Most of us don’t give a second thought to the level of independence we enjoy and the freedom we have to make our own choices.
Every person should be given the opportunity to make independent decisions about what they want to achieve and the lifestyle they wish to pursue. Sadly, many Australians with a disability are missing out on this basic human right.
Rachael was diagnosed with cerebral palsy when she was just 13 months old. Rachael’s mum, Samantha, recalls, “I remember the day like it was yesterday. I took Rachael to the specialist because she wasn’t able to sit properly. As soon as I found out I just wanted to start therapy straight away. We were at the physio the very next day.” Rachael has a twin sister, Elle, who was also diagnosed with cerebral palsy six months later.
Cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition caused by an injury to the developing brain, usually before birth. The impact of cerebral palsy varies from person to person. Rachael has quadriplegia and also a mild intellectual disability, so she needs 24/7 support with everyday activities. Elle has diplegia, is very mobile with the use of her walking sticks and requires very little support. Elle has just graduated from university with a social work degree and Rachael is very proud of her.
Rachael and Elle are very close. The impact of cerebral palsy has been very different for them, but they are similar in many ways. They are both independent women who know what they want.
Rachael decided for herself that she wanted to move out of home into a group living arrangement with HWNS. “It was very hard to let go as we had provided her care for so long. I can see now though that it was the best thing that has happened for Rachael. Her independent living skills are really improving and her social skills are so much better now,” says Samantha. HWNS provides 24 hour living support in home environments including villas, home units and houses.
HWNS also provides one-on-one post school services to Rachael to help her develop her life skills and connect with her community. Since it’s inception over 50 years ago, HWNS has led the way in progressive programs to support people with a disability to transition from school to be a part of the broader community.
A very social person, Rachael loves getting out and about and will talk to absolutely anyone. She regularly asks for support when writing cards and messages to people. This is one of her favourite things to do – and she has been doing it for years – just because she knows it makes others feel good. Rachael is all about making other people happy.
Rachael delights in doing whatever she can to put a smile on the faces of others. She is a great host. And even though Rachael is unable to cook for herself, she is always thinking about how she can arrange dinner parties and get-togethers for her friends and family. With support from HWNS she recently held the family Christmas party at her group home. Everyone agreed that it was the best Christmas party they have had to date.
House with No Steps exists to make sure that people like Rachael are heard and understood. We treat every person as the individual they are. We work together to identify hopes and dreams and find a creative solution to ensure that these are realised. We strive to give people more choice and control over their lives.
“House with No Steps really involves us as a family but they also understand that they need to keep Rachael at the centre of the decision-making. We really appreciate that they manage to find this balance,” says Samantha.
Rachael needs, and deserves, to make decisions for herself and connect with her community. Her wants and needs matter to her and to us. Rachael and thousands of people like her deserve not to be lonely, unable to communicate or make friends.