Good Supports – A lived experience by Sarah Menyweather

I have had support workers in my life for about 18 years; one of my first support workers was Erin. Imagine Erin, my sisters, Bananas in Pyjamas, in a big blue Volvo, let the good times roll. I believe Erin has been the best support worker my family and I have been lucky to have in our lives (she paid me to say that lol)

I guess if you are doing a disability course you will want to work in the disability industry. I think as a disability support worker you will come in a contact with very different types of people, different not because the person you support has a disability, but because everyone is so different. As a support worker you will also learn there are so many types of disability. My best advice would be to put yourself in the persons shoes. I like for my support workers to have a day getting around in a wheelchair and like to give them one of my spare chairs especially the ones with the flat tyres and we always try the travelator at the local shops. I think just put yourself in that person’s shoes for one day and you will have a good understanding of what supports the person will be requiring.

I like for strong relationships to be built with my support workers, and I have had the same support workers for a long time but I understand that support workers have a life, just as I have a life.

I am fortunate that my mother recongnised from the beginning that service provision in our area was well, really, “shit”. Services on the whole only cared about money, not letting me choose when and where to have support, not giving me any flexibility. Many of the same support services still operate this way today. My mother and some other like-minded parents got together and formed a service. I am able to choose when, where and how my support will work best for me. Running a service is no easy task with Audits, writing policies and procedures, service delivery and lots of ups and downs. I do  know my life would not be as complete without all my families hard work.

My family are a huge part of my life and my parents have always taught us to support eachother. All support workers need to  be aware of supporting the family as a whole, not just me, the person with a disability. Disability impacts not just the person with a disability but all members of the family. Remember though, what works for one family may not meet the needs of another family. The family unit is the front line of defence and no kidding, this is war, with some battles won and some battles lost. The one thing you will need to fight for everything you would take as a given eg. education, access, medical care and employment.

I have always included my brother  and sisters in all my outings with a support worker. Not only did it give the support person some extra training but it gave me a lot of confidence and a natural feeling about the need to have support people involved in my life. 

My family and I have always been involved in the recruitment of support workers and the writing of advertisements do the advertisement reflects who I am . I can tell you it is always the least qualified person with the most values that I end up choosing to start a new relationship with. This way I can train support people to meet my needs, not somebody expecting me to do it their way. 


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