Going Her Own Way – Jenny’s Story of Building Independence

14 October 2019

A lady with an intellectual disability hailing a bus at a bus stop

In 2018, 44 year old Jenny became eligible for an NDIS plan, to the huge relief of her family. Her parents Maxine, 74 and Les, 76 hadn’t received any prior disability support for their daughter, the second youngest of their six girls. “She is always so positive and easy going,” says Maxine. Jenny’s optimism is admirable in the face of her major health struggles including Ketotic Hyperglycemia (blood sugar disorder) and Myotonic Dystrophy, a genetic disability that affects her muscles, impairing her movement and speech.

Occupational Therapist, Fiona from healthAbility, worked with Jenny and her parents to design a personalised program that could build on her abilities and allow for greater independence in her life. The program included services from healthAbility at both Eltham and Box Hill. Working across both locations meant that Jenny could increase her capacity and confidence over a range of life skills – in areas that she had chosen.

healthAbility’s Allied Health Assistant Liz, has been working with Jenny to achieve her goals ever since. Over the past six months, Jenny has succeeded in possibly one of her biggest journeys yet. Through fortnightly sessions they have practiced the necessary skills for navigating public transport. This has involved pre-planning Jenny’s journey, packing her handbag, choosing the safest routes and crossings, understanding bus timetables, getting on and off the bus, holding rails and seat selection.

“The process has involved lots of repetition, with a step by step focus on one task for a couple of weeks before introducing the next step, and so on, until all of the steps have become second nature.” – Liz

Liz also makes mention that “while we are out we get the ingredients for Jenny’s dinner and look at the AFL shop, because she is a massive Western Bulldogs fan’’. Jenny adds, ‘‘we also have a coffee and a chat.”

Liz further explains, “last year we also worked together on creating a small number of recipes that Jenny felt confident cooking at home by herself. We are now about to start on a new series of cooking sessions that will focus on the slow cooker; it’s a non-complex system using a small number of ingredients and it tastes great. Our sessions have had a positive impact on Jenny’s self-confidence and independence”.

Last week Jenny made her first solo trip to Doncaster Shopping Town from her home in Templestowe. “It’s incredible to see her take that step”, says Liz beaming. “I’m fairly passionate about the NDIS because it gives people the long-term ability to build their capacity in the areas they want to focus on in their life.” Jenny agrees saying, “it felt good to go on that first trip, I wasn’t nervous at all.”

Despite Jenny’s ongoing health needs she has always remained proactive in her work, exercise and study. She works three days a week and is about to complete a Work Certificate I. She played netball for 25 years and now goes for regular walks and plays tenpin bowling. Jenny has weekly one-on-one sessions with Exercise Physiologist, Ben in the healthAbility Gym. These workouts build up her muscle strength and helps combat her muscle cramps and pins and needles. “I think my shoulder pain is less since seeing Ben’’ she adds.

Jenny also attends Speech Therapy sessions with healthAbility as required. She is about to embark on her next exciting journey with Fiona, a ComTEC course covering digital skills using computers, apps, smart phones and iPads.

Building Jenny’s independence has also provided Les and Maxine with peace of mind. Maxine says, “Previously we didn’t get any assistance; we just managed. Now Jenny gets to spend more time with people closer to her age, I think it’s good for all of us… Jenny has been able to broaden her life in so many different ways, however we know that there’s still more to do yet’’. Liz optimistically adds, “the benefit of the NDIS is that it doesn’t have to end there, it is ongoing and will allow Jenny to access the support she needs to continuing reaching her goals and to live a fulfilling life’’.

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