As an identical twin, Lachlan never wanted to be treated any differently to his brother. That sounds pretty normal for any set of twins however neither of them believe they are actually identical because they are so physically different. Lachlan never grew to 6 foot 5 inches like his brother Connor; Cerebral Palsy altered Lachie’s development in many ways. Yet being a strong, feisty and fiercely independent young man, Lachie has always fought to keep up and has never sought special assistance or consideration. He’s always participated in the mainstream system, including all of his schooling right up to finishing VCE at Eltham High School with his brother.
After finishing high school Lachie faced one of his biggest challenges as he and his family worried what the future might hold for him, especially in gaining employment. Through slightly slurred speech Lachie explains, “In 2015, I did a Certificate II course in Sport and Recreation with MSAC (Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre). Then last year I had more surgery on my legs.” He describes the amount of operations he’s had mostly on his left leg and some on his left arm as ‘too many to count’, as doctors try and straighten his limbs and make it easier for him to walk. “It’s been hard for me to walk and hard for me to play football and stuff but I still love watching it. I’ve played cricket back in the day.” As he shares his passion for sport it brings a spark to his face.
“He’s the most amazing person,” says his mother Nicole. “He has had over 100 procedures in his 21 years and never complained. He’s always been very positive. Lachie has always been in mainstream school and felt he fitted in as an equal. He’s never seen himself as someone with a disability. He’s always seen himself as someone who can contribute through sporting groups and other things like that. He’s played, he’s been a team manager and he’s supported different community groups in different ways. Our concern was in Year 12 not knowing how to get him into employment. He’s a very capable person but with his speech and physical appearance with his gait, sometimes it’s hard for people to see his potential.”
In 2016, with his family’s encouragement, Lachie finally sought assistance through NDIS funding to gain work placement and physiotherapy services. Although he opposed requesting assistance at first, he found that Ann-Marie his Support Coordinator at healthAbility was really helpful in listening and finding him the perfect work placement match. In March 2017 he started with the YMCA in Eltham before being transitioned to their Macleod centre in July. NDIS support helped fund the position twice a week for five hour shifts and physiotherapy twice a week for an hour. “I do a bit of everything, cleaning, admin, health and wellbeing training with personal trainers, learning what they do. I mostly enjoy meeting new people and getting out of the house. It’s good hanging around people, getting out of the house twice a week for five hours, 10 hours in total.” Lachie suggests he’d be bored and lonely at home if he didn’t get this opportunity and he’s very thankful for it. He admits it would have been hard to find something like this on his own. “Ann-Marie was a big help for me to get this.
Lachie has made some great friends at work including his mentor and NDIS Support Worker and Programs Coordinator, Luke, who works with him every Tuesday. They take some time out to shoot some hoops and chat about footy in between jobs. Lachie is a strong shooter and outscores Luke much of the time, which creates quite a stir. There’s friendly banter going on as Luke shares what he appreciates most about Lachie’s attitude. “He’s willing to pretty much do anything he’s asked. He doesn’t complain, he doesn’t whinge; he goes above and beyond to do everything correctly and he’s so willing to learn. Naturally being 21, Lachie wants to get into the work place and hold down employment and he’s shown that he’s more than capable to do so. It’s been exciting to be on this journey with him. When he first started you could barely get two words out of him and he was quite timid, but now it’s hard to get him to be quiet which is fantastic. He’s very personable and he’s one of those people who have that natural knack of picking up the atmosphere and mood of everyone else around him. It’s an innate ability and it’s fantastic.” He recently graciously shared his experiences at the YMCA Mission Day, confidently speaking to around 20 people about how his current work placement has positively affected his life
Lachie is incredibly active, swimming three times a week as well as playing tennis once a week. Other than his inability to drive a car, he doesn’t see there’s anything he can’t do and he doesn’t even see a lack of license as a disadvantage in life.
Lachie is still exploring what he’ll do in the future but for now he’s happy to be working and learning in his area of interest. “I’m hoping down the track I will get work from all the stuff I’m doing. I’m getting skills, I’ve learnt how they run personal training and how they do the health and fitness area. Also how they do the stuff behind the desk. I like it heaps.
His mother Nicole has seen a noticeable change in Lachie over the past six months too. “What I’ve noticed the most is his independence has increased and obviously with that has come his self confidence. The fact that he’s working, actually going off and feeling like he is contributing to other people and not just waiting for others to help him, is wonderful. His organisational skills have improved as well. Although he’s always been very organised, having to prepare for work and make sure he’s got lunch and the right clothes helps keep him these skills up. His independence and organisation with him being part of the working world has been really impressive. This position has actually given him a nice step in the door to realise he can do all those sorts of things.”