When I started university I had no idea that I would be in the career I am now. In fact, when I enrolled I knew only a few things:
- I liked kids and young people
- I wanted to help people
- I wanted to work in a hands-on environment in the community
- I loved exercise and movement
It wasn’t until I began working at a program for young people with movement difficulties in 2014 that I worked with my first client with autism. It was HARD. Every session was filled with challenges that I had not previously considered or given a thought to. How did he sleep that night? Have there been changes to his medications? How am I assisting him to regulate his sensory needs? Does he understand the cues I am giving him? Are we safe in this space?
These were questions that until now I had never asked myself, or even considered when facilitating exercise for young people. Over the next 5 years, I would go on a journey of ups and downs, personal and professional development, and many, many hours working with young people on the spectrum. Over this time I have worked with countless amazing, kind and determined kids, teens and adults who overcome obstacles that I previously would not have seen to achieve amazing things. I have learnt so much from them, and I hope they have learnt a little from me too!
In my time working with young people on the spectrum, I have learnt some valuable lessons:
- No one with or without autism is the same. We all have individual strengths, weaknesses and areas to grow!
- Just because you can’t “see” a disability doesn’t mean it isn’t there.
- EVERYONE seeks connection and inclusion
- People with autism are capable of extraordinary things, many of which I am not!
- You will always learn more from a place of compassion, patience and understanding
In 2017 I became accredited as an Exercise Physiologist, and realized that while I had learnt a lot at university and work so far, there was still so much more I needed to know to be an effective clinician. With that in mind, I continued working with young people, and enrolled in a Master’s Research program to gain a better understanding of working with young people with disabilities. My project was titled, “The impact of specialized exercise programs for young people with complex conditions” and investigated the factors that contributed to the success of exercise programs by asking the staff, parents and young people themselves what mattered most. A number of key themes jumped out immediately;
- The relationship that is formed between the clinician and the young person is critical in the success of their work together
- Individualization is important to foster engagement, motivation and enjoyment, as well as tailor to the individual needs of each child
- The goal should be participation, enjoyment and inclusion, not mastery
Following my studies, I began working for a registered NDIS provider as part of a multidisciplinary team. This has been an amazing learning experience; learning from, and working with clinicians with diverse skill-sets, experiences and backgrounds for one primary goal: facilitating functional independence for young people with disability. I love this work, and am still engaged in this space today, however I found a number of areas that the NDIS provider system was allowing people, and funding to “slip through the cracks”. The NDIS is revolutionary- and also a giant pain. For many, this is the first time that they have access to critical supports for their families, and for others, the NDIS represents a change that may feel like a negative one.
Wherever you are, the NDIS is an opportunity.
The NDIS offers access to funding in a way that has never been seen before in Australia; a way that allows YOU, the parent, carer, person whose life is affected by disability in what ever shape it takes, to make the decisions. Autonomy and choice in therapy, as well as transparency and quality assurance from providers is essential in my view to deliver therapy and supports that provide the most benefit to the client.
Despite this, I saw an area where this system was letting me, as an Exercise Physiologist, as well as some clients down. Allied health services on the NDIS are expensive, and the amount of funding that families receive can sometimes mean that hard choices need to be made. Moreover, many families don’t know that people like me exist, and if they did, this would drastically change the way that they chose to allocate their funding. I saw a need for a mobile service, that provides individualized exercise programming and support that only costs what the clinicians receives, and simplifies the process for clients.
Exercise on the Spectrum was born to serve a number of purposes:
- To provide self-managed and plan-managed NDIS clients an affordable opportunity to access Exercise Physiology alongside their other supports
- To provide a mobile service, that is client-focused and flexible in delivery
- To support young people on the spectrum to engage in physical activity
- To provide an affordable service to families who don’t have funding, or don’t have enough!
- To provide specialist consulting services for schools, physical activity programs and sporting clubs to facilitate understanding and inclusion
At Exercise on the Spectrum, I offer free 30 minute consultation sessions at your convenience to explore if i would be a good fit for your family.
Send me an email or call me today to find out more!