Watching TikTok, Facetiming with friends, riding her bike and eating her favourite food (noodles!) is how 21-year-old Grace likes spending her time. She is also in her last year of school and her mum and dad, Judy and Greg, have been supporting Grace to begin thinking about life after school. Discussions of what Grace wants, what Grace needs, and what the family want to achieve have guided their discussions. Judy has shared what that planning has looked like for them, and how they are using both funded supports (Individualised Funding) and community connections to bring their plan to life.
Natural and community supports
Some of Grace’s most important relationships are with her Nana and Grandma, both of whom live only a walk away, and Grace often visits them. She also especially loves spending time with her cousins who will come to town for the weekend. Grace also has two brothers, one older and one younger, who she stays connected with despite them having moved out of home. Grace also is a part of a monthly social gathering with friends from school where they take turns hosting. The parents of the girls are trying to support them to stay connected as some start to leave school. Grace attends a specialist school, so keeping relationships post school is really important for everyone.
Twice a week, Grace has time with her two mentors. On Tuesdays, Grace and her mentor cook dinner for the family. They are repeating the same recipe every week, butter chicken, until Grace is able to buy the ingredients, prepare and serve dinner on her own. Grace loves these opportunities to shine and feeling like she is moving into adulthood. Judy shared that her time with her mentors looks very casual, but it is filled with intention. From catching the bus, to going shopping, playing cards – Judy shared that these are all opportunities where Grace is learning independence, social skills and how to make mistakes in a safe and supported way. Judy has especially valued this aspect, because the mentoring hasn’t always been fun and games – Grace has fired mentors in the past. This has provided opportunities to engage in restorative conversations where Grace has learned to understand her own perspective and the perspectives of others.
What’s next for Grace
Being Grace’s last year of school, the family are really focused on getting things into place for next year. Leaving school will be huge for Grace, and Judy wants to make sure there isn’t too much of a gap after the holidays. The plan is for Grace to go to Sommerville Centre for a day a week to keep some social connections and continue to build her independence skills. But what Grace is most excited about is starting a small enterprise with support from her brother and her mentor. Grace’s plan is to make kitchen chopping boards. Her brother is an apprentice builder and will cut the various types of wood for her. Then, with support from her mentor, Grace will clamp, glue, and sand the wood boards before selling them online and at local markets.
When asked what she would say to others looking at individualised funding and connections in their community, Judy said she would recommend asking yourself and your young person what you want to achieve. First, knowing what you want to achieve, what your young person is wanting or needing and then using the funding to resource the plan. “I think probably in the very first years we might have been round the other way, but then we became very focused on what does Grace want and need and how does this help us get her there?” Judy also recommended playing with ideas with people and talking through with other parents some ideas of what their young people are doing. There are some big life changes for Grace as she finished school, but through knowing what she wants to achieve, and putting resourcing and supports around the plan – she’s getting ready for what comes next.
Thank you to Grace, Judy and Greg for sharing their story.