An opinion piece by Melanie Dimmitt
It takes several hours to make a meal for my son, Arlo, who is tube-fed. The process requires chopping and cooking ingredients before pulverising them into a liquefied form (thank you, Vitamix) that’s then portioned into ice-cube trays, wrapped, and stashed in the freezer. So when Maddy, Arlo’s support worker, suggested that she could cook, blitz up and batch freeze some meals for him, I was running-through-a-daisy-meadow elated.
Maddy has a knack for taking disability support beyond the basics of personal care, manual handling and shuttling to and from appointments and school. Because of her, Arlo is learning things and experiencing the world in ways he never would have. Certainly not if his leisure activities were left entirely to his overstretched, energy-depleted mother (Bluey? Again? Sure thing).
‘Support’ looks different for every person and on chatting with the friendly folk from Hireup’s service team, I discovered a bundle of out-of-the-box ways that their workers are supporting their clients. Here are eight of my favourites:
1. Making resources
Support workers can help in the creation of all manner of resources – from recipe books to journals and home exercise programs. Arlo is non-verbal and makes choices with his eyes, so Maddy has designed, printed and laminated oodles of flashcards for us. She’s also creating an ‘About Me’ book for Arlo, to help with his transition into kindergarten next year.
2. Learning a musical instrument
Neurological, social, emotional, behavioural, physical movement and self-esteem benefits are all linked to the art of practising a musical instrument, and your kid can do this as formally or informally as they like. Seeking out support workers who play an instrument, or perhaps have specialised skills and training in music therapy, is a very good place to start.
3. Sports and recreation
I for one would never have taken my kids to a bowling alley without Maddy suggesting we get off the couch, into some questionable hire shoes and on to a lane a few weekends ago. Support workers will often have local knowledge of activities and places that are accessible, so let them take the lead. Perhaps even write a list, as we have, of local hot-spots to hit up.
4. Art and craft activites
Many arty and crafty companies have created DIY kits that contain everything you need to get creative at home, and here is a golden opportunity to be supported in a way that sparks imagination (and sneaks in some fine-motor skill building). From transforming a terracotta plant pot into a mosaic masterpiece to a spot of knitting or colouring-in with Ken Done, the options are seemingly endless.
5. Life admin
Arlo is not especially enamoured with the process of me taking him for a haircut. Last time, there were tears. However, when Maddy takes Arlo to get his haircut, he’s smiling from first to last snip. I’m learning that, often, Arlo would rather do things with his friend than his mum. If your kid has some personal errands to attend to, perhaps their support worker would be the ideal companion.
6. Online experiences and courses
Are you a warrior, wizard, priest, or rogue? If that question is answerable by your child, their support worker could play sidekick for a Dungeons and Dragons gaming session. They might prefer cooking, coding, languages or how to build a rocket (there’s a course for that, I kid you not), or perhaps a virtual visit to Taronga Zoo? There are countless online adventures your kid can embark on with support.
As Maddy has taught me, a support shift can look like grocery shopping – and cooking, blending and batch freezing – on your child’s behalf. But this needn’t be limited to a trip to Woolies. Christmas is a-coming, and your kid might want some help picking out pressies, wrapping them up and writing cards for their favourite people.
8. Planning holidays
We’re all dreaming of returning to travel. For families like mine, accessibility is crucial when it comes to accommodation, sight-seeing and adventuring, so planning a trip requires a bit of research and phoning around. Why not book a holiday-planning session with your support worker, and get your whole family excited for your next trip?
Maddy has shown us that, with the right support, anything is possible. And the right support worker will find out what your child loves and run wild with it.
If you want to chat to someone about how to get creative with your support, the Hireup service team can help. You can reach them on (02) 9113 5933 or [email protected]. Ready to find, hire and manage top-notch support workers for your child? Head to hireup.com.au.