleAbility was driven by Jenny’s frustration by the lack of representation within the fashion and retail industry for people with a disability.

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Bashir Yousseff

Bashir is legally blind music producer based on the Gold Coast. He’s always wanted to be a performer and was never going to allow his eye condition to get in the way of his dream.

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Jerusha Mather

When Jerusha Mather was a child with cerebral palsy, doctors told her parents she would never walk or talk.

Now a PhD student working towards becoming a clinical scientist and rehabilitation physician, Jerusha is a passionate advocate of improving access to medical education for people living with disabilities.

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Hannah Gadsby

Growing up, Hannah Gadsby always felt she was different. She found it hard reading social cues, however she had a natural ability to make people laugh.

In 2006 she went out on a whim and entered a stand-up comedy competition. She won. This opened the door to her very successful career as an international comedian.

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Michael Theo

Michael Theo’s popularity grew during his time on Netflix's reality TV series, Love On The Spectrum. Overcoming shyness and embracing Aspergers, he’s launched his own podcast titled Mr A+ which has given him the chance to share his personality and interests with the world.

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Living With A Vision Impairment - Bashir Youssef

Bashir Youssef’s determination to adapt and grow beyond his perceived ‘limitation’, has led to a very successful career in music and coaching.

We chat about music, the challenges and advantages of living with a vision impairment and how we can create a more accessible Australia.
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My personal motto in life is, “My sight may be weak, but my vision is strong,” and it’s a lot of the inner vision that I’ve had throughout my life and connecting to the greater force of life and having that vision for my life and what I want for it, that’s brought me here.

Art Therapy And The NDIS

Some people find it challenging to express themselves through words. Art therapy is a beautiful way to channel your inner creativity and communicate your emotions.

Curious to learn more about what it’s all about? We chat with leading NDIS Art Therapist, and Founder of Art Therapy Gold Coast, Anna Ward.

What Is Art Therapy?

Basically, it's a medical health profession. We use psychotherapeutic techniques and we combine that with the creative process, to help people work through a number of things.

For people living with psychosocial disabilities, art therapy can help with mental health and build coping mechanisms to support anxiety and depression.

For people living with physical disabilities, art therapy can help them use their fine motor skills, assisting with spatial awareness.

It can help them work through some of the emotions of living with a disability and some of the troubles that they might come across along the way, or just hurdles that they encounter in their everyday life.

What Happens In Your Very First Art Therapy Session?

The first session is all about making sure I would be the right fit and the therapeutic relationship is the right fit.

Similar to a counsellor or a psychologist, art therapy can involve working through deep feelings, so it’s really important that someone feels comfortable working with me.

We get to know each other, we talk about what the plan is moving forward and we chat through your NDIS goals.

After we meet, I always encourage people to go away and think about it. Don’t make a decision straight away. I also recommend a trial period.

If after 3 sessions you’re not enjoying it, then we stop the treatment.

It’s really important people feel empowered to decide what feels right for them.

Do You Have To Be Creative For Art Therapy?

Absolutely not! A lot of the time, it's about the process and the insights that evolve throughout the journey.

But for some of my clients, there is definitely a goal-driven product that they would like to get at the end. This is for their self-esteem. To feel capable and to feel like they are achieving something.

As long as you can apply color and marks to a piece of paper, then we can do Art therapy.

If you’re willing to have an open mind and you’re OK sitting in that potential discomfort for a couple of sessions, then you will experience big benefits from treatments.

What Should Someone Look For When Choosing An NDIS Art Therapist To Work With?

If you want an accredited Art Therapist, you can browse profiles on ANZACATA, the Australian, New Zealand Art Therapy Association. You are not an approved Art Therapist unless you have ANZACATA registration.

Take the time to meet 2-3 different therapists and do a trial period. Like finding the right NDIS Support Worker, it’s really important you find an art therapist you feel comfortable working with.

Mental Health And The NDIS: How A Psychologist Can Help People Living With Disability

32% of Australians living with a disability experience high psychological distress.

Anxiety, depression and stress are some of the most common mental health conditions that stop people living with disability from achieving their potential.

It's so important we prioritise our mental health. We chat with leading clinical psychologist and co-founder of MindAid, Dr Leah Pischek Simpson about how a psychologist can help an NDIS Participant achieve their goals.

How To Choose The Best Psychologist For You? 

It may start with a GP giving you a referral or you having access under one of your NDIS budgets for psychological support.

You can go with a recommendation from a service or your GP, or you can find someone to suit your needs.

Every psychologist works differently. It depends on their interest area and treatment approach.

In my opinion, having a good therapeutic relationship with your therapist is part of the journey of getting well.

This means you have to like them, trust them, respect them and feel validated by them. If  it does not work or feel right, there is nothing wrong with changing course after several sessions.

Different approaches work for different people, so it's important to ask what type of treatment your therapist would do.

Some clients like breathing and relaxation. Others like to be confronted about their internal worlds and conflicts. Some need specific skills training for lifestyle changes.

There are various types of Psychologists – general, clinical, forensic etc. These psychologists have different roles, based on different levels of training. It’s important to understand what you may need so you can find the right specialist.

For example, some services such as Centrelink will only accept a diagnosis from a Clinical Psychologist. You may need to be aware of some of these things depending on what you are trying to achieve.

It’s important to note, not every psychologist is familiar with the NDIS process and may only see patients under Medicare.

At the moment, due to the pandemic, it is very difficult to get into a Psychologist. I encourage people to pick a psychologist and make a booking understanding you may be waiting 3-5 months in some regions.

However, if things escalate and you need support ASAP, please see your GP regular or call Lifeline. It’s so important you do what you need to do in order to keep well.

What Coping Strategies Do You Recommend For Anyone Suffering Anxiety And Depression?

This really comes down to level of severity. How intense the symptoms are and how long they have been there.

There are general things we can do, such as encouraging lifestyle changes - exercise, diet, reducing alcohol, relaxation and self-care.

I'm very focused on working with people's emotions. What are they feeling?

Feeling's not a fact. A lot of people might say they're experiencing anxiety, but when you start peeling back the layers you might actually find they're actually really sad or they're really angry, or they're really disappointed.

In the world of emotions there's a lot that we can learn about that because most of the emotions that we experience as humans are unpleasant. There's only one that's pleasant, which is happiness.

The other emotions can be helpful and adaptive, but we have to really understand them and know what's going on for us.

If we ask people how do you feel? Most of us launch into, "Oh, I'm good. I'm feeling this, I'm doing this."

That's not really your feeling. That's a thought. An emotion is one word. I'm sad, I'm agitated. I'm confused. If you can pinpoint your emotion you're in a better position to tackle it.

Just labelling your emotions can be very healing because it allows us to work out what we're feeling.  What's happening in our bodies. How are we reacting. How can we change course.

I'm a big fan of listening to your emotions but I must also point out there's a lot of room for psychiatry and medication.

Depending on what's going on for someone, some people may require additional help through a treating team if their symptoms are not remitting or intensifying across time.

What Role Does Exercise Have In Managing Anxiety?

Like all forms of therapy, the effect can vary. Some people may respond positively while others may find it doesn’t improve their mood much, and some may experience only a modest short-term benefit.

Exercise can :

How Can A Support Worker, Parent Or Guardian Help Someone Who Is Struggling With Anxiety Or Depression?

The number one thing I say to Support Workers and family members is listen. If we don't listen we don't know what people need.

How Can We Change The Social Stigmas Associated With Mental Health?

We have to stop using the word crazy. People are not crazy for seeking mental health support. I'm not sure how wanting or needing help constitutes craziness, or how wanting to improve your life is a sign of craziness.

There is still so much to learn about mental health.

It’s not just anxiety and depression, which many people suffer from, but it's the complex mental health illnesses such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and personality disorders that need greater understanding. They tend to be poorly understood and attitudes are less positive.

Common stereotypes about people with complex or severe mental illness include that they are dangerous, unpredictable, lack competence to look after themselves, and have little chance of recovery.

These negative attitudes lead to discriminatory behaviour. This can affect a person with mental illness’ opportunities for finding and keeping a job and their relationships with friends, family, and romantic partners.

We don't want people to feel worthless or hopeless about their future. We want people to get help, but that means understanding that level of mental health difficulties.

The bottom line is - everyone is going through something. If you need professional help with a psychologist or treating team such as a GP or psychiatrist, make sure you make it a priority.

How Speech Pathology Can Help You Achieve Your NDIS Goals

What Does A Speech Pathologist Do?

We work with a big range of clients on lots of different areas of communication.

There is a common misconception that we primarily work with people to help with stutters.

The majority of work that we do as speech pathologists, particularly with people with disabilities, is on building their communication skills.

Often NDIS Participants we work with have difficulty with comprehension and understanding what people are saying.

We help parents and Support Workers with communication techniques to help people who are struggling with comprehension understand more of what we're saying.

We also help people learn how to express themselves. Some people have difficulty communicating their message.

We help them learn how to answer questions, to be able to tell stories, and if they're not able to speak with their mouth, to use hand signing, or to use pictures, to communicate.

For example, we have little ones who might be able to point at how they're feeling rather than being able to talk.

We also work with people who use specialised communication devices, to help them communicate.

The type of work we do is very broad. We also work a lot on social interactions. For example, we help people understand how to have a conversation and make friends.

We work on speech, helping people to communicate clearly to be able to be understood by people.

Certain speech pathologists also work a lot with feeding or eating. They can help people to learn how to drink, chew and swallow safely.

Is Speech Pathology NDIS Funded? 

Yes. They certainly can. A lot of people with a disability will have a capacity building budget that helps them to develop their skills and build their capacity in order to meet their NDIS goals.

The majority of clients that we work with have a capacity building budget that they allocate to speech pathology to help them meet their social interaction, their speech, or their feeding and eating goals.

Do You Use Assistive Technology To Help People With Their Speech?

Yes. We certainly do. Many of our therapists at My Therapy Space are really specialised in using what's called augmentative and alternative communication when using devices.

These are little small communication devices that people can point to in order to be able to get their message across to people so that the device will speak for them.

There's a whole different wide range of devices.

We have some people who can point to the devices and then we have other people who may need help scanning so that the device might just scan for them, and when they hear the message that they want, they can activate it with their head, or with their foot, or with their elbow. The device helps them learn to communicate as best they can when they're not able to use their voice.

Is Speech Pathology Part Of A Holistic Treatment Plan?

Yes definitely. We're passionate about our holistic approach, and we're super lucky at My Therapy Space to have a fabulous multidisciplinary team.

We have occupational therapists that can help us with those children or adults who are using devices.

They can help people work on their hand, head or body movements, and we may work with our physiotherapists to look at their positioning, how they're sitting, and what they would need in order to best access their device.

We also have psychologists and a dietician. We all work very closely together, helping families and people achieve their goals through our different levels of expertise.

Is The Whole Family Involved With Treatment Plans? 

Yes, absolutely. That's one of our chief, most guiding core commitments as a family-centered practice.

We do family goal-setting with every single family we work with. The family sets a goal of what they want to achieve for their whole family.

We recognise having a child with a disability is only one part of your family, and while it might be a big part of your family, we want to make sure that everyone in that family is supported.

Our whole way of working is supporting families to feel confident that they can be the ones that will help their child at home.

Dropping them off to therapy once a week will not make them better, but if we can make the parents feel really confident in how to develop their communication, or their motor, or their behaviour, then that's where we're going to see really great progress for that child and family.

Are There Any Particularly Special Memories That Stand Out For You As A Speech Pathologist?

I've been super fortunate. I absolutely, absolutely passionately love my job as a speech pathologist. Being able to support families each day is really inspiring to me.

Some of the really super memories that stand out were during my time in China. I was working in an orphanage with lots of children with disabilities who had been given up for adoption.

We were able to support the carers in that orphanage to learn strategies to understand how to better support their children. How to communicate with them and how to play with them to help build the children’s communication skills. That was pretty amazing.

I also have some great memories of presenting workshops. I really love presenting workshops and being able to support staff to learn skills.

I was at the Down Syndrome Conference a few years ago. I taught around 200- 300 people to sign. We were all signing together and singing our songs. It was incredible.

Hopefully, that gave them a little bit of keyword sign that they could take and implement in their classrooms to better support their children with down syndrome.

I think it's a lot of just those little daily memories as well.

I often give an example in my sign workshops of a little boy who we taught sign language to for many, many years, and he never signed back, but his mum always just kept on going. She said, 'I know that it's helping his understanding. I'm going to keep signing with him." And then one day just looked at his hands, and looked at mum, and looked at me, and signed finished.

His mum cried. I cried. It was a really, really emotional, exciting moment to see this little one after many years just say, "I think I've made that connection of what you people want me to do with my hand that will give me a way to communicate and express myself.”

If I'm An NDIS Participant Or A Parent Of A Child That's An NDIS Participant, Who Needs Speech Pathology Support, What Are Some Things That I Should Look Out For Before Choosing Someone?

Finding the right NDIS Speech Pathologist can take time. I think you have to have that rapport with them. You have to feel, this is someone that I'm going to trust, this is someone that I'm going to enjoy working with because I think sometimes, for families, they might forget that it's actually them that's going to be working with that therapist, not just the child.

You want someone that is really going to listen to you. That's probably one of the most important things.

It's not up to the therapist to tell the family what to work on, it's up to the family to tell us what's important to them, and then we can help provide support around those goals.

You should be looking for someone that you like, you feel you can spend time with, who's going to listen to you and who’s open to change.

Often we'll be heading down one path and working on something, and the family says, this does not work for me.

You need your therapist then to be open to say, “OK!, great, let's change tack. Let's move down a different path.”