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IT’S MORE THAN JUST A JOB – WORKING WITH PEOPLE WITH A DISABILITY

We’ve had the pleasure of meeting some wonderfully passionate people whose career involves working with people with a disability. Their passion and love makes it clear that working with people with a disability is more than just a job for them. This has shone through with their interactions with BJ and our family.

These are the type of people we need working in the disability sector. It’s not an area to work in if you are half-hearted. It just doesn’t work. Believe me, we’ve briefly worked with this type of person and haven’t enjoyed it.  But, this blog post is about celebrating the love and passion these three people have for their job. Please read their stories and enjoy.

OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST – KRISTY HAYWOOD

Why I love working with people with disabilities

Kristy
Kristy, BJ’s ex Occupational Therapist and friend, with her three beautiful children.

22 years ago a childhood friend of mine was involved in a serious car accident. Her life was forever changed, but her experiences rebuilding it in rehab led me to investigate a career in allied health.

Eight years later while I was studying occupational therapy, I landed a prac in a school for children with disabilities. I will be forever grateful to the university staff that were responsible for this placement, because it changed my life. After eight weeks in the most academically challenging placement of my degree, I walked directly from my supervisor’s office into the office of the school’s respite and recreation team, and applied for a job as a recreation worker. I wanted to learn as much as I could about supporting people with disabilities and their families. And, I didn’t want to say good-bye to the amazing little people I had had the privilege of working with during my placement (I continued to work there for seven years, even after completing my degree, until it was time for my own children to come into the picture).

Another two years down the track I graduated as an Occupational Therapist, and started work with a school based therapy team supporting students with physical disabilities and their families. 12 years (and 3 children of my own later), it is still my dream job, and a service I love to work on.

I love that every child and family I work with is different – no one’s story is the same. It means that there is great variety to my work professionally.  I also learn so much from each family, and I can share all the handy hints, tips and tricks with other families.

I love that I can help to create change for families – either through building skills, prescribing equipment, assisting with modifications, or chasing the ever elusive funding dollars. I feel that I can make the biggest impact as an OT, by working with people with disabilities.

I love that assistive technology has made huge advances in the last 12 years I have been practising as an OT. I can offer people so many more options now than when I graduated – but I wish that progress could be quicker, and that the technology was easier and more reliable to use!

I love that my role allows me to build relationships with children, adolescents and their families. It is how I met BJ and his family, and why Julie can ask me to write for her, even though BJ is now off in the post-school adult world! Strong relationships are a great foundation for positive outcomes and achievements. I always feel privileged that people share so much of their lives with me. It helps me to do a better job. And, I found it very validating to hear (at an international conference), that to a family, over 50% of my value as a therapist is not actually my OT skills, but the social and emotional support I can provide by being part of the child and family’s ‘team’. So, sometimes the most important thing I can do for a family is be a part of their journey.

BJ’s experience with Kristy – Kristy is one of our favourite Occupational Therapists, we have had a few. Some of the encouraging things Kristy said to me have stuck for life and I draw on those statements when I need to. She gave me hope. Her determination to teach BJ to drive his electric wheelchair was admirable and she did it…….using imagination and taping into BJ’s humour. She’s creative, passionate and no nonsense in her approach.

WHEELCHAIR MASTER – LEON FROM MOGO WHEELCHAIRS

Leon
Leon working at what he does best, creating a great wheelchair.

We all love our family and friends, we love food, sports and all sorts of other objects. But I am one of the lucky ones, not only do I have great family and friends that I love dearly, but I also have a job that I truly love. We often hear the phrase “do you want a job you love”, well I have that job. I build custom wheelchairs. In the beginning we kind of fell into the industry. When I was 2 years old my father was in a coal mining accident leaving him a paraplegic. Not satisfied with the chairs available at the time, he decided to build his own. I spent most of my junior years playing in or around wheelchairs, this often led to me annoying Dad at the factory asking to build chairs with him. School wasn’t my thing, So Finally at the age of 15-16 I joined the family business of building chairs, I gained my 1st class welding ticket and brought a passion for custom cars and bikes with me. This turned into some fun wheelchairs. Sure it can be stressful at times, but there is nothing more satisfying than handing over a young child’s chair and watching them take off with parents in tow for the first time. Knowing I am helping people get on with normal lives just like the rest of us is one of the most amazing feelings I can describe. It’s right up there with spending time with my loved ones. So this Is why I consider myself one of the lucky ones.

BJ’ experience with Leon and his Dad Michael – I’ll never forget meeting Leon’s Dad Michael. I’d finally accepted the fact BJ would need a wheelchair and it was hard. In a pram BJ was just another boy, I didn’t have to answer questions or deal with people staring. Michael put me at ease immediately. He got what we needed and he, unlike everyone else, admired all of BJ’s movement. He didn’t want to restrain BJ and I loved that. Leon has continued on in his Dad’s footsteps but added his own touches to the business. One of his specialities is cool paint jobs on the chairs.

You can find out more about Mogo Wheelchairs here.

SALES AND MARKETING MANAGER R82 – TIM KAPUSTIN

TK photo
Tim – Sales and Marketing Manager R82

Often I hear people say that they love their job. Do they really or is it that they maybe just really like it a lot? I often say I love ice-cream but I don’t really, I just like it a lot! I can however be sure when I say that I LOVE MY JOB.
For the first time in my life I am in a job where I make a real contribution to help people and I love it. I help families and children solve situations and assist them to reach goals. I love seeing parent’s crying with joy when their child achieves a goal such as walking for the first time. I love it when a parent is emotional because I went out of my way to help them. I know they appreciate it and I love it.
Another reason why I love my job is that my wife and I have two children with special needs. Although every family and child is different, I often understand what so many families are dealing with. I work long hours and work very hard but to know I am helping a family similar to mine, makes me love my job.

My experience with Tim – Tim is someone I’ve had the pleasure of meeting through this website. Tim started following along, commenting on posts and early last year I met him at an expo. He is so driven by his desire to help families, find solutions and I know from some of our followers has gone above and beyond to help.

You can find out more about R82 here.

ANONYMOUS TEACHER

Everyday I wake up and wonder what the day will hold. I look forward to watching the students learn and experience a vast array of different activities each and everyday. Each day a student turns up and it is my job to make sure they leave at the end of the day at least a little bit closer to achieving their goals and towards independence. Working with students with a range of disabilities means I come home grateful for the little things, that I can communicate, walk and go out and enjoy time with friends. It is these goals and qualities that I aim to teach each and every day. Watching a student able to communicate what drink they would like, being able to complete a task independently or even knowing when and how to calm themselves down. The moment that a student utilises a communication method to seek help instead of injurious behaviours or seeing them have that lightbulb moment. That is why I not only turn up to work everyday, but take it home and that no matter all the challenges that arise, I am able to find one positive each day and hope that they take those skills home to make their families proud.

Please note we’ve had many more people involved with our family who would make a good addition to this blog but it would have turned into a mini e-book.

What’s your experience? Have you had the pleasure of working with someone who is passionate about their job?

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