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Thinking about my future

Kerri and Tom sitting together at a table smiling.

Testimonial: ‘I’m excited to be finishing Year 12 this year and to get on with the next steps of my life – but I’m not sure about where to go next and what to do exactly.’ - Tom

Thinking about my future

Like all Year 12 students, Tom is feeling a mixture of emotions as he approaches his high school graduation.

We sat down and spoke to Tom and his mum Kerri about what it’s like for their family as Tom completes VCAL at secondary school.

Q: What is Tom’s disability?

Kerri: ‘Tom has a diagnosis of autism, epilepsy, cognitive delay and verbal/oral dyspraxia.’

Q: How are you feeling about Tom finishing school this year?

Kerri: ‘As a parent, I’m feeling so many different emotions: nervous, proud, scared, happy, tired and excited about Tom’s next stage of life.

‘We are so proud that he’s achieved so much and grown into such a wonderful young man. But like all parents, we worry about his future and what it holds for him; and for us too.’

‘It’s a big year for Tom and I can see he’s looking forward to graduating. I’m looking forward to seeing what he achieves next.’

Q: What are you most looking forward to about finishing school?

Tom: ‘I’m most looking forward to no more uniform, no more schoolwork, no more packing lunches and more free time!’

Q: Have you done any work experience?

Tom: I did a week of work experience when I was in Year 10. I helped the Grade 2s and 3s in the classroom at a Prep – 9 college. I got to support the teachers and students and had a lot of fun.

‘I also had a trial at our local St Vinnies op shop. That was good and I hope to go back and volunteer again soon.

Q: Do you know what work you might like to do after graduating?

Tom: ‘This year I’ll finish studying a Certificate II in Hospitality. Then I want to find out how to work in a school, as I would really like to work in the kitchens and help kids learn about food and cooking. Maybe I could be a Food Technology Assistant or something like that.

Q: How did you arrange work experience?

Kerri: ‘We wanted Tom to know what work felt like, so I helped to arrange work experience by reaching out to local connections and people who had given us support in the past. I wanted him to be able to see what it would be like in different industries.’

Q: As Tom moves into the next stage of his life, what are you doing to prepare for his next NDIS Plan Review meeting?

Kerri: ‘I’ve been focused on making sure he is supported by both the school and his NDIS Plan.

‘His next NDIS Plan Review meeting will focus on the transition from school into post-school options. We’ll look at getting support for volunteering, further education and to help him gain more independence.

‘He also wants to get his L plates and I know there are organisations that can support him to achieve this goal.

‘This is a rather dynamic stage in his life that can become overwhelming if we let it. I try to focus on what the big goal is and break that into smaller things that we can do now to help him move one step closer.’

Q: How do you think your NDIS Plan has supported you until now?

Tom: ‘So far, my NDIS Plan has meant that I can attend recreational activities that I like with others. I’ve also learnt to use public transport independently and have joined an online mentoring group. I love that it’s virtual and I can communicate by talking or typing.

‘My NDIS Plan gives me Occupational Therapy, speech sessions and personal training. Something else I’m hoping the NDIS can support me with is getting my driver’s license… which is BIG I know!

‘I hope all of these things will help me to live independently one day, but not too soon. I want to stay with Mum and Dad until I feel comfortable and have finished studying and have some work.’

Q: Is there anything else you’ve done to prepare for Tom’s next stage of life?

Kerri: ‘I’ve been getting lots of reports from his allied health therapists and service providers. We’ll also review what we did achieve, what we didn’t achieve and why.

‘Talking to other parents has also been an incredible support. I cannot tell you the value of finding your tribe and being able to sit with them and talk and laugh and vent and celebrate and console.

‘As Tom and our family transition to this new stage of life, I keep reminding myself: “Don’t be scared – dream big and then break in into smaller steps that you can take along the way to reach it.”

Posted on 24 March 2021