Sarah Harvey, the mother of two little boys with Autism, first heard of Ability Links at a workshop relating to the NDIS at Mingara Recreation Centre, on the Central Coast, in 2015.
“A couple of my friends, we were all Autism mums, were standing around at the back and Debbie Neil, who was a linker at that time, approached us with some Early Links bags, and the conversation started then,” she said.
Sarah phoned Debbie who visited her at home with another linker, Clair Hoffman. Together they talked through some of the challenges she was facing and worked with her to define what sorts of supports she and her family needed.
Sarah received some flyers from Debbie about community events and activities that were available in the community, including a martial arts class held at the local PCYC, and offered to facilitate contact with the club.
Sarah has since engaged and re-engaged with Ability Links a number of times. One of the most valuable things about her contact with Ability Links has been the open-ended opportunities to chat, she said.
“Having the chance just to sit down and talk and so that, as things come up, you can ask questions, because you don’t always know what questions to ask. I have never been given the impression, or been made to feel, that I am taking up too much time or that they can’t call me back. The communication has been really excellent.’’
Sarah found that using photographs of her sons to track their progress and difficulties helped her to plan for the supports her sons needed in their individual support packages through the National Disability Insurance Scheme.
Sarah has since volunteered to help other mums to map their child or family members’ needs, and she regularly refers people to Ability Links for support.
“I feel absolutely thrilled that private providers out there are also referring to Ability Links now,” she said. “They are asking people ‘Are you connected, have you gone to Ability Links, have you attended a workshop’ and I love that that it’s not just about servicing the child in therapy.”
Having developed a relationship with her linker, Sarah was happy to contribute to a creative planning workshop for Central Coast families, to demonstrate how she navigated the NDIS and to share her experiences.
Sarah showed a slide show using the photographs which helped her map her children’s journey, and spoke about the emotional journey she underwent while identifying, providing and facilitating opportunities for her children, and learning who they are as individuals.
Her presentation was well-received by the families, who reported being able to relate to what she was saying in a practical way and meaningful way, and better understand the process involved.