My Choice Matters – Training opens doors

2 February 2017 | Posted In: #131 Summer 2017, Disability – National Disability Insurance Scheme, Disability Services, Human Service Delivery, | Author: Alanna Julian

My Choice Matters offers a range of training programs for people with a disability. What better way to talk about it than Alanna Julian telling her own story about how this training helped her get a job with My Choice Matters.

When people hear the words National Disability Insurance Scheme they may think of personalised individual funding, but for me I think it’s about opening lots of doors to opportunities for people with disabilities.

When I was around 18 months old my parents noticed that milestones were delayed and I still had no speech at 2 years old. By the time I had started kindergarten it had become obvious I wasn’t going to keep up with the other kids in the classroom. I was then diagnosed with an intellectual disability. Earlier this year I was also diagnosed with Adult Attention Deficit Disorder.

In 2014, I was contacted by an organisation called My Choice Matters who had heard about me through an FACS Ageing, Disability and Home Care program called ‘Living Life My Way’.  My Choice Matters had designed a program called ‘Become A Leader’. This program was for people with disabilities and their family members to gain skills in leadership for use in both their own lives and within their community. The program sounded very appealing to me, so I signed up for it. It was an eight-month course and I learnt so much about myself including about my strengths, what I needed to work on, how to pitch ideas, how to best connect with my community and how to work with others in a team.

After graduating, I went on to the ‘Become A Leader’ graduate program. This involved writing blogs to inspire other leaders and guest speaking roles at workshops called ‘Get More Skills’. ‘Get More Skills’ is another workshop program My Choice Matters runs to get people ready for the NDIS. It helps people with disabilities find a voice, choice and control in their lives. Through this, I gained the confidence to speak out in the community about people with disabilities and get people thinking and preparing for the NDIS.

When My Choice Matters were in my area for an expo, they asked me to help out at their information stall which I very much enjoyed doing. This gave me a great opportunity to help people within my community to gain information about My Choice Matters and help people access services and share information about the NDIS. Earlier this year I started another ‘Become A Leader’ program designed for people who had completed the ‘Living Life My Way’ program. Over the eight months of that course, I developed my confidence to the point of thinking that with all my experience and the skills I have gained, that I should apply for a job at My Choice Matters. I went for an interview and I was offered a position as facilitator and community engagement officer.

With my involvement in My Choice Matters over the years I am pleased to say how hard they work to get their message out, and how useful and relevant their programs are for myself and other people with disabilities. I have witnessed the many ways My Choice Matters are building capacity for people with disabilities by giving them the tools and support to get them ready for the NDIS.

At the ‘Get More Skills’ workshops people are empowered to think about their dreams, skills, goals, what care supports they may need – what it means to have a ‘good life.’ As well, there is a chance to discuss ideas with others, ask questions and to gain information. The workshops can also look at the challenges people may face with accessing the NDIS.

Participants have told me after attending the workshops what they got from it and how they are feeling about things. Some say they feel more confident in their planning, gained knowledge and understanding of the NDIS. They also formed friendships by way of peer mentoring in supporting each other through the NDIS journey. People also identify their strengths, abilities and needs they never thought they had. They also realise what a great platform for general networking the workshops are. As well, they feel inspired to get their plans together after hearing from a guest speaker talking about their lived experience of a disability.

Facilitators are trained to make workshops very accessible and meet the needs of their audience. They do this by using “easy read”, AUSLAN, writing things up on a whiteboard or a large piece of paper, using pictures and also using PowerPoint presentations at the same time so that people can write things down. Evaluation forms are also provided and these are continually referred to, to see what worked and what didn’t.

If people cannot attend ‘Get More Skills’ workshops, or prefer to use technology as a source of information, My Choice Matters also has the workbook resources online. Workbooks are readily available for people to take home to work on, or to share the material covered in the ‘Get More Skills’ workshops with others. The workbooks can also be accessed in “easy read”.

Personally, I have given out workbooks to friends preparing for their NDIS meeting and they found it very useful to work through it with someone they trust, whether it is a family member, their disability service provider or another trusted person.

Another My Choice Matters online program is ‘My Learning Matters’, which I have also completed myself. It is an online learning tool to help you get the most out of the changes ahead with the disability support system. In total it has 60 resources, with topics such as ‘Having A Good Life With Funding’, ‘A Good Life And Feeling Valued’, and ‘Choosing Service Providers and Staff’. The fun part of it is you actually receive an email certificate as you complete each topic in the workbook.

Going through the different topics you not only learn, but you can add what you may need or want by using pictures or writing in the boxes. The topics can help you prepare an online NDIS plan for your first consultation with your assigned Local Area Coordinator. This is a good idea if say, there are communication barriers, or you are a bit stuck on what to talk about. You could certainly go through this online individual plan with your Local Area Coordinator and whoever else you choose to be at the meeting.

It has been a journey for me. I realised that sitting at home wasn’t getting me anywhere. For me it was a matter of taking that first step and starting to build my capacity through all the programs offered by My Choice Matters. This has given me the confidence to identify my strengths and abilities so that I can contribute to my community and start my career journey off on the right track. I also know that My Choice Matters can be in my NDIS individualised plan as one of my supports.

My Choice Matters is a great initiative of the NSW government to get people ready for the NDIS and a great starting point for building capacity. I have gained many benefits from being involved with this organisation and I am sure others will too.

Alanna Julian is a facilitator and community engagement officer at My Choice Matters